It’s great to see so many people riding around on bikes in Thailand. But like cars and motorbikes, Bicycles need maintained and parts do need replaced.

Paul was my manager when I began work at a pro bike shop in Belfast.  Bikes were afraid of Paul, especially the old ones. If a bike was at the end of its day, he would not hold back, saying “If it was a horse I’d shoot it!” At first I thought this was harsh, but soon realized he was doing the customer a big favour by saving them a fortune. Since then, I’ve learned that some bike parts can’t be fixed and it’s better to spend money to save money.

Here are some checks you can make to save your bike before it’s too late, before you prepare to shoot that horse:

FRAME

The frame is the most important part of your bike, so if necessary, get a professional opinion. Extreme rusting, twisting, cracking in the carbon or holes in the frame and it is time for a new frame before you get seriously injured. Frames are expensive so only replace a frame if your parts are:

1.     Compatible with the same or similar frame

2.     High quality and in good working order.

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DRIVETRAIN

Derailleur’s, Shifters and cables – These components only work well when they are extremely accurate and in smooth working order. They can also be very expensive to replace. Check to make sure the components are smooth and not sticking or seized.  A minimal squirt of a quality bike lube may free it up, but parts could also be bent or rusted. If that is the case, they may not be revivable.

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Chain, cassettes and Chain rings – Some people say you should change your chain every 500 miles -1000 miles etc to save wear on your cassette and chain rings. It’s a difficult one to call. Every rider is different. There are so many factors that come into play, for example – type of riding, Weather, strength and how you change gears. My advice: use a top rated chain checker and use your own judgment. The side-to-side movement of the chain is also a good test to determine its condition.

Skipping when pressure is applied is the most common sign that you need to replace your chain, cassette and possibly chain rings. If this is already happening, then you will need to replace both chain and cassette providing your gears are set up properly. If the chain rings are looking blunt, then they might need changing too.

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Cranks – If your cranks are bent or if the teeth connecting to your bottom bracket are damaged, they will need to be replaced.  It is possible your bottom bracket may need to be replaced entirely.

Bottom bracket – Creaking noises, rough bearings and side-to-side play are the most common signs of a damaged bottom bracket that needs replaced. Before you decide to bin it, take the chain set off and clean it, then make sure your bottom bracket is tight to the frame. Test again and see if the noise goes away. Dirt inside bicycle parts can cause creaks everywhere.

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Pedals – Spin them – if they feel rough you may be able to adjust them using grease, but most likely they are past fixing.

50p Coin

50p Coin

WHEELS

If they look like a 50p coin, then they are doomed. If they have slight buckles or dips, they might be fixable. Also – move the wheel from side to side. If there’s movement then your bearing might be a ‘goner’. Check the quick release is not loose or the problem may be that the bearings need tightened. A good tip is to spin the wheel and if there’s a vibration, it’s likely your bearings need replaced. Also look out for signs of rusting or corrosion.

TIRES

Cracks and rips are signs that you need to replace them A.S.A.P. No ‘if’s’ or ‘buts’!

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Brakes – If your brakes are not working properly and you have changed cables, adjusted the brakes, bled or changed the pads, then you may have bigger issues.

For cable brakes, check the springs are not damaged and pivot points are not seized.  Also, check for bent arms that don’t move freely. If they don’t loosen up after a bit of force and bike lube, they may need replaced. Hydraulic disc brake maintenance can be very complicated if you don’t know what you’re doing. I recommend a professional to check the issue before you start squirting brake fluid in your eyes.

HEADSET

If your bearings are worn, your cups may be damaged too. First, pull your front brake and rock the bike back and forth. If you feel the headset move, you may just need to tighten your headset. Hold the handlebars, lift the front wheel and turn the bars left and right. If it’s smooth, then all is good. If it’s rough, then either you tightened the headset too much or worse – the bearings are dead and you may need a new headset.

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Remember that bikes are much cheaper when purchased as a package. If you buy parts separately they will cost so much more. If you do buy a part, always make sure it’s compatible with your bike and not going to wear out quickly due to interaction with some other old component.

IF YOU ARE NOT SURE, VISIT YOUR LOCAL BIKE SHOP AND GET ADVICE FROM A QUALIFIED MECHANIC.