A Bike Tune Up is a Beautiful Thing

Shiman A600 pedals
VELODRAMATIC PHOTOGRAPHY | All Images © Copyright VeloDramatic Photography 2005-2013 and may not be used without licensing.

Flash back to a hotel parking lot in France. Dave Christenson and I are watching Levi's friend & Tour mechanic Glenn Fant service the 6 bike Rêve fleet at warp speed in fading light. Incredulous members of the Dutch peloton hover nearby as Glenn washes, installs SRAM WiFLi cassettes on Zipp 202s, snaps on new chains and tunes shifting in about 15 minutes per bike. We wipe, dry and cue up the next one as they roll off the Franco-Norcal assembly line.

By comparison my own mechanical skills are dull and limited but these days I've got the time and motivation to dabble.

In the past few weeks my Engima drivetrain had become progressively noisier. At 2800 miles the chain was past due for replacement. I had a spare Campagnolo 10-speed chain in the cabinet but lacking the Campy specific chain tool I didn't fancy trying to install and flare the special pin. Instead I opted to use a SRAM PowerLock link. SRAM indicates the link should only be used with SRAM chains but plenty of reliable sources indicate it's compatible with any 5.9 mm 10-speed chain. I cracked the old chain and counted the links to size the new one.

SRAM PowerLock Link

The derailleur cage also needed some attention. The Pedro's Ice Wax I use keeps the chain quiet and clean but over time it tends to accumulate in the pulley wheels. I separated the cage, then removed the component washers and bearings from the two wheels. They were both caked in old lube which appeared impervious to degreaser so it took a few minutes to scrub the gunk off then I rolled the bearings in a little Park Polylube 1000 and put the cage back together.

I trimmed the new chain, threaded it though the pulleys and clipped it together with the PowerLock link. A couple of forceful pushes with the cranks against the rear brake set the link. Cycling the cranks revealed a pronounced clicking from the derailleur... turned out even with its directional arrow I'd managed to put the bottom pulley wheel in backwards. Glenn wouldn't have done that. Flipping it around solved the problem. The chain ran smooth and true; shifting was perfect without any adjustment or put another way, any adjustment I might have made would probably have made it worse.

Pedals, Bar Tape and Tires

My preference for SPD pedals and light-weight mtb shoes is no secret for anyone who remembers when I actually wrote about such things regularly. For years I've ridden on Shimano A520s. The generous one-sided platform and solid engagement have no significant deficiencies relative to road pedals I can find and I like being able to walk in cycling shoes if I have to. The Shimano A600 pedal is a lighter, nicer looking evolution of the A520 design. They spin on and tighten with a 8mm Allen key.

With the pedals secured I moved on to rewrap my bars. Of all the bicycle operations I like watching there's nothing to compare with the artistry of the bar wrap done by a pro. Perfect tension, spacing that would make a metronome proud and that magic turn around and over the hoods towards a symmetrical finish with a few decisive turns of electrical tape. Done as described it's a thing of sublime beauty. Wrapped, by what are apparently two left hands, the result is merely servicable. I just don't do it enough to get good at it.

The last area that needed attention was my tires. I peeled off the excellent Specialized Turbo Elites that carried me 3000 miles with just 3 flats (1 front/2 rear) and rolled on a set of Schwalbe Ultremo DDs (Double Defense).

Schwale Ultremo DD Tires

What a Difference

The next morning's 22-mile loop felt like I was riding a brand new bike. The chain ran silently and shifted crisply. The inexpensive SRAM PowerLock is clearly the way to go when installing a new Campy 10-speed chain IMO. It's so simple I've added a spare to my saddle bag for insurance against a broken chain.

If the drivetrain was well behaved the tires were as silky and compliant as a political candidate at a Southern fundraiser. Perhaps it was just the difference between well-worn tires and brand new ones, but the Ultremo DDs damped the chatter of bad pavement without feeling sluggish or unresponsive. We'll see if Schwalbe's vaunted Double Defense technology does as well as the Specialized Turbos in the flat-protection department.

The Shimano A600 pedals required no clipin/clipout changes from the A520s and my existing cleats worked perfectly. The pedal body has an outside wing that's a few millimeters wider than the A520 and the q-factor might be 1-2 millimeters larger. Aside from saving 29 grams per pedal Shimano has done a great job balancing the A600s so they hang vertically. I've not missed a single clipin in the three rides since the switch over. Could be the last time I ever have to use my "Backside 540 maneuver".

This tune up worked out well: new tires; bar tape; chain; and pedals have the Enigma singing again. Next time I'm going to take a crack at the BB and cables.

Shimano A600 Pedals

2 Responses to A Bike Tune Up is a Beautiful Thing

  1. kurt says:

    If your writing, you must be riding!

    2800 is a lot of miles for a chain. I find 1800 is my limit. Yes, I burn through a few chains but I haven’t bought a new cogset in over 3 years.
    Any persective on using the lock for shimano chains?


    • Hey Kurt,

      You are right. 2800 miles was stretching it. I think anywhere from 1500-2500 is appropriate depending on how rough we are on the equipment. I hesitated while deciding whether to buy the Campagnolo-specific chain tool ($120) before I read up on the SRAM PowerLock link. Certainly not worth it to risk buying a new cassette by being cheap about chain replacement.

      It sounds like it can be made to work with Shimano. The good news is it’s so cheap $3.50 you can get one and do a test fit on an old chain just to be safe.