It was a beautiful day, way back in September of 2004. I figured it was about time to write about this ordeal – this lesson applies anytime of the year though. Something very simple, and easy, and even cost effective.

Along with a group of college students, I was ready for a fun day of downhill mountain biking at one of the East Coast’s popular resorts. The weather was 10 times better than our last trip… around 60 degrees and sunny. (Last year it was cold and snowing… at the base of the mountain. The summit was almost unbearable.)

Everything looked good, even the bikes. That is… until we looked closely and tried them out. Tires were almost bald, the brakes would drag, and shifting was pathetic at best. But with the staff mechanics’ approval, we took them up the lift for our first run. (The lifts worked just fine!)

Ok, so if you haven’t figured it out, this good luck won’t last very long. And I kind of hinted that the bikes were going to be a problem.

That said, I’ll cut to the chase. I don’t recall anyone making it the whole way down without some sort of mechanical problem. Broken suspension pivots, brakes locking up, etc. But that can be expected of rental bikes.

The biggest pain was the inability to shift, caused by a complete lack of chain lube. On my bike, the chain was bone dry. How could such a simple maintenance step be neglected?

I mean, they could use old motor oil if they didn’t want to spend money on fancy chain lube. Nothing could be worse than what was going on.

Getting the derailleur to move the chain was a rare surprise. Another rare occurrence (although not a big surprise, considering the bikes’ condition) were the blown up rear derailleurs. Yeah, chainsuck was common too, as were all the little problems you expect when you’re riding off-road.

trashed rear derailleur

(This was just one of the times we busted a rear derailleur.)

But the point is, simply keeping your chain clean and lubed can prevent most drivetrain problems. Hmm… a $5 bottle of chain lube that will last for a year or so… or a $50 derailleur every month?

Skipping that $5 chain lube could easily add up to $500 worth of unnecessary repairs.

If every bike rider, shop, and rental provider could simply keep the chain clean and lubed, we could cut down on needless repairs!

riding beyond the limits

(OK… I admit it. Some of us did get a little too adventurous…)

When all was said and done, we simply turned the bikes in at the lodge and then went back to our own properly maintained bikes.

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