1-Minute DIY Bike Maintenance Musts

by Peter Glassford
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1-Minute DIY Bike Maintenance Musts

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.


READ MORE > A PENNY, NEWSPAPER AND 5 MORE SURPRISING HACKS FOR CYCLISTS


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.


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  • Lanternerouge

    Degrease and re-lube chain and wash bike every ride? Respectfully, this is advice for the compulsive, unmarried/childless, and unemployed (and should be titled “45 minute daily beauty regimen”). Tire pressure, for sure; check bolt tightness occasionally, fair enough. Wipe and lube chain after rainy rides or when it makes noise; clean it for real when you can devote an hour to the project. Never hose the bike off, ever, unless you’re a pro mechanic with 10 bikes to wash and an infinite supply of replacement bearings. Spray bottle or sponge when you feel like having a clean bike; don’t sweat it when you don’t. Grant Peterson said it best: Just ride.

    • Captain Jeff

      Thank you for your response. I agree. I use my bicycle for commuting purposes to (bank, gym, grocery, beach, restaurant….everywhere & anywhere basically) so i am on it everyday. I degrease & re-lubing prob once a month, I rarely do a thorough wipedown, I ck. bolts once a month & usually air tires twice a week cos low pressure definitely affects my ride (mostly in bike lanes on road). Love the motto Just Ride! Thats def. me!

  • Mike Jacoubowsky

    #5, bolt check, is potentially dangerous without the right tools. Modern bikes, especially with carbon bars & seatposts, have very narrow acceptable torque spec. “Snugging” bolts until they feel tight is not a good idea. The common 5nm spec for 4-bolt handlebar stems is very important. 4mm 5nm torque wrenches are easy to find at local bike shops and very inexpensive (about $20). It’s very easy to over-tighten these bolts without a torque wrench, damaging fork columns and handlebars.

    There have also been a lot of Shimano cranks that have suffered damage because the two pinch bolts were improperly torqued.

    A bike routinely serviced by a reputable local bike shop shouldn’t need to have its bolts checked very often, and will likely be happy to do a quick “bolt check” at no charge if they (the shop) has been doing regular maintenance on the bike.

    This is not to say a cyclist can’t easily check bolt torques on their own! Just please, use a torque wrench.