This is the fifth of five articles in a series that address Preventative Maintenance for your tandem.   

Almost done…  Just a couple of fairly important components to address: those amazing wheels that connect you and your tandem to the ground.  I think cyclists sometimes take the bicycle wheel for granted in terms of all that we ask that collection of wires, a hollow metal extrusion, a chunk of aluminum and tires to do.  Therefore, they warrant a little attention as a complete assembly just to be sure that they’ll carry you and your stoker(s) safely through another cycling season.  I’ll also briefly touch on accessories, as those also warrant a little attention at the end and beginning of each season


We’ve already touched on the heart of each wheel; the hubs and their maintenance needs, so no need to revisit that territory.  So, lets address the other components that make up a wheel.

  • skewerQuick-release Skewers & Axles that attach them to the frame.
    • Skewers and threaded axles don’t need a lot of attention, but they do need at least an annual check-up to make sure they’re not corroded or have any cracked parts.
    • In most cases just a quick clean up and inspection is all that’s required. However, any early signs of corrosion should be removed and if it’s on the skewer shaft then a pipe cleaner probably needs to be used on the hub’s axle hole as well: corrosion is usually a two-way street. A light coating of waterproof grease or Boeshield T9 should help to keep corrosion from returning too quickly.
    • Any plastic parts that support the QR cam lever along with the threaded end of the skewer and skewer nut should be checked for any signs of cracking or fatigue.
    • Through-axles used on mountain bike wheels are pretty tough, but even those should be cleaned and checked for signs of corrosion.
  • standSpokes don’t typically need a lot of attention either if the wheel was built well to begin with and hasn’t taken a hard hit.
  • Rims also warrant some inspection on at least an annual basis. What you’d want to look for are any signs of cracks around the spoke holes.
    • There was a time when most rims used eyelets in each spoke hole. However, production efficiency, reducing parts/complexity and getting weight out of rims led to the very popular drilled rims that dominate the market today. They trade off a little added material around the spoke bed for the eyelets but are less forgiving when it comes to over-tightened spokes and fatigue cracks in the alloy rim.
    • You’ll also want to look for any dents or bends in the sidewall.  However, in most cases if you have dented or flat-spotted a rim you’ll find a loose spoke over that section of the rim and will have trouble with the truing process.
    • It’s also a good idea to pull the tire off the rim so that you can inspect the rim tape and spoke bed. If the spoke tape or elastic rim strip shrinks or wasn’t wide enough to begin with it can walk out of the center of the rim leaving the sharp edge of a spoke hole recess exposed to the inner tube. That will eventually lead to a flat that can be hard to diagnose.
    • I believe we discussed rim sidewall / brake track wear and tear under the Brakes section of this blog series so I won’t cover that again.
  • And last but not least are the Tubes & Tires.
    • Tread wear is not the only thing to be concerned with when it comes to tires.  I’ve seen a lot of tires with plenty of tread life that were absolutely shot:
      • Sidewalls fraying
      • Tires that were as hard as a rock and about as comfortable
      • Tri-compound racing tires crazing so bad that chunks of compound were missing
      • Wire bead tires where the glue on the bead tape was giving way
      • Tires that were anything but round in any dimension
      • Tires with sidewall splits from having lost air and being left sitting with the tandem’s weight on the wheels with flattened tires.
      • You get the idea….
    • Tires really don’t last forever, even if you don’t ever ride the bike.  At some point the rubber, fibers and other materials that go into a tire begin to harden or break down and lose the properties that at one time made them pretty good tires.
    • In addition to becoming a risk for collecting a flat from any one of a number of causes that a dried-out, old tire might be susceptible to, old tires give a really lousy ride quality.  In fact, I struggle to use the word ride quality with old tires as the two are mutually exclusive.
    • Tubes can also become a bit long in the tooth and, again, left unchecked and installed in a tire and wheel they may begin to wear thin in certain areas or “bond” themselves to the inside of the tire casing, rim tape or rim itself.
    • Another place where tubes like to fail is at the base of the air inflation valve, so be sure to give that a close inspection.  Better to find the start of a tear near the valve stem during your inspection in the garage than to have a tire go flat while out on a ride for no apparent reason.


–        Bottle Cages & Hardware:

  • bossesWatch out for rust and corrosion festering under the mounting bolts.  Always a good idea to pull the cages every other year to clean out the threads in the frame and on the bolts then give a nice coating of grease or anti-seize compound before reinstalling.

–        Pumps & Inflators:

  • These don’t last forever either.  Rubber parts dry-out and crack and the seals in the pump can dry-out.
  • Consider pulling apart your frame pump every other year and giving the rubber part a shot of Aerospace 303 or silicone spray to keep the rubber soft and pliable.
  • If you use CO2 cartridges check your inflator and make sure it’s in good shape and that the O-rings and levers have degraded after sitting in your saddlebag.

–        Lighting Systems:

  • If you use AA or AAA batteries, when’s the last time you pulled them out and checked to make sure they didn’t begin to bleed and corrode the contacts inside your lights?
  • I’ve become a huge fan of rechargeable batteries in that you never leave them in long enough to create a corrosion problem and the darn things last so long that they pay for themselves 10x over.
  • If you have NiCAD or LiION batteries, remember that they don’t last forever.  If you got 4 hours of light when they were new, after a few years it may something less than that.

–        Computers:

  • garmin_705In addition to making sure they have a good charge and also seeing how long those charges last at the outset of the season, now is a good time to reset your odometer or take note of the mileage so that you’ll be able to get a proper accounting of how many miles you ride in the coming year.
  • We also about to enter into Daylight Savings Time, so it may be time to reset your computer’s clock if it doesn’t do that for you.  I know that with my devices, they pre-date the change to when DLS begins and ends so I end up making all of the changes manually.
  • If your computers use remote sensors, don’t forget that those and in some cases a receiver head that your computer attaches to also use batteries. Now might be a good time to change those so that your start the season with a strong transmission signal that will take you through the entire season.

–        Tool & Tire Bags:

  • Spare Tires & Tubes: I’ve you’ve been lucky enough not to need the same spare inner tube you’ve had stuffed in your saddlebag for a few seasons, you might want to take it out, inflate and inspect it.
    • Tightly folded tubes can develop creases or small cracks as they age and may not be all that better than the tube you’re replacing if you finally need it years after it was purchased.
    • Tubes stored in saddle bags can also have other thing rubbing against them or poking into them that can weaken the tube, so best to check before the season starts.
    • I typically make a point of using the spare tube out of our saddlebag before pulling a new one off the shelf just so I don’t end up with an antique.
    • Tools:
      • If you’re like us, you’ll eventually get caught out in a heavy rainstorm on a day when you decided to roll the dice and hope the rain gods stayed away.  And, in the process you saddle bag and its contents will also end up either soaked or at least moisturized.
      • At the start of the season and while you’ve already got your tube and CO2 inflator out of the bag, it’s not a bad idea to pull everything else out and give those a check.  If your tools have developed a nice coat of surface rust, you might want to consider cleaning them up or, if it’s really bad, retiring & replacing them.
      • It’s also a good idea to make sure your tire levers haven’t gone missing, perhaps left on the side of the road after a fast repair.
    • Misc.
      • I keep photo copies of our driver’s licenses and medical cards in plastic baggies tucked into our saddle bags so I also check those to make sure they’re still the most current ones and that the plastic baggie hasn’t worn thin.
      • What else do you keep in your saddlebag that might warrant a check?  Perhaps a few $1 – $20 bills for emergencies or loose change?

–        Mud Guards / Fenders:

  • awesomeIf you use these and have them installed on your bike all the time, now would be a good time to give the underside a good cleaning and looking for rub marks or anything that might have adhered to the inside surface of the guard.
    • If they use break-away hardware down at the eyelets, check those for any signs of cracking or fatigue.
    • Make sure all of the attachment hardware is tight, rust-free and ready to give you another quiet, rub-free season of road debris protection.
    • If you carry quick-release mud guards around “just in case” you’ll also want to get those out and make sure the rubber straps haven’t dried-out and gotten brittle and that all of the bits and pieces are still there to allow quick installation.  In fact, a pre-season fitting is also a pretty good idea, especially if you changed tandems during the last season.

–        Luggage Racks:

  • If you use luggage racks for a trunk bag, front and/or rear panniers or a handlebar bag and perhaps even a decaleur, those also warrant some love and attention on an annual basis.
  • In addition to making sure they get a good cleaning, it’s also a good idea to inspect them for any corrosion, cracks or signs that they need some extra attention.
  • Make sure the attachment hardware is in good shape, not rusting and snug.  It’s not a bad idea to remove the hardware every few seasons on steel framed bikes to make sure the hardware isn’t rusting itself to the inside of the threaded eyes.  Loctite 242 (blue) is a good product to use on attachment hardware as it works as an anti-corrosion treatment as well as a thread locker.
  • If you use quick-release, seat-post mounted racks now and again for a trunk bag don’t forget to pull it out and make sure it’s in good repair, cleaned and test-fitted to make sure it’s good to go for the year ahead.

–        Panniers, Trunk & Handlebar Bags:

  • Last but not least is any luggage that you use.  If it’s tucked away somewhere, pull it down and open it up for a good cleaning and inspection.  Nothing worse than finding a 6-month old PB&J half sandwich in a Ziploc baggie tucked in a side pocket.
  • If they used Scotch Guard or some other waterproofing treatments to make them water resistant, consider giving them a re-treatment.  That stuff doesn’t last forever either.


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