Knowing how to maintain your bicycle with confidence is a rewarding skill that will save you both time and money.
But if you’re just starting out, knowing how to work on your bike can be a minefield of possible mistakes and mishaps!
Here are five common errors that we’ve all made before – and most importantly, here’s how to avoid them.
Not caring for your bicycle chain
This is definitely an error that all bike riders have made at some point.
Your chain is possibly the most important part of your bike, and it’s important to look after it. Riding with a worn-out or dirty chain will not only make you slower, it will also grind away at other, more expensive parts of your bicycle such as your cassette and chain rings.
It’s well worth giving your chain a quick clean after any ride in dirty conditions, particularly in the depths of winter if the roads have been salt-gritted. Simply spray some chain cleaner or degreaser onto a rag, hold it around your chain, and pedal through a few revolutions to clear off the filth. This will stop the dirt sandpapering away at your cassette and chain ring sprockets.
No matter how clean you keep your chain, it will wear or ‘stetch’ over time. Regularly monitoring the chain with a chain checker will give you an indication of when it’s time to replace it. Swapping out this component before it becomes too old will prevent it from wearing your cassette or chainrings.
Here’s our handy video about all-things chain maintenance!
Tight bolts are good bolts, right? Wrong!
Most components are designed to be installed in a certain way, with bolts tightened to a certain ‘tightness,’ or torque.
Overtightening a bolt when installing items such as handlebars, stems and seat posts can put so much pressure on the component that it can damage or even crack them! This is particularly relevant to carbon products, which are lighter but also more brittle.
Using a torque wrench will prevent you ever overtightening a bolt – and just as importantly, they will stop you undertightening them!
A torque wrench is designed to stop applying pressure once a certain measurement of force has been applied to a bolt, making it impossible for you to damage an item when you install it.
Simply check for the recommended torque you need by finding the numbers data on the component or in the accompanying handbook, set your wrench to the correct number, and away you go!
Running under or overinflated tyres
Just like you don’t want to have bolts that are too tight or too loose, you don’t want bicycle tyres that are too soft or hard!
Running your tyres at the incorrect pressure can either increase the risk of pinch flats (if they’re too soft) or make your bike ride incredibly uncomfortable if too hard.
Check the pressure in your tyres before every ride using a pressure indicator or a pump with gauge to make your ride faster and more fun!
The pressure that you need in your bicycle tyres is a product of your weight, the tyre width, and the weather conditions.
Using too much lube
Like all things in life, moderation is key – and this is definitely the case with chain lube.
It’s easy to think that the more lubricant you apply to your chain, the smoother and faster it will be.
However, too much lube will simply make your chain, and everything it touches, dirty. So a dirty chain will lead to a mucky cassette, chain rings, jockey wheels, and maybe even your nice new white socks!
A dirty drivetrain will attract dirt and dust, which will grind into the components and hasten their deterioration – which will slow you down and cost you money to replace.
When applying lube, you only need one light coating over the full length of the chain. You don’t need to drench the whole thing with repeated coatings! Once you have greased your chain, it’s worth wiping away any excess with a rag.
Lastly – use the right lube for the conditions! Chain lube typically comes in either ‘winter’ or ‘summer’ variants. Winter lube is heavier and more water resistant but can be dirtier, while summer lube is lighter and less oily.
Not greasing your pedals or seat post
Not greasing your bicycle pedals and seat post when you install them may not cause any issues when you ride, but it could cause some major problems when you want to remove the component in the future!
Items which are rarely adjusted, such as your pedals and seat post, can become very tough to remove over time.
Grit can find its way into bolt threads and effectively tighten them, and it’s even possible for a seat post to bond itself inside a frame. This is particularly likely if you use an aluminium post and steel frame due to the way the two metals interact with each other.
The simple way to avoid this risk is to apply a thin film of grease to the pedals or seat post before installation. Many generic bike-friendly greases are available. However, be sure to use specific carbon grip paste if you have a carbon fibre seat post.