With spring starting to show its head here on the coast, it is time for those of us that have been lucky enough to have an amazing winter riding season to reflect on what our bikes have been through in the past few months. Though drier than normal this year, riding through the winter months still takes quite the toll on your bike. For most riders, this shoulder season into spring, is the perfect opportunity to give your bike the overhaul it needs to be ready for the summer season.
Winter / wet weather is my absolute favourite time to ride. The mud and dampness adds a little intrigue and can make old trails feel like new again. The roots that become anathema to braking, and the lines that open up with the ability to grab traction in the muck. Amazing. That being said it is important to remember that riding through this season can wreak havoc on your precious rig. The constant abuse from the moisture and grime can lead to premature wear on almost every component of your steed. “So what should I be doing
” you may ask? The first answer is, as always, keep riding. The caveat is make sure to check your bike more regularly and to get it looked at as soon as you hear/see/feel something that is a little off. Some of the biggest offenders in the winter wear category are brake pads, bearings/bushings and suspension. Yes, all three of those are huge parts of your bike and can potentially be the most expensive to get fixed, but with more maintenance and less emergency repair the price tag remains low and the ride remains better.
Riding in the wet is like constantly pulling high grit sandpaper through your brake pads. Pads will wear out faster during the winter than they did in all but the driest of the dry summer months. When your pads wear past an acceptable point all sorts of things start going wrong. First of all stopping power is directly affected through the loss of the primary braking surface. Power is drained through the overextension of the brake pistons and heat management becomes a major issue. Rotors become warped and calliper pistons and seals can be damaged. When your pistons are overextend they also become magnets for dirt. This dirt can affect the piston seals and will cause uneven piston movement, further affecting pad wear. Rather than spend $80-100 on rebuilding a brake why not spend the $25-35 bucks on new pads and keep that ride fun and safe? When installing your pads make sure to clean the pistons before resetting them. Using an Iso-Pro and a Q-tip work awesome for doing this.
The next big one to pay attention to is your pivot system. Whether your bike runs bearings or bushings, it is important to maintain these pivots through the winter months. No sealed bearing is truly sealed; water and dirt will get in. When this happens it causes corrosion and physical damage to the bearings and/or bushings. When these systems begin to seize, not only is your quality of ride seriously affected, but it can also contribute to frame damage. If a bearing seat within a frame receives enough wear (i.e. when the bearing itself spins in the frame due to being seized
) that’s it. Game over. New bike time. And while this may be a great strategy if you’re trying to convince your significant other about the necessity for a new bike, it can drastically reduce the amount of time you will get out riding.
Bearings can be relatively easy to change at home using tools that most people have kicking around the garage. Blind bearing pullers are great but you can easily use a punch and hammer to remove bearings in most situations. Be sure to punch the bearing out in the direction intended. This will usually be easily seen from the location of the bearing seat within the frame. When you are taking apart your linkage make sure to take note of what comes off where and what order parts were removed in. Write it down, take photos or use whatever method works for you to make sure that you can put everything back in the correct order.
Be careful not to damage the bearing seat when removing the bearings. Once removed, clean the bearing seats, re-grease the new bearings and press them in. Bearing presses can make this job easier but most home mechanics can get the job done using the old bearing and a vice.
Cover the vice with a rag where making contact with the frame and use the old bearing to press the new one into the frame. Once all bearings are changed it's time go back through your parts and reassemble. When putting your back end together make sure to only finger tighten all your pivots until you get your shock back in.
Tighten the shock to torque spec and then tighten all the pivots. This will ensure that your back end is inline and that your shock is pushing straight. Remember - too much grease is what you forget to wipe off when you’re done.
Suspension is another area that takes a major hit during the winter months. With all of the moisture and crud building up around seals it is not uncommon to have to do some suspension service to keep everything running smoothly. Most riders will hit their suggested service intervals sometime in the winter season. The first thing to remember is that cleaning your seals is not a bad thing. I am not suggesting you pressure wash the seals and force dirt into them but giving your seals a light spray down and a clean with a rag or Q-Tip after each ride will go a long way in maintaining the integrity of your suspension.
Make sure to inspect the legs for any damage that will contribute to seal wear. If you have already passed the point of no return and you see/feel oil leaking from your fork or shock it is imperative to have it looked at ASAP. If oil is getting out, water is getting in. And water in those internals is never a good thing. Not only does it create corrosion on your stanchions but it will also decrease damping performance and generally have a negative impact on your ride experience. Pulling lowers and changing seals is easy to do at home and most products have good service guides online. For the purposes of this article we completed the service before photos being taken, but keep your eyes open for a full technical breakdown coming soon.
With all of that in mind, get out there and ride your bike. All winter long! Give it the love it deserves and it will keep you smiling through the wet and dark months. Let other folks worry about snow pack and avi conditions, our bikes are all we need.
Till next time,