If you want your bike to perform as it should and last as long as possible, you’ll need to stay on top of bike maintenance. While there are certainly jobs that require a trip to your local bike shop, the truth is there are a lot of things you can do yourself to save money while keeping your bike in tip-top shape.
From tips for learning basic maintenance to deciding when it’s the right time to upgrade your components, use these guidelines to save your hard-earned cash:
CLEAN YOUR BIKE OFTEN
If you want your frame and components to last longer, the best thing you can do is to keep your bike as clean as possible. While cleaning your frame and wheels helps a great deal, if you don’t always have time to clean your entire bike after every ride, make sure you get rid of the dirt and grime on your drivetrain at a minimum. This makes a big difference in the performance of your components as well as their longevity. If you have a little extra time, give the brake track on the wheels a scrub to keep your brakes working properly.
Pro tip: Don’t feel like you have to spend a bunch of extra money on bike-specific degreasers. Diluted dish soap works well for most jobs.
COVER YOUR DISC BRAKES DURING MAINTENANCE
Cleaning grime and muck keeps you away from your local bike shop in most instances. One exception to this rule is if you accidentally use a degreaser on your disc brakes. This can ruin your braking system and cause you to spend a lot of money replacing it. Use a disc brake-specific cleaner when performing brake maintenance. When you’re not cleaning your brakes and are working on your drivetrain, be sure to cover your disc brakes to prevent accidental contamination. A plastic bag, shower cap or latex glove work.
INVEST IN BIKE TOOLS
If you’re not used to performing basic bike maintenance, it might seem intimidating at first. But the truth is most routine jobs are pretty easy, and they can be performed at home. While there are several ways to learn bike maintenance on your own (see below), there are a few bike tools you should invest in to handle most maintenance jobs and help you avoid a big bill by taking your ride into the shop:
- Allen keys
- Torx keys (if the bolts on your bike require these)
- Chain checker
- Chain whip and sprocket tool
LEARN HOW TO PERFORM MAINTENANCE CORRECTLY
Attempting maintenance jobs you aren’t really sure how to do correctly can end up costing you a lot more money in the long run if you mess things up. While this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment on your less expensive bicycles occasionally, when you’re working on your road bike, make sure you know what you’re doing to avoid ruining your expensive components.
To learn the basics of bike maintenance correctly, try a bike maintenance app like Bike Repair. It’ll walk you through the basics until you gain comfort on your own. Alternatively, you can also inquire about bike maintenance classes, which are offered at many bike shops if you prefer a more hands-on approach.
MONITOR AREAS OF FRICTION AGAINST THE FRAME
Most bike frames are built to last and don’t require a lot of maintenance. However, that doesn’t mean things can’t happen — particularly in spots where cables and add-ons like bike bags and fenders create friction against the frame. If you don’t keep an eye on these spots, the paint can wear away. In severe cases, it might even start to wear at the frame material itself. Luckily, you can solve this issue pretty quickly by covering spots on your frame that can potentially be damaged with electrical or clear tape.
REPLACE WORN COMPONENTS EARLY
When the components on your drivetrain, like the chain and cassette, begin to wear, it can cause a trickle effect, prematurely wearing other parts of your drivetrain. Instead of waiting until all your components need to be replaced, keep an eye on each part and replace them as soon as they start to wear. The chain is one component that’s fairly affordable, easy to replace and is often overlooked. By replacing it every year or so, you can increase the lifespan of your cassette, derailleur and chainrings, which can be expensive to purchase all at once.
DON’T UPGRADE COMPONENTS UNTIL THE ONES YOU OWN ARE WORN
It’s easy to get caught up in the weight of your bicycle and want to make it as light as possible. In most instances, this is a money trap that should be avoided. Most mid-range components are heavier than top-end components but are made to handle daily wear and tear a bit better and last longer. If you aren’t a pro, you can probably do without the upgrade. Even if you want to upgrade to slightly better componentry, avoid upgrading any parts until they’re worn out and no longer functioning as they should.
ROTATE YOUR TIRES
Because the rear tire bears more of your body weight, it will wear faster than your front tire. Since a pair of good bike tires can cost $75+, rotating your rear and front tires occasionally can make them last longer. Just make sure the front and rear tires are the same widths; some brands sell pairs with a slightly narrower front tire that might not be ideal on the back.
CONSIDER A BIKE STAND
Yes, you can get away without a bike stand by leaning it against a wall or turning it upside down. However, you risk chipping the paint on your frame and can scuff or tear contact points like your saddle and handlebar tape. Rather than having to replace your saddle and tape more frequently, why not get a cheap bike stand? If you do a lot of repairs, it makes your job easier.
STORE YOUR BIKE PROPERLY
While you definitely shouldn’t store your bike outdoors if you can help it, this isn’t where you should stop. Whether it’s in the garage or in your house, get your bike off the ground and out of the way by using a bike hanger. This helps avoid accidental falls or collisions that can damage your frame and parts. Bike hangers and racks are also fairly inexpensive when compared to the cost of a cracked carbon frame.