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Cables and Housing
If shifting or braking feels sluggish, the problem is often gummed-up housings or dirty cables. You can restore spry action with a simple cleaning. Create slack in the brake cables by opening the quick-release buttons (on the calipers for Shimano and SRAM, on the lever for Campagnolo). To slacken the rear derailleur cable: Shift to the largest cog while turning the pedals; stop the pedals and rear wheel, then push the shifter as if to return to the smallest cog; because the derailleur won't move, the cable slackens. (The front shifter cable is exposed along most of its length already.) With the tension gone, you can easily slip the housings out of the stops, then slide them along the cables to expose dirt and grit. Wipe the newly exposed sections of the cables clean, then spray degreaser into one end of each housing until it drips cleanly out of the other end. Most modern cables don't need lube for smooth operation, but you might want to try it to see if friction is reduced; place a drop or two of lube on your thumb and forefinger, then pinch the cable between them and wipe any exposable sections. Replace the housings in the stops, tighten the quick-releases, and gently pedal the rear derailleur into the proper gear. If the shifting is still sluggish or the cables appeared frayed, rusted or bent, take your bike to the shop for a replacement.
From now on: Replace both at the end or beginning of every season, or when you notice any cut or crack in the housing, or fraying or rust on the cable
Examine the pads and remove embedded grit or metal shards (which come from your rim) with an awl, tweezers or other sharp implement. Then roughen the surface with sandpaper or a file to improve braking. Finally, replace the set if either pad is too hard to let you press in with your thumbnail, or if the grooves etched into the pad are so worn they're almost nonexistent.
From now on: Examine once a week, or after every wet ride
Left unaddressed, a loose headset could cause you to lose control, impair steering and eventually damage your head tube and fork. 1 With your bike in a stand or sitting on the ground, grab the handlebar with one hand and the front wheel with the other, then push and pull in opposition while feeling for play. To tighten: 2 Loosen the two bolts that clamp the stem to the steerer tube, then turn the bolt in the top cap of the stem clockwise and retighten the clamping bolts to the manufacturer's recommended torque. The headset is just right when there is no slop when you perform the check, but the front wheel freely flops from side to side when you pick up the front of the bike. You might need several attempts to find the precise adjustment. Make sure you always loosen the clamp bolts before tightening the cap.
From now on: Check every two weeks