DIY Part 1: 'Why, Why, Why Derailleur?!'

It's gotta be up there in the top 10 most annoying sounds when cycling, along with rattling from bottle cages, hissing from a puncture or the singing from Ali! (sorry buddy, you're no Tom Jones!). On my old Carrera (do Halfords still make them?!), I fiddled with everything that went wrong with my bike and I either A/ relied on lady luck and solved the issue, B/ half fixed it which then resulted in more issues or C/ gave up and asked the very reliable and self-taught Mr B for help! So it's been our mission this year to start to learn more about the bike and begin to fix things ourselves. We do love the guys at Moores but it's getting to the point where I think I'm keeping them in business!!! So when my chain starting to rub on the inside of my front derailleur cage again, I decided to 'fit it Felix' myself! (Wreck It Ralph, great film!).

To be fair, the Carrera was a great little bike. The frame wasn't amazing, you could see the joining on the welding, the components weren't attached very well and I rode that bike into the ground! It was only thanks to Mr B and Dave aka @test_richie that this bike was ever road worthy. I'll even confess that I rode it for a period with a couple of broken spokes. We were so innocent but also ignorant in knowing how to maintain and service a bike. We were just enjoying getting out and riding it. Didn't know too much about tyre pressures either although we did invest in blue walled tyres and matching blue handlebar tape (we just guessed how to do this as well!). The frame was silver so the blue did compliment it but I know there's a few of you who are shaking their heads now (SMH if you don't know the social media term!) as they are traditionalists and believe it should be black all the way. I even tried to attach a number plate on the rear of the seat which had my name on but unfortunately or fortunately it fell off! For a while too, we had strap in pedals which we wore a specific pair of velcro strapped Puma trainers for which over a long period of time, the sole started to mould into the pedals! My only outfit too was a tri-suit from Sigma Sport (it was a vest with no sleeves!). We was once sprayed by a van with water and laughed at when wearing this. Safe to say we do not own this outfit anymore!

One memorable and very long winded maintenance job on the Carrera was to change the headset which from the rust and lack of TLC, had fused itself on to the forks which meant we couldn't get it off. Cue a whole day in Dave's garage sawing into the headset to free the forks. This ended up with the fork stem having a few cuts, it looked like Freddie Kruger had gone at it! Halfords had also stopped making that particular headset so we had to source it down on the internet. Once on, it didn't sit properly because of the botch job we had made so the bike's steering capability was questionable for a better term!

This should of thrown us into the world of maintenance but we were so keen to upgrade the bike to a fully carbon one, we had put it off and relied on our LBS for help and guidance. But now is the time to step up and become a man. The Royal Navy advert has always stuck in our mind (probably the only time a TV ad has done this, really when was the last time you brought something because you saw it on a TV ad?!), the line 'if you can build a bike, you can build a car' and so on has hit a chord with us. What kind of beings are we if we can not maintain and repair machines and technical appliances?! Might be going off topic slightly but Wall-E was on TV yesterday and the scene where we eventually find out where the humans have gone to and how reliant they are on machines for everything, are we not heading towards that age?! Driverless cars now making news headlines, are we that lazy?! We even had to persuade the wife to not spend extra on her new car for parking sensors, are we really that incapable of turning our head, using our mirrors and reversing a vehicle resulting in us developing a specific but everyday useful skill?! You'll never be a master of a skill if you rely on someone or something else to do it for you. Obviously for people who can not access things we take for granted in everyday life are the exception but for those who choose not to do it because something or someone else will do it for you, that's not living.

So Haynes had sent me their new cycling manual to help me develop my mechanical skills. These are the guys who make the legendary car manuals. As a child, we just loved looking through the pictures of the parts and transparent images. If you have one of the old 80s versions, keep it, that's retro and probably be collectable! So we had a look through their section on adjusting the front derailleur and it seemed straight forward. Now we don't have a bike stand so we had to improvise much to the annoyance of the wife. We planted two chairs back to back and placed the suction tube of the hoover across so we could raise the rear wheel. I was quite pleased with my custom bike stand, give a man a couple of chairs and a hoover part and he will give you your own repair station!

So I went about adjusting the L and the H screw which sits on top of your front mech' (derailleur). Correct me if I am wrong (we are all learners!), the L screw sets the limit as to how far inwards the cage moves and the H screw limits how far the cage moves outwards. Basically, if these are not set in the right positions, then the cage which the chain moves through will either not push the the chain up to the big ring and the chain will jump preventing you from shifting from the small to the big ring and vice versa. Now, this was the point where I had to refer to the GCN Youtube video as I started to get frustrated as I was expecting to see some movement from the cage. The GCN guys recommended to set the chain via the limit screws roughly 1mm away from the cage. Now we couldn't detect any movement so we took a break, had a kit kat and decided to start from scratch.

The Haynes manual recommended starting with adjusting the height of the mounting bolt. Now it took us a while to realise this means the clamp bolt as everywhere else we was reading and watching, they were talking about the clamp bolt to move up and down the derailleur. Another video we watched actually took out the gear cable from the front mech' which we tried to do but the screw was on so tight or it hadn't been played with for a while it wouldn't unscrew, I was scared of snapping a moving part so I avoided that for the time being. It took much fiddling about but managed to set the mech' 2-3mm just as the book and video suggested. At this point though, our patience was running thin and I needed the bike to commute to work the next day and I had managed somehow to tune the chain so it wouldn't rub in the middle cogs in either front ring so that would do for now.

I so wanted to avoid going to Moores because that would be accepting defeat so I gave Chris aka @chrisdetsicas (this guy has no suffer face when he rides!) a message as he knows a little about tech and maintenance. After a couple of days of riding and avoiding shifting into any other gear apart from the middle cogs, we set the bike up on a proper bike stand in Chris's garden and set to work on trying to fix this annoying but very common issue. Again, after not much movement from the limit screws, we both agreed to start from scratch and take the gear cable completely out and reset it from there. This lead to an unexpected problem. The front shifters then stopped working. The gear cable had popped out and was not in the barrel inside the shifter. Chris had many tools but we couldn't prize the head of the cable out. Thinking outside the box, I had pushed the gear cable through and we were back on track. Sitting the cable back into it's barrel (this tells us what ring it's being asked to push into, I think?!), we reattached the cable into the mech' and Chris explained to me it's the cable tension which needs to be tightened. The shifters need to be set in the big ring as this where the cable needs to be tight as you are asking the derailleur to pull the chain up into the big ring hence the reason for the increase in tension. If it's not tight enough, the cage will drop the chain back down. It took us a few turns to increase the cable tension and weirdly the limit screws started to play ball too so they were tampered with as well. Chris had managed to find some neutral ground with the gears with the only rub coming from the small ring in the smallest rear cog but that's a gear you should never be in. I have always been taught that you want to try to keep your chain straight and true to prevent stretching of the chain so if this is a bad habit you display when riding, start to teach yourself to look after your chain whilst cycling.

The night was upon us and I had begun to freeze. Chris meanwhile was in flip flops and summer wear! We left with an IOU and a big appreciation of his help. I like to think my understanding of the front mech' has now expanded but tuning it up is still something that scares me a little. I gave it a test home and the gears were shifting efficiently and I was able to speed up for a change! This past weekend saw myself and Chris join @DirtyWknd on their Kent ride and the bike was fine, no rubbing and the gears were shifting when I wanted them to. But on the way home, I started to hear a rub again. Coupled this with my gear cable now resembling a drawing off an etch a sketch (it's now twisted!), I now need a new gear cable. We are determined to do this all by ourselves with help from the Haynes manual and the GCN boys, but Chris, you do call outs yeah?!!

'Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value'.