Happy New Year. I thought I’d kick off 2013 with the important subject of bike maintenance. The information here is based on what I’ve learnt during the past four years that I’ve been riding, tips I’ve picked up while working in a bike shop (my recent part time job), from my very practical partner Phillip and from a helpful session on bike maintenance run by Andrew McLean known as Macca from Cannondale on the Bathurst bike camp I attended back in October.
You need to check your tyre pressure regularly (at least once per week) and pump them up. For this task you should invest in a good quality floor pump with a gauge. It will spend most of its time in your garage but occasionally go for a road trip in the boot of your car. All road bike tyres have the recommended PSI printed on the side wall of the tyre so make sure you follow the advice to get the best performance and safest ride. If the roads are wet you should let about 10 per cent of the pressure out to give you more grip on the road.
The most important bike maintenance thing for all cyclists to know is how to change a tyre if you get a flat out on the road. I’m not going to describe it here but there are plenty of fellow cyclists who’ll help or also great instruction videos on the Internet. One tip that I received recently is to fully deflate the tube if it isn’t already before removing the tyre. It will make it easier to remove the tyre which according to many experts you should be able to do without tyre levers. However, you should definitely carry tyre levers with you because with small women’s hands you are likely to struggle to get the tyre off and back on.
Macca suggested that the tyre levers should be placed about 25 cm apart.
His other tip for rear tyre changing was to push the jockey wheels down rather than the chain when removing the back wheel so you don’t dirty your hands.
He also reminded us about the positioning of your wheel skewers. These should always be on the left side (when you’re on the bike) and the front one should face back and the back one should face forward or down.
Another thing that you should do regularly with your tyres is check for glass and small pieces of metal. My very practical partner Phillip taught me this one. It’s particularly important when you’ve been riding on wet roads because a small piece of glass can embed itself in the tyre of gradually wear through to give you a flat tyre.
Lube your chain
Macca recommended to us that your chain should be cleaned once per week and lubed to get maximum life from it and the rest of the running gear of your bike. You can clean the chain with a variety of cleaning products including a dedicated chain washing unit or a rag with teflon spray. This is particularly important if you’ve been riding your bike in the rain or on wet dirty roads. On wet roads you pick up a lot more road grit which works its way into the chain and other moving parts on your bike.
You should also replace your chain about every 4,000 to 5,000 km and if you’re not confident or don’t have the tools to do this yourself, then take it to a bike shop and get them to do it for you.
You should lube your chain about once a week by putting a drop of your preferred lube on every link and then wiping off the excess. Avoid spilling any lubricant on the braking surfaces.
Keep your bike clean
I clean my bike regularly because I want it to look good and I also want it to run well. My beloved Specialized Amira is nearly two years old and looks almost brand new (apart from a few minor scratches) because I’m fastidious about cleaning it. I use baby wipes (unscented ones because I don’t want it to smell like a baby) and they work well. If I’ve been out riding on very dirty roads I sometimes hose it down but make sure it is completely dried afterwards. There are also some pretty heavy duty cleaning products you can use. I’m told by the guys in the bike shop that Muc-Off will remove anything.
If like me, you’re not a mechanical whizz then I recommend that you get your bike serviced by your local bike shop on a regular basis. If you ride three or four times a week like me then this should be done every 12 months at a minimum. Find a bike shop that you’re comfortable with, and make sure they regularly service the type of bike you ride.
Change your bar tape
Maccas final tip on the training camp was to regularly replace your bar tape to keep your bike clean and fresh. I must admit that I’ve had the same white bar tape on my bike for the past two years and I clean it regularly with a cleaning product called ‘Nifty’ which keeps it looking and smelling fresh.