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The Bearings We All Forget

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Bearings

Bicycles run on bearings.  Starting from the front of the bicycle, there are bearings in the front wheel hub, which allow the wheel to spin on its axle.  There are bearings in the headset, which is the assembly that connects the front fork to the frame, and permits the fork to turn for steering and balancing.  There are bearings in the bottom bracket, which allow the crankset spindle to rotate freely.  There are bearings in the rear wheel hub and the freewheel attached to it.  There are bearings in the two rear derailleur pulleys.

Bearings Bicycle.png

Cyclists pay lots of attention to the bearings in wheels and drivetrains.  These are the bearings which help the bicycle’s forward progress.  Any reduction in friction (loss of watts, in cyclist’s parlance) is highly sought after.  These bearings are regularly serviced. Steel bearings are often replaced with ceramic bearings, which have a lower rolling resistance.

Headset bearings get less love.  Bike mechanics should check headset adjustment when servicing bikes.  Occasionally a headset needs tightening.  It is usually only after the rider feels roughness, notchiness, or uneven drag while steering, that headset bearing get serviced or replaced.

And the bearings we all forget?  The ones in our pedals.  Cyclists notice when their cleats need replacing.  The wear is visible, and that wear is often made tangible by clipping in and out of the pedals requiring either too much or too little force.

Pedals just seem to go on and on doing their job with no fuss or bother.  That adage about the squeaky wheel is certainly true where pedals are concerned.

I bought my Alchemy Eros, and the Speedplay pedals that I specified for the bike, in June 2015.  I had given my pedals little or no thought since then.

A week ago the bike developed an irritating click.  Lim, the mechanic at The Bike Artisans, thought that my pedals could be the source of the noise.  The pedals were spinning too freely on their spindles, which is a sign that they needed regreasing.  He didn’t have a needle-type grease injector gun, so couldn’t do the quick and easy pedal maintenance via the grease port hole built into the pedal bodies.

When I got home I consulted the Speedplay website.  Speedplay recommends that the pedal bearings be regreased at least every 3,200 km / 2000 mi, or every two months.

Bearings What

That means my pedals should have been regreased between five and twelve times by now.

I found online instructions to disassemble my pedals.  The Spindle Screw was held in place by some Loctite Threadlocker Blue, but I got the screw to turn without having to heat it, as mentioned in some posts.  The fiddliest step was removing the retaining ring.

It is possible to replace the bearings – Speedplay sells a pedal rebuild kit for USD100 which replaces everything but the spindles.  I just cleaned all the parts, flushed out what grease was left in the bearings, flooded the pedal body with fresh grease, and reassembled the pedals.

Bearings Pedal Disassembly

Diagram courtesy of forum.slowtwitch.com

So far so good.  The pedals are turning smoothly and quietly.

Unfortunately that irritating click is still there.

Bearings Irritated

Postscript

I have found the source of the click.  It was coming from the rear dropouts.  A touch of lubrication between the QR faces and the dropouts, and silence was restored.

Thank you Uffe Lindhardt for the link to Keep It Quiet!  Jim Langley’s wide-ranging bicycle blog is an excellent resource.

My Local Bike Shop (LBS)

Wikipedia defines local bike shop or local bicycle shop as a small business specializing in bicycle sales, maintenance and parts.

To become my local bike shop, the business has to meet a few more criteria.

  1. It has to be not more than 5km / 3mi from home.
  2. The staff are there because they love it and really want to be there.
  3. The staff are knowledgeable and keep up to date on the latest technology.
  4. The staff provides exceptional customer service.
  5. The shop provides value for money.
  6. The staff do not unnecessarily upsell, when a simple repair will suffice.
  7. Points 2 to 6 come together to create a “je ne sais quoi” that makes me want to go back there.

My first LBS was West End Bicycles in Houston, Texas.  The story of how I found West End Bicycles, in 2009, is here.

lbs-west-end-bicycles

Photograph courtesy of West End Bicycles

West End Bicycles has been in business for thirty one years now, and long may they prosper.  I moved away from Houston in 2010, but have been back a few times over the years to ride the BP MS150.  Most recently in April 2016.  Every time I visit Houston I make sure to call in at West End, which is my favourite LBS to this day.

I moved from Houston to Den Haag, The Netherlands.  It took me a year to find a group of like-minded cyclists to ride with.  By which time my bike needed a full service.  David Porritt introduced me to Tom Schouten Wielersport.

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Photograph courtesy of Tom Schouten Wielersport

Like West End, Tom Schouten Wielersport is an owner-operated bike store.  Tom was always there to talk to and connect with his customers.

The personal touch matched the quality of service provided.  My bike felt like a new one when I got it back.  All the cables had been replaced.  The hubs, bottom bracket and headset had been cleaned and greased.  The wheels had been trued.  It had new bar tape.  It was cleaner than it had been since the day I took delivery of it.

The only downside?  It cost me €175 / USD187 / RM833.  Enough to convince me to attend a bicycle maintenance course!

There were a few other bike shops within a 5km radius of the Benoordenhout area where I lived.  Which would not be considered unusual in cycling-mad Holland.  Van Herwerden and Mammoet Rijwielen were two that I used on occasion when I needed an inner tube or a bicycle light.  Tom Schouten remained as my go-to LBS when my bike needed work that I couldn’t do myself, like replacing a broken spoke.

In 2012 I moved back home.  My first ride in Kuala Lumpur was with a group from Van’s Urban Bicycle Co.

lbs-vans-urban-bicycle

Photograph courtesy of BaikBike.com

It was during that ride up to Genting Sempah ride that my bike developed a nasty creak.  Read about getting that creak fixed at Van’s here.

Van’s Urban Bicycle Co. met most of my criteria for an LBS, except the “local” part.  The shop was in Petaling Jaya.  More than 15km / 9mi, through city streets, from where I lived.  Six months later the shop had moved to Kampung Tunku, which was even further away.

As time went by I gravitated to a group of road bike riders, rather than the folding bike riders that Van’s catered to.  Those roadies introduced me to Meng Thai Bicycle Centre.

lbs-meng-thai-bicycle-centre

Photograph courtesy of Meng Thai Bicycle Centre

Like Van’s, Meng Thai Bicycle Centre ticked all the boxes, sadly except for the accessibility one.  The shop is in Kota Damansara, about 20km / 12.5mi away.  To make things worse, the traffic on the way there is usually terrible, and once there, parking spaces around the shop are very difficult to come by.  Which is a shame, because Husher and his team at the shop have that je ne sais quoi.

About a year ago Lee and another mechanic moved to their new branch in Kota Kemuning.

the-tandem-men-out-meng-thai-all-mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The drive there and parking is much easier, but the Kota Kemuning shop is 40km / 25mi away.  Though I must admit that, despite the distance, that shop is relatively easy to cycle to from where I live.  Up onto the MEX Highway, and then onto the KESAS Highway to Kota Kemuning.  Nevertheless, Meng Thai Cycle is not local.

There is one bike shop that is a 6km / 4mi ride away from home.  I went there twice.  Once to address a mechanical issue, and once to buy an inner tube.  Both times I came away disappointed.  I didn’t feel that the mechanic knew what he was talking about with respect to the mechanical issue, and I was charged 30% above the market rate for the inner tube.  I will never go there again.

They say that good things come to those who wait.  A new bike store opened 2.5km / 1.5mi away in December 2016.  The Bike Artisans.

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Photograph courtesy of Adrian Goh

Jeff Liew has certainly given his bike shop a generous dose of je ne sais quoi.  Helped in no small measure by the drool-worthy bike frames, kit and accessories carried by The Bike Artisans.  Brands include Pegoretti, Stelbel, Look, Cervélo, Slide Away, Moulton, Black Sheep Cycling, PEdALED, Warsaw Cycling, Apidura, Kask, Tacx and MCFK Carbon.

Jeff is clearly passionate about the products in his shop, and he is happy to chat about all things cycling.  Lim is the in-house mechanic.  I am very happy with the shifting tuneups he did on both of my bikes.

And despite the high-end gear in the shop, an inner tube sells for the market rate.

I’ve found my Kuala Lumpur LBS.

lbs-support-your-local-bike-shop

Graphic courtesy of redbubble.com