Do you find yourself coming with excuses for not looking after or checking your bike?
The good news is, it’s easier than you think. Proper bike care could extend the life of your bike and its parts. Added to this, we firmly believe that preparing for your next ride is best started as soon as you have returned from the last one, when any issues are fresh in your mind.
As bikes become more specialist and complex, it’s a good idea to keep a log of maintenance, repairs, and replacement parts. A riders’ diary is also helpful, because if there is ever a component failure, the manufacturer or it’s insurer will ask for details of the miles travelled and how it has been maintained.
As a general rule before you head out, you should always check your ABCs- Air, Brakes and Chain. Spend a few moments on a quick safety check to give yourself peace of mind before every ride.
Get the right tools
Before you crack on with keeping your bike in tip-top condition, make sure you’ve got all the tools you need to keep your bike in shape.
A multitool will be your best friend as it will have a tool for more or less everything on your bike, plus it can be easily packed away in a pocket or bag.
Invest in a floor pump with a pressure gauge as this will make your life a lot easier for those (inevitable) times your bike gets a flat tyre. A floor pump makes this much easier and less labour-intensive to pump up your tyres, while the pressure gauge lets you know how much air is in your tyres to avoid under or overfilling.
Spare inner tubes and a compact pump are a must if you’re heading out, especially on your own.
Give your bike a bathtime!
One of the easiest ways to keep your bike in tip-top shape- keep it clean!
A clean bike is much less effort to take care of than a dirty one and is crucial for good performance. You don’t need specialist equipment for this, just a bucket of hot, soapy water and a firm cloth or sponge. You can use an old toothbrush to remove any stubborn bits of dirt from smaller, harder-to-reach areas too.
We suggest doing a bike clean after almost every ride, especially after a particularly muddy or wet day. Make sure to dry your bike after giving it a clean to avoid any components rusting.
Check your wheels
Tyre pressure is highly dependent on a lot of factors such as riding conditions, road surface and body weight. Even if you don’t need to pump your tyres every day, it’s a still a good habit to get into.
A slight difference in tyre pressure will drastically affect your bike’s handling and comfort.
Good tyre pressure is vital, you should always stay within the manufacturer’s recommended pressure, which is usually printed on the side of the tyre.
Keep weather conditions in mind, generally, if it’s raining, a slightly decreased tyre pressure will give you a better grip on the road.
Lubricate your drivetrain
Keeping your drivetrain clean and lubricated is the equivalent of changing your car engine oil.
Chain lubrication helps fight against chain wear which occurs over time. It’ll also help prevent that horrible squeaky bike noise and improve your pedalling- a win-win!
The frequency of lubing and cleaning your drivetrain really depends on how, where, and when you ride. If you are a strict sunny-weather or paved-road cyclist, you can get away with cleaning it less frequently. But if you ride a lot in muddy and wet conditions, you should clean and lube your drivetrain after every ride to prevent your chain from getting filthy.
We recommend getting some latex gloves for this part as it can get quite messy. Apply the oil and leave it to work its magic for a few minutes before wiping it off with an old rag. Be careful not to over lubricate as the oil will find its way into the inner parts of the chain and will attract dirt particles with it.
Important: only lubricate your bike when it’s dry and avoid getting oil on the brakes and braking surfaces e.g. wheel rims or discs.
Watch the brakes
Possibly the most important aspect of cycle maintenance. Ensuring the brakes are working as expected is important for your own safety and others around you.
When checking your brakes, you should do the following: test them out by pulling and holding your brakes down to make sure they’re working appropriately. If you find that you have to pull the brake lever until it touches the handlebar and still almost nothing happens, you have to adjust the brake pads closer to the rim.
It’s important to keep both the pads and the braking surface clean from dirt and oil- they’ll wear out much faster!
Keep nuts and bolts tight…but not too tight!
Keep all the screws, bolts and nuts in your bike where they belong by checking them.
They don’t need lots of maintenance, but it’s a good idea to periodically check they’re all tight so they work properly to keep your wheels straight. You don’t want to lose the screw holding your mudguards in place and having to listen to a rattling sound all the way home. A good way to check is to lightly bounce your bike off the ground and keep an ear for any loose nuts and bolts.
When tightening nuts and bolts, be sure to check with the manufacturer’s manual for the right torque specs. Under-tightening could result in squeaky noises as you ride, while over-tightening could result in physical damage.
It’s worth noting that most newer bikes have a maximum torque limit written on them, you can buy tools that only apply that specified amount of torque.
Carry out a safety check
It’s always a good idea to check all your safety equipment before every cycle. Even if you don’t plan to be riding in the dark, make sure you’ve got a working set of bike lights to use. Give everything else (such as your helmet and any protective cycling clothing) a quick check to make sure it’s working well for when you need it.
Take a bike maintenance class!
Just like anything, bike maintenance takes practice and is a constant learning process. A bike maintenance class will give you hands- on experience, with expert guidance, to walk you through some skills.
Taking part in a class can give you a confidence boost in your abilities, enabling you to feel safer and more confident when out on your bike (just don’t forget to wear clothes that you don’t mind getting mucky!)
If you enjoy riding in rain and mud, or put on a high weekly mileage, you’ll need to perform routine maintenance more often to keep your bike in optimal condition. If you don’t ride all that often, you can get away with a more relaxed schedule.
Keep yourself motivated by reminding yourself that the effort you put it now will save you many hours of hassle later on.