Anyone can maintain their bike & postpone a costly repair. Here are 10 easy bike maintenance tips from a bike tourer you can do to keep your bike in shape.
I’m guilty of mistreating a few bikes in my day. Sometimes I didn’t feel like carrying my bike up the four flights of stairs into my apartment despite the impending rain. Sometimes I didn’t feel like I could afford to find out what the clinking sound was that my pedals were making. One winter I forgot my bike was in the snow until it melted away.
Needless to say, those bikes have long since been sold for next to nothing as fixer-uppers on Craigslist. Now I have a bike that I spent more money on than the bikes in my past, and I’ve taken good care of it.
Even if you’re a beginner, there are simple things you can do to keep your bike looking as good as new and working just the same.
What You Can Do to Delay Your Next Bike Repair
By mistreating your bike now, you’ll only end up paying for it later. Sooner than later, actually.
Here is a list of ten easy ways to delay the next bike repair you’ll need, serious or otherwise. No matter your level or experience, these tips are quick and simple.
1. Keep It Clean
You just pulled into your driveway after a harrowing ride home in the rain. You are soaked to the bone and covered in mud. The first thing you’ll want to do is strip
Always thoroughly wipe off any dirt and grime. Even dry dirt that has been kicked up into the nooks and crannies can wreak havoc.down and take a hot shower, but think of your poor and helpless bike first!
By taking care of dirt now, it won’t get stuck in the chain or gears and cause faster wear and tear on your next ride.
2. Keep it Dry
Similarly, make sure you thoroughly dry your bike after that rainy ride. Water in the chain and hardware will rust more quickly than you think.
A new chain isn’t too expensive, but a broken chain on tour or even just on a commute is a major inconvenience, so take care of moisture right away.
3. Be Aware of Your Tire Pressure
As a beginner, I would only pull out the bike pump if my ride that day was especially difficult due to flat tires. Now, a few popped tubes and shredded tires later, I never get on my bike without checking the tire pressure first.
Pinch flats—which are flat tires caused by the metal rim bearing down on an under-inflated tube—are more than just inconvenient. They can also be costly and dangerous.
Invest in a simple pressure gauge and make sure your tires are at the recommended level before you ride. It takes a few seconds and could save you hours of trouble.
4. Never Ignore a Rattle or a Squeak
If your dog were barking at you, would you ignore him? Any sensible owner would assume that he needed something and search for the solution, whether it may be an empty water dish or a full bladder.
Treat your bike in the same way. If something on your ride is rattling, squeaking or clanking, it means that something is wrong. By ignoring it you are only letting the problem become worse. Over time, it could ruin other parts of the bike and you’ll be paying for more than just a tune up.
As soon as you hear something, diagnose the problem. Find out where it’s coming from. If you can’t fix it yourself, take it to the shop ASAP.
5. Don’t Touch the Brake Pads
It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve washed your hands today. Your hands are oily.
You can’t necessarily feel it, but your skin is constantly producing essential oils to prevent from drying out. These oils are great for us, but bad for brake pads.
If you’re working on your disc brakes or just giving them a quick inspection, never touch the pads with your fingers because the oil will decrease the braking power. When that happens, each brake could be applying a different pressure, which could result in unequal alignment.
Sandpaper works well to remove oil if you do accidentally touch a disc brake pad.
6. Keep Your Bike Indoors
This is easier for some than it is for others. If you’ve got a mud room or a garage, you’ll have no problem wheeling your bike inside.
If you live in a high rise, inquire with your landlord about storage, whether it’s in a specified area or simply in the hallway leading up to your apartment.
If storage isn’t an option, consider purchasing a tarp to cover your bike behind your building or even on the sidewalk. Protection from the elements is really the best way to prevent needing a new chain, new hardware and new grip accessories.
7. Keep Your Bike Vertical
Speaking of bike storage, you should try to find a way to keep your bike’s handlebars parallel with the floor when it’s not in use.
Most people assume that it’s a good idea to lean their bike up against a wall. Your bike won’t suddenly break in half or explode if you do, but it will put stress on the derailleur and cause a misalignment that requires repair.
Instead, try to find a bike stand that hangs your bike vertically. Or, you can even look for a stand that keeps your bike upright on the ground if you have the space.
8. Touch Up Scratches Right Away
As with any problems in your life, scratches will only get bigger the longer you ignore them.
It’s important to touch up any scuffs and scratches to the body of your bike right away because before you know it they will be enormous rust spots that compromise the sturdiness of your frame.
Very few bike manufacturers sell touch up paint that matches the color of the frames they sell. If your bike is a standard color such as black or white, car touch up paint will work perfectly.
If you’d rather not have a spot that’s a different color than the rest of your bike, you could use clear nail polish to prevent the spot from chipping more. It obviously won’t hide the scuff, but it will prevent a rust spot from overtaking the frame.
9. Take Photos for Reassembly
I am by no means a pro when it comes to working on my own bike. However, I have learned a few tricks to make it easier on myself when push comes to shove. While I’d much rather let someone at the shop take care of it, I’ve been in sticky situations where that wasn’t an option.
I go into every repair or maintenance job assuming I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing, so I take pictures of every step. For example, the first time I changed my brake pads I documented the disassembly chronologically with photos. Since such a repair was easy I knew I’d succeed, but I wanted a backup plan just in case.
Then, when it was time to reassemble, I looked back at the photos to make sure I put it back together in the same order.
The mechanical workings of a bicycle come as second nature to a few chosen individuals. If you find it endlessly complicated like I do, pictures help.
10. If You Don’t Know, Go to a Pro
Part of good bike maintenance is knowing when to hand it off to a pro. If you’re trying to fix that rattling and aren’t sure what the heck you’re doing, don’t blindly fiddle around. You could break part of your bike or make it unsafe to ride.
Like I said, I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time, but I’d never try fixing something that I didn’t have clear instructions for. By adjusting part of your bike without instructions, you are quite literally playing with your own life.
Many local bike repair shops offer very low prices on simple repairs, so swallow your pride and take a trip down the street. They can even teach you what they did so that you can take care of it next time.
It’s as easy as that! Clearly, none of these tips require professional knowledge and none of them will take you more than a few minutes. As a quick recap, here are my ten easy tips:
- Keep it clean
- Keep it dry
- Check your tire pressure
- If your bike is barking at you, listen
- Don’t touch your brake pads
- Protect your bike from the elements
- Keep your bike vertical
- Touch up scratches right away
- Take photos when you disassemble
- Go to a professional when you’re unsure
As the old adage warns, a stitch in time saves nine. By taking the time to make little adjustments in your habits now, you won’t need to make a major overhaul later.
What easy tricks do you use to keep your bike looking and feeling fresh?