Servicing an old bike.

Anyway, enough of all this redundancy talk: time for something else about cycling.

In preparation for my ride from London to Paris, I thought it would be a good idea to get my bike professionally serviced to make sure it’s running its best. I’ve occasionally managed to adjust my own gears successfully, but after all the extra miles I’ve been doing training there were bound to be a few other bits and pieces that would need attention. Things I’d not have been able to diagnose or sort out myself.

Although the bike’s about 18 years old, it’s not gone  that long without a service. My friend Jem used to run a local mobile bicycle repair service, and a couple of years ago, when I first started riding again after a long time out of the saddle, he serviced it and replaced all the brake and gear cabling and generally sorted it out for me. But sadly he’s had to close his business down as family circumstances have led to a relocation, so I had to find someone else. My gears have been slipping a bit lately, and I suspected that the chain might well need replacing. And so I booked it in for a service with Cycledealia in Hitchin (chosen because that’s where we bought my wife’s bike recently and that was due in for it’s “settling in” service). When I spoke to Dave on the phone and mentioned that I had an 18-year-old mountain bike that I was planning to ride to Paris on and wanted him to service, he went a bit quiet. He was keen to point out that I might have to expect quite a bit of work would need doing.

I took it in on Tuesday, hoping for the best. Dave gave it a bit of a prod and a poke, declared that a few bits could do with some tightening up – and then got out his chain measuring thingummy. Sure enough, the chain is passed its best. They stretch, you see. In fact, when he asked me how long the chain had been on, and I didn’t know, he immediately said “too long”.  If you don’t know how old your chain is, it’s too old. He reckons. But there’s a problem. As the chain stretches, so it wears out other bits. The cassette. Now, I didn’t know what the cassette was, but he soon showed me.

Two types of cassette. One of them’s on a bike.

Sure enough, my cassette was showing enough signs of wear that it ought to be replaced, and sure enough that’s why my gears slip sometimes – not merely bad adjustment. But he was concerned: the age of the bike, and the style of hub, might mean he couldn’t get a new cassette to fit. Until he took it all apart he’d not be able to tell. If he could fit a new one he would, if not he’d just reassemble it as it is and I’d have to put up with the fact that it will continue to wear and eventually die on me.

I left it with him for the day, and wondered what he’d come with.

My trusty bike. On its last legs?

When I called in later to collect it, he had reassembled it. With its original chain and cassette. He couldn’t fit a modern cassette onto the hub, as he’d suspected. (I later wonder if I’d have had the same opinion from a Raleigh dealer.) But he had tightened everything else up and re-lubricated it all properly. Oh, and replaced the rear brake blocks. He seemed surprised  that that was all he’d had to do.

And I’m still riding to Paris on it next week.


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