Bike maintenance can be intimidating at first, but a little knowledge goes a long way. Knowing simple fixes and maintenance tasks will keep your bike in good shape and save you from breaking down on the roadside and calling for an Uber — or from walking the five miles out of the woods with your mountain bike.
You can gain confidence by learning to perform a few quick maintenance tasks, like checking bolts, pumping tires or lubricating your chain. It only takes a minute around each ride to gradually learn more about your bike and ensure any repair bills are due to (nearly) shredding that awesome trail or snapping your chain with quad-busting watts instead of poor maintenance.
Here are five tasks every cyclist needs to know:
1. SET YOUR TIRE PRESSURE
Why Do It: To maximize your comfort and skills (e.g., cornering), learn how to adjust your tire pressure for the different riding conditions. Each rider will have a range of pressures they can run based on their riding ability, the tire construction, riding surface and their body size.
How To: Place a pump with an accurate gauge near your bikes or the door so you can easy set your pressure before the ride. Make sure to keep notes on what worked in the conditions you rode in a training log.
How Often: Before every ride.
2. LUBRICATE YOUR CHAIN
Why Do It: In a perfect world, you would do a complete cleaning of your bike, including the chain, before every ride to avoid putting fresh lubricant on a grimy chain and creating a mess. However, if your chain isn’t too bad, you can do a quick lubrication.
How To: Apply a small amount of degreaser to a rag and wipe the chain, link by link. Then, you can apply a small amount of lubricant to the inside of the chain to keep it clean and quiet between major washes.
How Often: Every 1–2 rides, depending on duration and how dry or wet it is.
3. SPRAY DOWN YOUR BIKE
Why Do It: For most rides, a quick spray down is enough to keep your bike clean and running great, unless it is very wet and muddy where you live.
How To: Use a hose or spray bottle to dampen any dirt or dust on the frame and components, and then just wipe it away.
How Often: Do this after every ride to keep your bike looking good, to remove any energy drink spills or sweat on the frame and to catch any broken or worn parts, like a broken spoke, that you might not notice during the ride.
4. WIPE DOWN AND INSPECT YOUR BIKE
Why Do It: Most people wipe down their bikes occasionally, but to increase your wipe-down frequency, quality and speed, find three rags and put them near where you park your bike.
How To: Assign each rag to one of three specific duties: the first is for gears/greasy parts, the second is a damp cloth for an initial wipe-down that will get most leftover dirt and the third is a clean cloth to shine up the bike. For most rides, this will follow a light spray from the hose or spray bottle. You may also use a commercial wipe product that is made to remove dirt and shine up the bike.
How Often: Aim for after each ride, or at least every third outing.
5. BOLT CHECK
Why Do It: Your bike goes through a lot of vibration, forces and impacts that can loosen bolts and make parts rattle, slip or break. Usually a loose part will be evident (e.g., moving around or slipping) and simply checking that each bolt is snug and doesn’t turn very easily is a good rule of thumb. Brake and shift cables also periodically need tightening.
How To: As you ride, pay attention to your shifting and braking. Watch for changes that will alert you to make a quick post-ride adjustment, then tighten where necessary.
How Often: Check bolts are snug weekly and before major rides/events.
These five tasks will start you down the path to understanding and appreciating bike mechanics. In turn, the mechanics will like (and respect) you a lot more, too. Play around with your bike, and ask for help if you don’t know how a part works. The more you use Allen keys and rags, the more familiar and efficient you will become with maintaining your bike.
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RIDE