Bikes are relatively simple machines and most people will be able to do the majority of maintenance themselves at home – as long as you have the right tools and just a bit of knowledge.
Of course, having your bike professionally serviced is the best way to keep you and your bike safe, but for those regular bits of upkeep, it makes much more sense (and is much cheaper) to take care of it yourself.
A big part of working on your bike is having the confidence that you’re doing it right and being willing to have a go. And if you aren’t sure what you’re doing, there are loads of brilliant ‘How-To’ videos on YouTube made by professional bike mechanics. Watch what they’re doing, take your time, follow them step by step, and you’ll soon have the confidence of a skill learned and a job well done. In order to tackle those basic maintenance jobs, here’s the essential kit you’ll need…
Every home with a bike needs a decent, heavyweight track pump, as pumping up tyres and checking tyre pressure should be part of your pre-ride ritual. A floor pump allows you to get up to high volumes or high pressure with ease. The long air chamber and stable stand means you can use your upper body to pump the air in, making it much quicker than using a hand-pump. Look for a pump that feels heavy and has a smooth action as you push down on the handle.
Ball-ended long Allen keys
A full set of ball-ended Allen-keys makes everything easier. The ball end means that you can angle the Allen key slightly and still get good purchase. The longer handle also allows more leverage on bolts that are a little bit stiff. Nearly every bolt on your bike is an Allen key so you’ll find yourself constantly reaching for these on most jobs that you do.
While you can fix your bike at home without a proper bike stand, this is one purchase that will make everything you do on your bike feel much easier. No more bending over a bike leaning against a wall, you can see exactly what you’re working on at eye height. There is also less chance of you knocking your bike over and damaging it while using a stand. In every way it feels easier and more professional.
Chain tool and chain checker
By replacing part-worn chains you can extend the life of your cassette, getting one cassette to two-three chains. If you don’t replace your chain, your cassette and chain will wear matching grooves into each other and both will need replacing as a new chain will ‘jump’ on the cassette and not run smoothly.
To keep on top of this task you first need a chain-wear tool. It has teeth that fit into the gaps between links to reveal how much the chain has stretched. A chain-wear checking tool is a really simple way of checking the health of your chain. Even if you aren’t a natural home mechanic you can at least keep an eye on when you need to take your bike in for a service.
Next, you need a chain-splitting tool to fit your new chain. The chain-splitters you get on multi-tools are great in a pinch out on the road or trail, but are too fiddly to use at home. A heavy-duty chain splitter will make splitting and fixing chains simple.
Chain whip and cassette remover
To replace your cassette (the cluster of sprockets on the back wheel of your bike) you need a chain-whip, cassette remover and a big adjustable spanner. The cassette remover fits the middle of your cassette and is used to unscrew the lock ring that holds it in place. The chain whip is a length of chain attached to a long handle. You drape the chain across a sprocket to hold the cassette still while you use the adjustable spanner on the cassette remover to undo the lock-ring.
It requires a little bit of coordination but once you have the knack there’s a great deal of satisfaction in being able to do this job yourself.
If you spot problems with your bike during your ride, either deal with them straight away when you get home or make a note to remind yourself, otherwise your next ride will be delayed or prevented as that problem will still be there. When it comes to keeping your bike in good working order, never put off till tomorrow what you can do today!