By Jim Weaver, Service Manager, Fit Werx, VT
Those who have bikes with Shimano’s Di2 electronic shifting system know that they no longer have to worry about such things as cable stretch, regular derailleur adjustment, and derailleur cable and housing replacement. This may lead some to think that they no longer need to take their bikes to the bike shop for maintenance. Well, Di2 is very good, but it doesn’t completely eliminate maintenance and check-ups. There are still a variety of items on your bike that require regular check-up and maintenance.
If you purchased your bike at Fit Werx, you were encourages to bring your bike back to us after the initial few hundred miles for a complimentary tune-up so that we can check how everything is working for you. For bikes with cable shifting, this is particularly important as cables can initially stretch and settle and the bike may not shift well if this happens. While Shimano Di2 and Campagnolo EPS derailleurs often do not need these types of adjustments (as there are no longer cables to stretch), this initial service is still important as it allows us to inspect the bike for such things as bolts that may have loosened, brake cables that have stretched, bearings that may have settled and are now loose, or wheels that have lost their initial true. So, just because your shifting is working well, don’t ignore the first, free service.
Once your bike has “settled in”, annual tune-ups address a wide variety of issues and can keep your bike working as designed year after year. First of all, for all Di2 systems released after Shimano’s original system (Dura Ace 7970) the software/firmware, of your system can be updated. Shimano regularly releases firmware updates, for the Ultegra 6770 10-speed version and for the Dura Ace 9070 and Ultegra 6870 11-speed versions. These updates not only help the system work as well as possible, but also frequently add compatibility with new features. Updates in the past have included increased battery efficiency, allowing multi-gear shift and enabling the use of the new Shimano “D-Fly” ANT+ transmitter that allows a “Flight Deck” type gearing display to work with some compatible computers. So, whenever I have a bike equipped with Di2 in for service, I automatically plug it in and update the firmware.
The shifting of your bike, while the most obvious thing to be addressed during routine maintenance, is only a fraction of what should be regularly checked on your bike. Just like with a mechanical shift bike, the chain and cassette still wear and should be replaced as needed. While it can vary markedly rider-to-rider, 10 or 11 speed chains, if kept clean and lubricated, usually lasts about 1,500 miles. A worn chain that is not replaced will prematurely wear out the cassette and thus require that you replace both. If you wait too long, instead of paying $40 to $50 for a new chain, you will have to add another $100 to $300 for a new cassette.
The cassette, chain, and shifting get you going, but what about stopping? Brakes are important too. While electronic Di2/EPS shifting means you no longer need to replace derailleur cables and housings, brake cables and housings still deserve regular service, maintenance and replacement. Depending on how much you ride, and in what conditions, these items should be replaced every 2 to 5 years. When I do routine service to a bike, when these cables and housings are not replaced, I lubricate them where they enter the housing and work it into the housing so that the cables move more freely, thus improving brake feel. And what about brake pads? Do they need to be replaced? Are they clean and properly aligned with the brake track on the rim?
Another place where electronic shifting does not change wear and maintenance is wheels. Electronic shifting or not, wheels can go out of true. An annual tune-up checks the true and addresses any issues that the truing stand reveals. All of the bearings on a bike are subject to wear or contamination and corrosion as well. We check each one, servicing or replacing them as needed. Any bolt on your bike can loosen with time, needing to be retorqued. If these are cockpit bolts, this is a real safety issue. Chainring bolts can loosen, leading to a wide variety of potential problems, and should are checked during a tune-up. On steel and titanium bikes, the seatpost should occasionally be removed, cleaned, and greased, to insure that it is not corroding in place. And what about that five year old, smelly, worn out handlebar tape? There is not cheaper way to make your bike feel and look a bit more like it did when brand new than fresh handlebar tape.
Just because your electronic shifting may no longer need regular maintenance and tuning as it once did, be sure not to ignore the rest of your bike. Your bike is a machine, and while some parts work better on electronic Di2 bikes, with less or no maintenance, others still require it. So, don’t ignore those annual tune-ups!
There is no better time for annual bike service than the winter. Plan ahead and get your bike in for a tune-up ahead of the rush! Bike tune-ups are available through Fit Werx in outside of New York City in Ridgefield, Park, New Jersey; in Peabody and Lexington, Massachusetts; and in Central Vermont at the original Fit Werx in Waitsfield.