One of the things I learned after getting divorced has nothing to do with women. My small herd of bikes sat for a long time as my marriage unravelled. I either didn’t have time to ride – or wasn’t in the mood. On the other end of the tunnel – and single again – I once again had time as well interest.
The problem was the bikes had suffered almost as much as I did during those two years of marital death spasms. While I went to therapy – and lawyers’ offices – the bikes sat. Which is not good – for me or for them.
Herewith some things that can happen when a bike sits unattended for too long – and how to prevent these things from happening:
Leaking fork seals –
Even if you aren’t able to ride, or just don’t feel like it, make the effort to push the front end of your bike up and down a few times every couple of weeks. Once a week, if you can remember to do it. Because if you don’t do it, there’s an increased chance you’ll have to deal with leaky fork seals once you’re back in the mood to ride – or have the time to ride again.
Cycling the forks circulates the oil in the forks, which helps keep the seals pliable and that keeps them from leaking. It’s also good policy to wipe down the fork tubes to prevent them from developing cankerous rust spots, which they will if you leave them like that long enough. These will abrade the seals as the tubes go up and down and lead to . . leaks.
Use chrome polish to keep the surface smooth and rust-free.
Just like a car, if you park a bike in the same spot and leave it parked there long enough, the weight bearing down on the part of the tire that’s in contact with the garage floor will eventually deform that part of the tire – commonly referred to as a flat spot. It happens sooner – and is worse – when the tire(s) are low on air, another problem that sneaks up on you when a bike isn’t being used much. One day, you notice the tire’s flat – and if you’re unlucky, even after you fill it up you’ll notice the bike rides funny now. Because of the flat spot. Which can’t be fixed. Except by replacing the ruined tire.
So, try to walk the bike around the garage every couple of weeks if you’re not going to ride it. This will keep the bike’s weight from sitting on just one part of the tire for weeks and months on end
And check the air pressure once a month or so – before the tire looks noticeably low. By which time, it may already be too late.
Loose (and dirty) chain –
The chain is a bike’s weakest link. Literally. If that master link should come loose – or one of the links kinks or slips off the sprocket – it will not be a good day. If it happens at speed, it could be your last day.
Just like pilots walk around their airplane before flying the thing, it’s sound policy to walk around the bike and check critical items like the chain before riding the thing. It gets looser over time and if you lose track of time, it’s easy for it to get too loose.
Always check chain tension before any ride after you haven’t ridden for awhile. And if the chain is dirty, clean it (and grease it) before you ride. If the bike’s shaft-drive, it can’t hurt to check the lube level before heading out – less for reasons of possible body-shattering consequences but because of wallet-emptying ones. Replacing a burnt shaft drive can cost more the bike’s worth – over an $8 bottle of lube.
You’ll feel really stupid if you let it happen.
Out of date plates –
Marital problems weirdly juxtapose the never-ending with the quickly-passing. While in the middle of it, you feel as though it’s been going on without remit – that there was never a time when you weren’t bickering with the now-ex or enduring therapy or dealing with the inevitable lawyers. Then one day it’s over – and you look at the calendar and wonder what happened to the last two years.
You can tell that to the cop who pulls you over for having plates two years past their past-due date. Be aware this might be more than just a matter of a fine. Some cops are not nice people and if you get one of those, he may (because he can) impound your bike. Now you will pay heavy fines plus impound fees – and your bike will be roughly handled by unsympathetic geeks who don’t mind and may actually on purpose scratch it as they load it up onto the flatbed and cinch it down with come-alongs.
So, glance at your tags before you leave for that first ride as a newly re-minted single who’s maybe getting ready to mingle.
. . .
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