Wear it Out Series: Basic Bike Maintenance and Care 101
Bike maintenance is a simple undertaking that pays off in dividends. Being proactive about maintaining your bike is the best insurance plan to keep you pedaling the trails instead of walking your bike out. It’ll also add longevity to your bike and all the myriad (and currently hard to get) components. Here are some basic steps you can take before and after every ride to ensure you’re maximizing performance, minimizing breakdowns and squeezing the most fun out of every ride. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always follow this advice, but being aware of the best protocols is the first step toward following them.
Lube it up
To keep your bike running smooth, you’ll want to regularly lubricate your chain anytime it starts looking dry or after an especially wet ride to keep it from rusting. For best results, clean your chain using a rag and degreaser, then wipe it dry and apply bike-specific lube making sure to wipe away any excess. Buy a couple bottles of bike lube and store it in a few different locations, your garage, your vehicle, your pack so you have it available when you need it … or when you start to hear that telltale squeaking.
Pump it up
There are so many reasons to keep your tires properly inflated. For starters, it makes your bike more efficient and faster (yay!). You’ll also lessen your chances of getting a pinch flat, which happens when the tire isn’t inflated properly and you impact with a rock, root, pothole etc.. The optimum tire pressure is indicated on the sidewall of the bike tire. Invest in an upright bike pump with an easy-to-read pressure gauge for the best experience. Store you pump alongside your bikes for a visual reminder to check those tires before you head out.
Clean it up
At minimum you’ll want to hose your bike off after dusty or muddy rides. For even better results follow up that hose down with a soapy sponge bath using bike-specific cleaning products. Dive in with a soft brush to gently scrub visible build up around brakes, rims, and other components applying degreaser when necessary. Take care to follow up with lube on any dry components and, of course, your chain.
In addition to this maintenance schedule, you should get into the habit of inspecting your bike before each ride, or at least somewhat regularly. You’ll need a multi-tool and a torque wrench, or a pre-assembled bike tool kit to tighten any loose connections. Alternately, if you find something is amiss, take your bike to a bike shop to have it serviced.
- Give your brakes a squeeze while pushing the bike to make sure they’re functioning correctly.
- Hold onto your handlebars while facing the bike with the front wheel between your legs. Do a little push pull to make sure the handlebars are tight.
- Check the quick release levers on your bike tires, there should be tension on the lever and it should be all the way closed with a snug connection.
- Test that your seat is tight, if not just straighten it out and retighten the quick release lever or bolt.
- Give your tires a visual inspection to check for ballooning, holes, or wear. Check for loose spokes by giving them a squeeze two by two.
- Check your bike chain, by giving it a spin and looking for any irregularities.
This is by no means a complete list, just the basics that you should feel comfortable assessing. Once you’re on top of maintaining and caring for your bike you might even find that this is an aspect you really enjoy. You might even consider buying a bike repair stand, to make washing and servicing your bike a much more enjoyable (aka less frustrating) experience.
As always, plan to have your bike serviced annually at your LBS, ideally at the start of the season by a bike mechanic to get it in prime condition and get ahead of any needed repairs. And if you are in the market for bike accessories and parts Geartrade is a great place to start.
Annie Fast writes about winter sports and outdoor adventures from her home in Bend, Oregon.You can read more about her and her work at anniefast.com
This article is the second in our ‘Wear it Out’ series dedicated to making your gear last longer. Tips, tricks and education on how to make your gear go the distance. You can find our first article Easy On The Go Gear Fixes here. Good gear is built to last, that’s why we encourage everyone to Wear it Out™.
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