Hail to the LX Hub

After nine years, thousands of miles and absolutely zero maintenance, I finally got around to servicing the Deore LX rear hub on my all-rounder bike. Over the past few weeks I’d noticed a little play in the rear wheel and figured that the bearings had started to wear and/or the last of the grease had finally wormed its way out, after the hardest winter that the bike had faced.

Shimano Deore LX rear hub
Shimano Deore LX rear hub

I set at the hub, first removing the cassette, before going at it with the cone spanners. A brief yet concerted flurry of spanner wielding and cleaning with a rag revealed absolutely no wear whatsoever – to the bearings, cones or races – just a light track on the cone where the bearings made contact. The play in the rear wheel was traced to a driveside locknut working loose.

It’s easy to take Shimano’s engineering excellence for granted, especially that of their less showy, less feature packed components. However, the bag-per-buck factor of the LX hub cannot be ignored. The longevity of this component – due to ultra-tight manufacturing tolerances and superb labyrinth sealing, is really impressive.

So I reassembled with fresh automotive grease, re-using the original, perfect bearings, adjusted the cones and tightened everything down. The result – one silky smooth rear hub, no play, no grinding, no doubt ready for another nine years of almost daily riding.

Within the Shimano component hierarchy, LX is right at the price/durability sweet spot. For daily use on a fine bike, there’s no reason to pay more.

Commute Envy

I thought my commute was pretty good. 20 minutes into the city centre through a quiet park in the morning, then an hour on the train to work/read the paper/listen to an e-book, then a 20 minute canal ride out to the office, but Jay and Vaughn’s commute from Rivendell HQ in Walnut Creek (shown here to demo the capabilities of their new Hunquapillar trail/touring bike) has left me feeling a might green…

Liverpool, UK might have a mighty river, two amazing cathedrals and some great bike paths, but it can’t rival the SF Bay Area for riding…

The Utility Bike – is there any other kind?

A friend of mine described my all-rounder bike as a utility bike the other day. Although not intentional, I detected a hint of condescension in his choice of phrase. But I didn’t take offence. I mean what could be so wrong with owning a useful bike?

Seriously, is there any other kind of bike? Let’s break this down for a moment. A ‘Utility’ bike is presumably a bike that’s built to be used. Surely all bikes are built to be used, no? I mean, who would buy a non-useful bike?

Plenty of people – is the answer, certainly if the product ranges of the major manufacturers are anything to go by. Carbon bikes, bikes with tight clearances, bikes with no room for mudguards, no braze-ons for racks, painted and decaled too flashy to leave hanging around anywhere. Such bikes dominate the sport-obsessed market.

I’m a bike enthusiast. I’d shy away from the word evangelist or advocate – too laden, but I won’t buy anything that’s too outwardly flashy or expensive. It’s not an Amish tendency at play here – it’s all about the point on the graph where the utility curve and the expense curve intersect. Or to put it simply – after a certain point, the more you spend on a bike, the less useful it becomes.

How so? Because if you spend too much on a bike, you’re less inclined to leave it locked up in town, you’re less likely to leave it in the bike rack on the train and you’re less happy with using it as your everyday bike. And I’m not just talking about high-end road or mountain bikes here. I’m forever tempted to upgrade my all-rounder tourer/commuter/trail/road bike with a better frame, wheels, etc and ditch some of the begged/borrowed/ebayed parts for something more flashy, but when all’s said and done, I’ll end up with a bike that I’m so precious about, I’ll never use it.

As it stands, I’ve got a low key, comfortable, adaptable bike, that, with care and a bit of luck, I’ll still be riding in a decade.