If you’re a regular reader of this blog you probably know that I work in a bike shop. I’m not a mechanic, but I do just about everything else in the shop, including checking-in the majority of bikes that come in for repair. So as a result I’ve learnt heaps about simple bike maintenance and here’s a few tips:
Keep it clean
Keeping your bike clean has a number of benefits, and not just cosmetic ones. Of course it’s nice to keep your beautiful bike looking good, but keeping it free of dirt and grit will actually make it last longer. If you regularly clean your chain and running gear (derailleurs, cassette, chain rings) it will wear out slower. I change the chain on my bike about every 12 months and as a result I’ve not had to replace my rear cassette after four years of riding.
In the shop I regularly see bikes come in that have not been cleaned regularly and they not only need a new chain, but also a new cassette and sometimes new chain rings. This is because a dirty, gritty chain actually wears the teeth of the cassette and chain rings down.
You should wipe your chain down regularly with a cloth and every few months you should actually degrease with a specific bike cleaning product. This cleaning should include the chain, cassette, chain rings and jockey wheels that are part of the rear derailleur. If you ride regularly in wet weather then you should do this more often.
After you’ve cleaned your chain you should use a bike specific lubricant. There are heaps of them on the market. Your friendly local bike shop can give you some guidance about the best product for your needs. Apply the lube and then wipe off any excess with a cloth.
Pump up your tyres
We get lots of customers in the shop who ask us to pump up their tyres because they almost never do it. You should actually pump them up about once a week because they slowly deflate, and if you are riding around on deflated tyres there are a number of consequences. Firstly, it affects the handling of the bike, it wears the tyres down faster and you are more likely to get a flat.
And not that we mind pumping up tyres, but you should really invest in a good quality floor pump to check your own tyres at home.
Assess damage carefully
If you have an accident or even just drop your bike on the ground, you should carefully assess any damage because riding a damaged bike can actually lead to more problems. I was riding with a friend a while ago when he had what seemed like a minor accident. After a quick assessment, he decided the bike was okay and kept riding, when in fact there was a problem with his rear derailleur. This caused the rear derailleur to flip up into the spokes of his rear wheel when he changed gear and actually broke his derailleur hanger. On many bikes the hanger is a replaceable part but on his bike it was integrated into the frame so as a consequence he actually destroyed the frame of his bike. If in doubt, stop riding and head to your nearest bike shop for a professional assessment.
Get it serviced regularly
Get your bike serviced regularly at your local bike shop. I recommend that you do this every six to 12 months depending on how much you ride your bike. This might just sound like a plug for local bike shops but it will definitely save you money. It’s not dissimilar to getting your car serviced regularly.
Sign up for a bike maintenance course
There are groups, bike shops and others who run bike maintenance courses so find one in your area. For example, the City of Sydney runs regular free bike care courses.