The Golden Wrench

A blog about bicycle repair and maintenance by the mechanics at Freewheel Bike.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

How do I tell if my fork/shock needs service?

This is like asking a dentist how often you should brush your teeth. Most suspension manufacturers recommend having your components serviced once a year, minimum. For most people that's enough to ensure your fork/shock has a long life of solid performance.

Ruined fork stanchion. Don't wait this long!

But if you're the kind of person who waits until something is broken before you have it serviced, here's what to look for:

1) Does the fork/shock hold air? Rapid air loss is a sign that your air piston seals are damaged or worn. Or worse, that the metal sliding surfaces which those seals contact are damaged. Time to have it worked on.

2) Do your external adjustments make any difference? Turn your rebound adjuster all the way one direction, compress the fork and watch the speed of the rebound stroke. Now turn the adjuster all the way the other direction and do the same. There should be a noticeable difference. Try the same thing with your lockout or platform adjuster (see below for more on lockout issues). If you don't see a difference, either oil is sneaking past damaged seals or has broken down to the point where it can't do its job.

Scratched rebound shaft
3) Does it make any unusual noises? Grinding, clunking and slurping sounds are signs that you're way overdue for service. This is like waiting for your car to start smoking before you change the oil. In a rear shock, swishing or slurping (or in some cases squeaking or barking) means that the damper oil is cavitated (full of emulsified air), in which case it needs to be overhauled.

4) Does the lockout work? On some forks the first sign something is wrong is that the lockout gets soft or won't engage until part way into the travel. This is because of oil loss or degradation and is a good indication that the fork needs service.

5) Are you still getting full travel? If your damper seals or shafts get so worn out that oil is leaking out of the damper into the lowers, it will eventually be so full of oil that it can't compress all the way. This can feel like a metal-on-metal bottom-out. Typically this means your rebound shaft is scratched and needs to be replaced. In this case you should go back in time and have it serviced earlier. Or just have it serviced and expect to need to replace some parts.

So if your suspension is acting/sounding funny OR it's been over a year since your last service OR you've been riding at Cuyuna, give Shockspital a call or email and we'll figure out what you need.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Old forks and old bikes, when is when and riding in snow...

This is what a terminal illness looks like for a suspension fork.
  A lot of forks come through the door here and as far as I know Shockspital repairs more older forks than anyone. The hard question is always "Is it worth saving?".
  For as long as Shockspital has been around I have maintained that it doesn't cost anything to find out if it is saveable so when a fork comes in, especially an older one we look to answer this question first.
  With older forks we do try and give special consideration to special situations. Exceptional bikes that were born to early to purchase replacement forks for now are a common problem.
  Bontrager and Klien are two big exceptions we have to work with. A 1997 Judy is not a fork worth the $125 to $200 it takes to rebuild it but if you have an old Racelite or Attitude it might be worth to you. (I would recommend a thorough and honest look at the bike before you decide to make the investment). So we maintain parts and tools to work on this older stuff.
  But do not count on the rebuild service to save your bacon if your stanchions look like this. Old or new forks are vulnerable to this kind of wear if you don't maintain them. Whether its a new Fox or a Halson Inversion you have to keep the stanchions clean. This is a bigger deal than ever during winter riding. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind.
1. Water, aluminum, steel and magnesium are just four things that can be found in your fork most of the time, but winter riding can add salt! Then you have all the ingredients to make a low voltage batter that will grow corrosion inside your fork quicker than grass through a goose.
2. Dirt and mud and the grit they contain are easily wiped off during most riding. Your fork is prepaired to handle these elements . But when you add snow and ice this fine particulate matter is not as easily wiped away. The dirt that is the finest is the most damaging and snow and ice can keep this packed on your stanchions for an entire ride.
3. Oil viscosity changes in the cold weather. Thus the now colder and thicker oil applies more resistance to everything inside the fork including its self. The pistons in your damper are meeting more resistance than normal because of the higher viscosity oil; this will change your damping and in the case of some older Manitous and Rockshox it could actually snap the piston off your damper shaft. (most oils don't have enough viscosity change to do this anymore).
4. Lubricating oils don't move as freely in your fork so your bushing stay dryer and wear faster as well as increasing wear on your stanchions.
5. And lastly, as everything in your fork gets cooler; all the rubber gets harder. Worse case scenario is your Pace fork might collapse totally as the seal gets to rigid to seal air or your Fox might puke its guts out of the upper seal and all over your disc brake (yuck!).
  This doesn't mean don't ride suspension in the winter, this stuff is made to be broken; its the price of admission. We aren't knitting scarves here. BUT you will have to take better care during the season.
  • Keep your mountain bike off the streets (that's where the salt is). Salt is hard to beat and contamination is minute and invisible till things go south.
  • Wipe your fork with a soft rag when you are done (before and after your bike thaws).
  • Fork oil is a mess but an ideal lubricant for your wiper seals before and after a ride (a little triflow works well also). This will keep your seals from stiffening up and sticking to the stanchions while riding. Just wetting the seal with a gooey rag is enough.
  • Replenish your air pressures often. Just like in a car tire, temperature changes will affect your pressure. (coils hand the cold WAY better).
  • Some forks, older Manitous and cheaper Rockshox  Dukes and Psylos (non lock out XC models) will live longer staying home below freezing.
  • Your Bontrager Racelite and its 96 Judy SL should not be let out in anything less than a perfect spring day.
Hopes this helps,
B Rose

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Lefty and what's so right about it!

  People ask me what I think about the Lefty all the time. It is probably the best suspension fork ever made in my mind with one major weakness; It needs to be maintained. And when I say it needs to be maintained I mean that in all caps, IT NEEDS TO BE MAINTAINED!
  The Lefty is race equipment. Its not like other forks that have different levels or cheaper models. All Cannondale Lefty forks are expensive to buy and repair. You can ignore and abuse most telescoping forks for a while but the Lefty will not tolerate it.
  I see people convert leftys for 29ers and Fat bikes a lot lately, so many of these forks have been sourced on Ebay that people really don't know what they cost and they never see an owners manual for them. So here are some things to know:

Big T finishing off a full Lefty service.
  1. If your Lefty has been submerged; you need to rebuild it.
  2. If you have ridden your lefty in bad weather for a while; you should have to boot lifted up and have the fork cleaned up. Any dirt could cost you a water bottler full of cash to repair.
  3. You should rebuild your cartridge one a year.
  4. If your boot is ripped replace it immediately! A TORN BOOK WILL KILL YOUR LEFTY.
  Tyson and I are always willing to talk to you about your lefty and we service quite a few of them. This is the time of year that a Lefty might not be the best choice for an everyday rider but if you take care to maintain it you and your lefty will be ok.
  We also service all Leftys and Headshoks . Stop by if you would like to send in your lefty for service.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cannondale, Cannondale, Cannondale!

Our life of making your lives easier just got easier. Shockspital has always worked on Cannondale suspension components. Over the years we have managed to scrape together a decent collection of spare parts and o-rings for all the Leftys and Headshoks that you send us. Sometimes another shop will discover a big pile of Headshok parts in the back of their parts room and send it to us because they know we'll use it.

But as of this week, Shockspital is officially a Cannondale small parts dealer. This means that we now have direct access to the parts that we need to keep your Lefty/Headshok working like new and to get your Cannondale MTB back on the trail quicker.

So add Cannondale to the list of suspension companies (Manitou, RockShox) who are helping us provide the best service we can to you, the customer. And add Shockspital to the list of people who are breathing a sigh of relief. Man, was I tired of hand-knitting replacement Lefty boots...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

No Winter Overhauls on Groundhog Day

Our annual Winter Overhaul Special ends when this month ends, pretty much at the same time. In other words, if the phone rings on February 1, and a customer says "I've been preparing for the family Groundhog Day feast (little varmints are elusive this time of year) and I haven't had time to bring my bike in," we'll say "Yuck," and "Sorry."

Once that corpulent rodent drags his sedentary self out into the daylight to inspect for his shadow, we consider it spring regardless of the outcome. Our Winter Overhaul is still drastically reduced right now, so if your rig needs some work, this is the time to get it done. Don't let a bloated rat get in the way of optimal bike performance!

Question: What kinds of things happen to my bike during a Winter Overhaul?

Answer: Good question! Read all about it here.

Free pickup and delivery. Yep, we'll come to your house, get your bike, spirit it off to our wokrshop, let our helper elves do magical thingies to it, and bring it back all sparkling precious, ready for spring to spring.

Right now, there is barely any wait involved. We can promise no such thing after the groundhog has emerged.

Save the money toward some sweet rear window louvers for your '86 Camaro.