Friday, April 21, 2017

Thoughts on Routine Maintenance and Fascination with Araya Rims

I'm pretty good at keeping my chain oiled and wiping rims - sometimes daily if I commute during inclement weather - so though I may put off other routine maintenance, I eventually get around to those less glamorous yearly tasks like replacing brake pads and chain. I had procrastinated long enough that the lowest freewheel sprocket grumbled underfoot and I avoided that gear altogether until a warm weekend day allowed for outdoor repairs.

Greenfield kickstand - a little crusty but functional.
With the bike in the stand, I had noticed that oiling the underside of the frame during winter rides on salt crusted paths and roads had curbed most of the corrosion, except for the new kickstand replaced in November. The metal has developed some kind of residue and for better or worse is still quite functional. The kickstand wasn't shiny to begin with, rather the color of a five cent coin much the same as the MKS pedals installed late last summer, though the pedals have fared well during the winter months. 

It's customary to replace chains twice a year on my commuter bike. In some respects this feels excessive because I don't remember performing this kind of frequent maintenance on my other bikes, but then again I have to remind myself that winter adversely affects all those moving parts. New chain installed, front brake pads replaced, and rear pads adjusted made my bicycle feel like a svelty machine once again!

Beautiful, squared Araya rims.
However, before I took the bike for a spin, upon closer inspection I noted excessive wear on the freewheel. The rim was also slightly dished, but not overly so. I've seen worse. And for at least two years, the spokes on the left side have been looser than the right, which might account for that annoying creaking which I mentioned last fall had disappeared, but lately has manifested itself once again. And though the wheel has remained perfectly true it's also original to the bicycle and the worn freewheel meant it was time to replace the whole back wheel.

Did I ever mention I'm smitten with Araya rims?

I've used, or should I say, been exposed to Araya rims on most of my 1980s bicycles. The squared rims are fairly ubiquitous in bicycles of that era and provide a unique old school look. The more I work on my bicycles the more those rims speak to me. And for whatever reason, those wheels, like the stout early mountain bikes of the same era, have held up well.

I hated to say goodbye to the rear Araya wheel on my commuter bicycle. I contemplated holding onto the wheel for the axle and rim, but I'm not a wheel builder and frankly it wasn't practical. Emotionally, I had to let that wheel go. And luckily, I had a spare Araya rear wheel and cassette (found in a free bin at a garage sale - lucky me), that I had used briefly a couple years ago. The trade off is the "new" freewheel doesn't have optimal gearing for hills, but I'm happy to still have beautiful, old school style.

Now that my commuter bicycle is running smoothly, I'm pleased. However, I will keep an eye out for more Araya wheels, just because those beauties are still available.


  1. Bikes do require maintenance and one thing I wish some of the newer bike computers did better was allow us to better keep track of mileage. That is, allow us to input existing odometer readings, etc. My old bike computers allowed this but my new "smart" bike computer that moves from bike to bike, does not.

    I understand from one of my LBS's that it is not a bad idea to have the wheel spoke tension checked once in a while. Spokes can loosen up - at least with a bigger rider like me. Not to mention the stress from riding over all the potholes, since cities apparently have stopped fixing roads.

    I typically get about 1,200 miles of out a top flight chain and brake pads maybe 800 to 1,500 miles, depending. I use a chain stretch tool to measure the chain to know when to replace. I was surprised to read the "directions" on the removable link on the last chain I replaced. It said the link was directional and could only be put on once. Neither directive made sense to me.

    I've tried dry (wax-based) and wet (oil-based) chain lube and use the old fashioned wet lube these days.

    For brakes, I have disk brakes for my main bike and roller brakes on my city bike. The disk brakes are mechanical (cable-actuated instead of hydraulic which self-adjust) and therefore require adjustment once a week - given our hilly terrain. Roller brakes just need some grease squirted in ports once in a while - like once a year.

    1. With this bike I'm likely swapping the chain under similar mileage, approximately 1000-1200 miles.

  2. I know this is probably weird, but I enjoy doing routine maintanence. I go into the co-op and put the bike up in the stand. Check over all the little things. Keep track of how many miles I got out of this chain or that cassette. Get Vixen (my Bianchi Volpe) all cleaned up. I don't know why, but I feel somehow that all is right with the world.

    I hadn't heard of Araya rims before, but I agree that they look just right on your bike.

    1. I log on paper when I swap parts as a general reference though I don't track mileage other than yearly total miles ridden.

      I think it's admirable to get satisfaction out of routine maintenance. Wish I could love the process. I'm quite happy when it's finished!

  3. Be careful to seat a tire very well into an Araya rim. Tires are more prone to dislodge on Arayas than modern rims. I came across that tidbit while looking for information on rims once. I was into old bikes at the time.

    1. I've never had a problem with seating a tire and never specifically on Araya rims. I inflate the tube a bit and spin the wheel, checking for even seating, then finish pumping the tire.

  4. Hurrah for Araya! many a time on a rebuild of a bike boom 10 or 12 speed have I been cleaning grime or surface rust off a rim and uncovered the etched Araya label. Solid rims indeed.

  5. I had Araya rims on my mid-80s GT Timberline mountain bike (now an all-purpose bike) up until 3 years ago, when they finally had to be replaced with new wheels. They were almost certainly original to the bike. I was sad to see them go, but grateful that the bike shop mechanics caught the problem before I had a tire problem on the road.


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