Whether you’re commuting a few times a week or burning miles on the weekend, keeping your bike running smoothly is really important.
Not just because it means you’ll enjoy the ride so much more, but because taking care of your bike now will definitely save you time and money in the long run.
Maintaining your bike shouldn’t have to be a huge expense or a massive chore. It’s important to remember that moving parts on your bike do wear out over time.
The more you ride, the more quickly this will happen. Cables, chains, brake pads, tires are all subject to wear and tear.
However, a little bit of TLC every now and then will mean that your parts last a lot longer, your ride is easier and your wallet stays a little fuller.
To help you keep your bike going Catherine Thompson, head mechanic and instructor at Outspoken Cycles, has put together five simple tips and tricks for you to do at home.
Outspoken Cycles offer leisure and professional bike maintenance courses as well as bike repairs and traditional bike shop services.
1. Pump up your tires
Sounds simple? It is. Pumping up your tyres regularly is the easiest step you can do to keep your bike in order.
Tyres are not airtight and need to be inflated regularly to maintain good pressure. You can buy a decent home pump with a pressure gauge for £15 and I promise you won’t regret it.
While small hand pumps are good on the road, it’s really hard to get full pressure using them. So, we always recommend a good floor pump.
How do you know what pressure to pump your tyres to? It’s always written on the side of the tyre wall so it’s easy to check.
Often the tyre will quote a range like 45-65 PSI for example. As a minimum you should be within that range, and generally the nearer to the top of the range you go the easier your ride will be.
There are lots of other advantages to pumping your tires up beyond going faster. You’ll also find you get many less punctures and your tires will last longer. Look to do it every other week, or once a month as an absolute minimum.
2. Give it a clean
Cleaning your bike can seem like an arduous task but it doesn’t have to be an ordeal for you to get the benefits.
One of the big areas of wear and tear on a bike is the chain and the cogs at the back (called the cassette).
As you ride around you pick up dirt and dust from the road, this gets attracted to the chain and cassette and wears down the links and the teeth, making them thin and sharp.
That’s when you get chain slippage, which can eventually lead to expensive replacement of parts.
Try simply putting a bit of chain degreaser on an old rag and running the chain through a few times giving it a good rub. Try and get as much dirt and dust off as possible.
Clean the little cogs that the chain passes through on the derailleur – an old sock works well for this. If you can get between the sprockets at the back and anywhere else you can see dirt try and clean that out too, even better.
Always remember to follow instructions on the degreaser and wash with plain water afterwards if directed, leaving the bike to dry. Then lubricate the chain as below.
After you’ve given the chain area a clean you should then reapply lubricant. The key to this is little and often.
You don’t need to cover the chain in oil, just use about a drop per link. Let it sink in, then wipe off any excess that will attract dirt.
Use a quality liquid bike lubricant (not a spray like WD40). Use a lighter one in the summer and a thicker one in the winter, or use a decent ‘all weather’ lubricant year round.
4. Check your brake pads
Worn brake pads can cause annoying noise and definitely mean inefficient braking.
It can also cause damage once all the rubber is worn – the metal will show through and damage the rim of your wheel, leading to an expensive repair.
Keep an eye on whether your brakes are working well and try and have a look to check there’s plenty of material on the pads.
Most brake pads will have a ‘wear line.’ Once they’re worn to this point – look to change them. If you’re not sure, drop in to your local shop – they’ll be happy to tell you whether they are worn or not.
5. Get it serviced
Servicing can sometimes seem like an expense, but, just as with a car, if you’re using your bike regularly it’s best to keep on top of the maintenance.
A good bike shop will be able to fit the service to your needs. Whether it’s just a little tune up, or a bigger clean and service, your bike will run so much smoother after.
Experienced mechanics will be able to spot little problems before they become big problems and give you advice. For example spotting a broken spoke might cost a bit to repair, but it’s a lot cheaper than buying a new wheel in a few months when the problem escalates.
A little service at six months and a bigger one at 12 months each year (after winter is a good time) will keep big problems at bay and keep your bike running like new.