Bike maintenance: Our top tips
As the final weekend of Bike Week approaches, we’ve put together this handy guide to basic bike maintenance. Whether you’ve just bought a bike, if you’re looking for one, or just rescuing one from its winter hiding place, we’ll show you how to check it’s in shape for the summer season.
These tips should ensure your bike is operating at its best, ready to get outdoors this summer.
Bathtime for bikes!
A clean bike is much less effort to take care of than a dirty one. No specialist equipment needed for this, just a bucket of hot, soapy water, and a firm cloth or sponge. Cleaning is extra important after winter or wet weather rides - salts from the road can corrode bike parts, so if you didn’t clean it before you put it away last time, you might find parts have rusted up. Build a quick post-trail clean into your regular biking routine.
Inspect your wheels
Tyres are one of the fastest components to wear out on a bike. Even the most expensive tyre can get a puncture, or pick up detritus from the road. Before you ride, check your tyres for obvious damage. This will help you avoid punctures (although you should always carry a puncture repair kit, just in case). Good tyre pressure is also vital - check the preferred pressure for your tyre, which should be printed on the side.It’s fairly easy to knock your front or your back wheel out of alignment, especially if you’ve been riding challenging trails.
Before you set off, give the wheels a spin. They should turn without any catches, and with no sign of a wobble. It’s worth checking your spokes too, giving them a gentle squeeze to make sure none are loose. If you do find problems, making the correct adjustments can be tricky, so consider visiting a bike shop for repairs if needed.
Check all moving parts of the bike
Brake blocks can get worn down quickly, especially after a lot of off-road riding. Take a close look to see how worn they are. Worn brakes have a ‘gritty’ feel, or can make squeaking noises. Both of these are signs your pads are making contact with metal or carbon, and not the brake pad. Hydraulic brakes are common, and very simple to adjust if you know what you are doing. Otherwise, you might need an expert to take a look.
If you want to be extra efficient, get some lube and degreaser for your chain, to keep it moving smoothly. Your cables, and other moving parts of the bike, can also benefit from some lube occasionally, but make sure you use the right one. Again, making any major adjustments to your chain or cables can be messy and complicated, so if you get stuck, or have any worries, engage the services of your local bike shop.
Gears, gears, gears
Gears come in all different sizes, designs and variations, so it’s difficult to give universal advice on maintenance, but you can check that they are in working order by riding a short distance, and switching through gears. If the transition is smooth, you can assume they are fine. This is a complex part of your bike that can easily pick up compacted dirt or oily residues, and may require expert attention if they are jumping too easily from one gear to the next.
That’s the basics! If you want to learn how to do a more comprehensive check of your bike’s various parts, Sustrans have an excellent, 11-part check called the ‘M check.’ This is a bit more in-depth than our guide, so will be useful if you’re a more experienced bike rider.
Happy trails, everyone!