Owning a bike is a lot like owning a car. Just as cars require regular inspections, oil changes, and other tune-ups, bicycles need regular maintenance, just on a lesser scale. Depending on how often you ride, you’ll need to give your bike frequent TLC to make sure that it stays in peak condition. If you’re new to owning a bicycle, here are some basic bike maintenance principles to keep in mind.
Before Every Ride
For your basic bike maintenance, you should develop a routine checklist before you head out. By developing this habit, you can increase the lifespan of the bike, and even catch some major issues before they become big problems down the line.
Check Your Tire Pressure
Make sure to check your tire pressure. If you hop on your bike and ride off on tires that aren’t properly inflated, you could end up with a flat. The psi (pounds per square inch) of air pressure in your tires will affect their performance. Make sure to find the right psi to match the types of tires on your bike and your weight. You can usually find the recommended PSI range on the side of your tires. If you weigh more, inflate your tires on the higher side of the range. If you weigh less, use the PSI at the lower side of the recommended range. Also, be sure to check for any punctures or holes in your tires that might need to be patched.
Check the Drivetrain
Give your drivetrain the once over when your tires are good to go. Feel along the chain to make sure that it’s on track and well-lubricated. If you need to give it a quick clean, grip the chain lightly with a lint-free rag and backpedal the chain all the way through until it’s clear of gunk. Check your gears and other mechanisms too to make sure that your bike is ready to roll.
Check the Brakes
Finally, be sure to test your brakes. Give them a squeeze to see if they’re engaging properly. You don’t want to find out that your brakes aren’t working when you’re already speeding down a hill, so always be sure to check before you leave.
After a Few Rides
Every so often, your bike may need a bit more TLC than the usual everyday check. This includes keeping your bike squeaky clean, lubricating parts, and tightening bolts. All of these steps are integral parts of basic bike maintenance.
Give Your Bike a Good Wash
Just like cars need to be doused in a bucket of soapy water every now and then, bikes need cleaning too. With bicycles, however, leaving them dirty can begin to negatively affect performance. Start by wiping debris off the frame, scrubbing in small crevices with a toothbrush or bottle brush, and using a rag to floss between the spokes. Use non-abrasive sponges, gentle streams of water, and dish soap to clean other areas of the bicycle. When done, wipe it down and let it air dry.
Once everything’s sparkling clean, you’re ready for the next step. Apply a fresh layer of lubricant to your chain to keep it moving smoothly. Let the lube soak in, and then wipe off any excess.
For the most part, there are two different types of bike lubes- wet and dry. For most normal applications, a wet lube is a good choice as it not only lubricates the drivetrain and helps repel moisture, but also can help minimize noise. The downside is that wet lubes can attract dirt and create a grimy residue on the chain. As long as the weather is dry and arid, dry lubes are a great option. Dry lubes generally create a waxy surface which is easily washed off with moisture. With a dry lube, it is best to apply it and leave overnight before riding.
Make sure to keep all the bolts tightened on your bike to keep things secure. Be careful not to over-tighten the bolts, however. Check your owner’s manual or ask an expert to make sure you know how tight your bicycle’s bolts need to be.
Every so Often
Depending on the bike, “every so often” might mean once a year or more. It all depends on the bike. With a checklist before you ride, and occasional basic bike maintenance, you should be able to see some of these problems before they arise.
Check Your Tire Treads
Check the tread on your tires. If they look worn down and flattened on the outer surface, it’s time to replace your tires. Another sign that you need to replace your tires is if you’ve been getting an increased number of flats.
Check Other Parts
As you ride your bike more and more, you might begin to notice that some parts aren’t working as well as they used to. The intricate parts of your bicycle will eventually need to be readjusted, repaired, or replaced as they wear down or break, depending on the frequency and intensity of your biking. Even if your bike is working fine, it’s a good idea to visit a professional bicycle repair shop to have an expert check up on your bicycle once or twice a year, especially if you participate in bike races, mountain biking, and other more intense cycling activities. Sun & Ski Sports shops offer bike services that you can visit for everything from small adjustments to a complete overhaul.
If you’re intentional about taking care of your bike, you can keep it rolling for years and years. Follow these tips to practice regular bike maintenance and enjoy the benefits of riding your bicycle wherever you want to go next! For more information on bikes, visit your local Sun & Ski Sports, or visit our blog for helpful tips and tricks such as on how to choose your first bike or reasons why you should ride a bike.