There are four fundamental areas you need to know about when maintaining your bike. We’re going to take you through the key aspects of bike maintenance that will save you money replacing worn out parts, keep you safe, and most importantly, keep your bike moving fast so you can beat your buddies up that hill!
! If you’re unsure of which parts of the bike we’re talking about in this blog, check out this handy diagram!
Chain maintenance and lubrication
The most important part of your bike maintenance know-how is understanding how to look after your chain. A well cleaned and lubed chain will run faster and more efficiently through the drivetrain, and save you from going mad from listening to it squeak!
Clean The Chain
Firstly, you must ensure the chain is clean; lubricating a dirty chain will mean the dirt becomes sticky and clogged in your jockey wheels, cassette, and chain rings, which will wear them down and make a big mess.
- Give it a spray – Spray the entire chain with a bike specific degreaser such as GT-85 or Muc-Off Bio Degreaser and leave it to soak for 30 seconds or so.
- Give it a wipe – When this is done, run the pedals backwards with a rag loosely wrapped around the chain to wipe the degreaser away, which will bring any accumulated dirt with it. Repeat this until the chain is clean to the eye and doesn’t mark your fingers to touch.
Lube The Chain
- Get it in gear – Shift the bike into the big chain ring at the front and the smallest sprocket on your cassette, to stretch out the chain and open up the links.
- Give it a spray – Apply the lubricant to the inner side of the chain, holding the bottle just behind the chain rings, on the lower portion of the chain. Release the lube from the bottle slowly and gently whilst backpedalling the cranks with your hand, ensuring that each link of the entire chain is lightly coated. Then, pedal the chain forwards in the cranks a few times, to work the lube into the rollers of the chain.
- Give it a wipe – Take your rag and wipe any excess lubricant off the chain, particularly if you got any on the outer plates of the chain. When this is done, the inner side of the chain should just leave a light greasy feeling when it is touched, and possibly a small mark on your finger.
Brake alignment and condition
As much as we love to go fast, we need to slow down sometimes too! The brakes are absolutely fundamental to your safety, and so keeping an eye on them during your bike maintenance is essential. Here’s how to maintain your rim brakes:
Check Brake Alignment
You need to ensure that your brake pads are not rubbing on the rim of your wheel as you ride – if this is happening, you are not only wearing them down, but you’re also slowing yourself down!
- What’s the rub? – To check your brake alignment, simply take a look at the front and rear brake closely, and look to see if the rubber pads are touching the rim when you’re not squeezing the brake lever.
- A quick fix for better braking – If your brake pad is touching the wheel on either side, you can align it quickly by pulling the entire brake calliper into line with your hand.
Check Brake Pad Wear
You should keep an eye on how worn your pads are. If you wear your pads too far, you risk increasing the stopping distance of your bike and damaging the rim of your wheels, as the brake shoe itself may start rubbing on the wheel rim.
- Don’t get too thin! – Have a look at the brake pads and inspect how much thickness is remaining on the pad.
- Swap them out – You can replace the brake pad by simply sliding the old pad backwards out of the brake shoe, and pushing new ones into place.
Check Brake Engagement
If the cables on your brakes are in poor condition the brake pads may not tighten against the rim correctly, or they may not release properly once they have engaged on the rim.
- Give ‘em a squeeze! – simply squeeze and release the brake lever a few times and watch the brake opening and closing on the wheel.
- Check your cables! – If the brake engagement and release is sticky and jerky, you should check the wear and condition of your brake cables, and also consider if the calliper is damaged or worn. If your brake cables are particularly old they will stretch and could fray and catch inside the outer housing, which impacts how effective the braking action is. If he brake engagement is poor, replace the cables.
Wheel and tyre checks
It’s easy to forget about your tyres and wheels. However, these are what keep you on the road, and so are pretty important really! Here are the key things to look out for:
Check For Tyre Wear
Your tyres wear down the more you ride them. If you ride on tyres that are overly-worn, the grip that you achieve on the road will be compromised as there is less tread, and a punctured tyre is more prone to puncturing as the material is thinner.
What’s more, when you ride, there’s always the risk that your tyres pick up nasty things like bits of glass and flint that could puncture your inner tube.
- Check em out – To check your tyres, simply visually inspect them when the bike is in a workstand, or turn it upside down on the floor and spin the wheel slowly. Make sure you look over the entirety of the tyre, watching out for large cuts and gashes, or flints and pieces of glass imbedded in the rubber. Whilst you inspect the tyre for debris, you should also assess how worn it is by considering how much of the tread pattern remains. If the tread is highly worn, time for a new tyre!
- Pick em out – You can pick out anything stuck in the tyre with a small skewer or knife. If you have several gashes and holes in the tyre, you should replace it so as to prevent the risk of puncturing your inner tube.
Check Your Tyre Pressure
Every time you pull your bike out to go for a ride, you should check the tyre pressure. This is a key part of your bike maintenance! Riding on under-inflated tyres will be uncomfortable, and will increase the risk of you getting a pinch flat.
- Hook it up, pump it up- Simply hook up your tyres to a pump with an integrated gauge, such as our Mini-Road Pump with gauge, and ensure you’re at the correct level for your tyre width and your weight. If you’re not, pump it til it’s at the right pressure!
Check Your Quick Releases
Just like the condition of your tyres, people often overlook to check their quick release skewers during their bike maintenance. Your quick releases should be tight enough to prevent play in your wheel axle, which will damage the bearings, but not so tight that it could damage your wheel.
- A handy check – An easy way to check if the skewer is tight enough is that it should leave an indentation on your hand as you go to close it.
Cleaning Your Bike
Regular cleaning of your bike is essential to your maintenance routine. This will prevent the build up of grime, which can wear down components, and of course, ruins the look of your beautiful bike! Keeping your bike clean is also a great way of discovering if your bike is damaged in any way, so that you can repair any problems before it’s too late!
- Spray with water – Give the entire frame a spray with a hose, to remove any large build ups of loose grime, and to prepare it to take on the bike wash fluid.
- Spray with bike cleaner – Spray the entire bike and drivetrain with bike cleaning spray such as Muc-Off’s bike cleaner, or if you don’t have that, normal washing up liquid is an effective cleaner and degreaser.
- Scrub it down! Whilst the cleaning spray soaks into the drivetrain – the area where the most dirt will have accumulated – use a damp old rag or sponge to wipe down the frame, ensuring that you cover all areas. It can be difficult to reach some areas without taking the wheels out, so do this if necessary. A bike stand can also help getting into those difficult areas. If you’re really struggling to get to some of the more fiddly parts of the bike, use a toothbrush or small specialist bike cleaning brushes, such as those in this great set from Muc-Off. It’s easy to forget to clean the wheels – make sure you pay attention to the rims in particular, as, if you’re riding a rim brake bike, accumulated dirt will wear out your brake pads, and could impact your braking power
- Get into the cogs! – Take the rear wheel out, take a thin rag, and ‘floss’ the cogs in the rear cassette, working the rag between each one to wipe away the dirt. Return the wheel into the frame when you’re finished.
- Clean the chainrings! Wipe down the chain rings, shifting the chain onto the chain ring that you are not cleaning.
- Don’t forget the jockey wheels! Using a small brush, scrub the jockey wheels, with the bike in the big ring at the front and small sprocket at the back. Doing this will ‘open’ out the derailleur and jockey wheels, exposing more of the jockey wheels and making them easier to clean. Back-pedal the cranks as you scrub to ensure that you work on all areas of the wheels.
- Do the fiddly bits… carefully! Clean the front and rear derailleurs with a small brush, carefully scrubbing the moving parts so as to free any grime. Be careful when you do this as these are delicate components!
- And of course… the chain! Lastly and most importantly, clean the chain and re-lube it, using the steps outlined above.
Bike maintenance can seem daunting at first, but it’s essential for all riders, whether you ride once a month, or every day. The four main areas we’ve outlined above are all straightforward processes that require few specialist tools.
- Look after your chain!
- Check your brakes!
- Check your wheels and tires!
- Keep your bike clean!