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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spring time is torque time.

So - the sun is out, the birds are singing, and the open road is calling. Maybe all of you in San Diego get to play all year but for the rest of us it's time to dig out the gear and hit the road.

Unfortunately that's just what I did a year and a half ago. I hadn't checked out a new (used) bike I had just bought and was rewarded with a collar bone broken in two places. Of course, the seller had assured me that everything was in perfect shape but had I checked it over thoroughly before riding I would have found that the swing arm and steering head bearings were loose. Combined with old, cold tires I was doing the horizontal slide on Rt 12. when I touched the front brake while leaned in a corner. A classic single bike accident.

However, since you didn't just buy a bike you don't have to do this right!? Wrong!!

You own a used bike. The fact that you are the one who used it makes it even more suspect. You would be the last one to notice the little things that have crept in over the miles. You adjusted to the wear and tear and learned to compensate. But, just like my bike, when things get a bit dicey all those little things can come together in a perfect storm to toss you on the ground. I was lucky, nobody else was on the road to run over me as I slid along. Things could have gone from bad to deadly had a semi been coming. Or some aged geezer with the reaction time of an arthritic sloth.

NOW IS THE TIME! Before it gets too nice to sit at home, take an hour and go over your bike from front to rear. How old are those tires? Tread depth is not a good judge of tire condition. DOT requires that the date of manufacture be encoded on each tire made since 2000. If it's older than that it's definitely time to replace! Tire Rack explains it all here. Can you make a dent in the tire with your thumbnail? If not get new tires because they are not gripping the road.

Get out a grease gun and lube all the joints on the bike. Then see if you have any play in the swing arm or steering head. What about the wheels? Are the wheel bearings loose? Even a little bit? They are not expensive, hospital bills are.

Henkel 01-24200 Loctite 6-ml Threadlocker 242Permatex 81343 Anti-Seize Lubricant 133

Finally, get out the torque wrench of your choice and torque every nut and bolt you can find. The best way is to take it out, clean it, apply blue Locktite, and re-torque. For steel bolts into aluminum parts I use anti-seize to prevent the dielectric corrosion that occurs between dissimilar metals.

Why use a torque wrench? Because most people over-tighten nuts and bolts. This can cause bearings to act improperly and other parts to distort and malfunction. Swing arms can't comply properly if they're too tight. Same with steering head bearings. Both can lead to deadly wobbles. Ever strip out a bolt because you thought it needed just a bit more? Or worse, stripped a bolt because the previous owner thought they were King Kong and ruined the threads?

Take the time to go over your bike now and enjoy the ride all summer. Your collar bone will thank you.