I dropped the bike off at the shop this afternoon for an overhaul. It started with the rear wheel blowing out (as in part of the rim ripping away from the wheel), progressed through a replacement of the rear cluster (the back gears), then the replacement of the front crank (which has been creaking for a few thousand kilometres), had some handlebar tape added and then a replacement of all the brake cables (and the pads as well).
The shop did a simple stretch or wear test on the chain using a small tool that did something that I cannot describe. Apparently if the chain is worn or stretched 1%, it has had it. Mine was off the dial, it was stretched so far.
Ah well, the old beast has done 12,000km so far, so it's well and truly due for a bit of TLC (it certainly gets none from me). It's going to set me back about $800, but that's less than a car service, and not bad when you consider it has taken me to work and back, and to other places, on most weekdays for the last 4 years.
I am going to spend my free time wisely - mainly by stuffing myself with every vanilla slice that I can find.