Bicycle Maintenance

Bicycle maintenance is one of those things you know you must do, but keep putting off. Right from the start, from the moment you get your new bike, make it a habit to do those maintenance tasks before and after every ride. Mark a date on your calendar for the weekly or monthly work; set aside a Saturday for the annual maintenance. You’ll enjoy your bike rides that much more because your bike will simply ride that much better.

If you’re taking your bike out in the mud and the rain or you put a lot of distance on your bike every week, you might want to do more of your maintenance schedule more often then recommended. If you barely use your bike, then you can wait to do some of the maintenance until a convenient time pops up. At the very least, learn how to change a flat tire on your bicycle. You use tire levers to get the flat tire off the wheel, a patch kit to cover the hole, a tire pump to re-inflate the tire and the tire levers again to put the tire back on the wheel. make sure you’re always carrying these items whenever you go on a ride, even a short one.

There are certain things you must do every time you take out your bike, both before and after the ride.

Check the air pressure in the tires. Look at the numbers on the sidewall of the tire for the proper air pressure. You can inflate by hand or use one of those pressurised air hoses, but, whichever you use, get out the tire pressure gauge when you’re done finish to check the result. Too high is just as bad as too low.

Check the brake levers on the handlebars and look to see if the brake pads are actually closing evenly on the tire. And, by “evenly,” we don’t mean all at once — with a light squeeze of the levers, the leading edge of each pad should touch the tire sidewall, with the rest of the pad grounding itself against the tire as you squeeze harder. That action means the brake pads are properly toed-in. Look at the inside of the brake pad for embedded junk and remove — you don’t want sand, gravel, metal or glass rubbing against your tire. While you’re cleaning up the pads, clean off all that mud, grime and garbage that’s collected on the fenders, on the tires and in the spokes.

Once a week, lubricate the bicycle chain with a lube recommended by the bicycle manufacturer. Check the brake pads to see if they need to be replaced.

Once a month, turn your bicycle upside-down and rotate the tires to look at the entire circumference — replace the tires if they are cut or worn deeply. Clean and lubricate the chain, looking for loose links — you may need to replace the chain if too many links are loose. Check all the moving, joined and bolted parts of the bicycle for looseness and tighten as necessary. Check the cables, levers and assemblies of the brakes and the shifter. Use a lightweight bicycle lubricant on these items — if you use too heavy an oil, the moving parts of your bike will gum up and attract dirt; if you use too light an oil, the lubrication will have little effect. Wipe away excess oil as you work. Don’t get any oil on the brake pads because you’ll be defeating the purpose for which the brake pads are designed. Take a look at the free wheel, the one that is not attached to the chain, to be sure it spins true. Check the pedals to see if they’re getting too worn or do not turn freely. Shift the gears with the gear shifter to see all the moving parts and put a few drops of oil in those places.

Every three months, after your monthly inspection, evaluate the physical appearance of your bicycle. Look for peeling paint or rust on the fenders, frame, handlebars, stem and fork. Sand and cover any bad spots with spray paint or a bottle of touch-up paint. Check for any component of your bike that looks bent or out of form. Give your bike a good wax job.

Anytime the wheels of your bike seems to be riding wrong, slithering from side to side or rubbing against the brake pads, take a look at the spokes of the wheel for looseness. Turn the bike upside-down and pluck each spoke the way you’d pluck a guitar string. A loose spoke will make a completely different sound from all the others. Use a spoke wrench to tighten the nipple that connects the spoke to the inner rim of the tire.

Once a year, it’s time to do a complete disassembly and overhaul of your bicycle. You’ll get to know your bike even better when you take it apart and put it back together. Take a look at the repair manual for your model and be sure you’ve got all the tools you’ll need. Replace any component that looks worn out or on the verge of breaking. You’ll likely have to replace your bicycle chain and the cables for your brakes and your gear-shifter. Depending on the type of wheel on your bicycle, you may, if the wheel is no longer up to snuff, need to replace the ball-bearings in the hub or the entire wheel.

This yearly maintenance is based on a bike being ridden around 10,000 kilometers in a year; if you put more distance on your bike than that, then this yearly ritual may become a twice-a-year event. If you don’t feel like getting your hands dirty taking apart your bike and putting it back together, you’ll be able to find staff at your local bike shop who will do all this work for you, and charging you for it, of course.