Bike maintenance

Tips for maintaining your bike

1. Clean your bike

A clean bike extends the life of all its components, just as a clean car lasts longer.
 
Use a basic biodegradable cleaner, a towel and an old toothbrush to clean everything, including the frame, chain, chain rings, cassette, derailleurs, pedals, brakes and seat. Make an effort to use as little water as possible. Also, you should remove the seat post (the tube connected to your seat that slides into the frame), and after cleaning it, and add a small amount of bicycle grease before reattaching it. This grease will last longer than oil, which dries out faster, and will also act as a barrier against rust in the seat tube.

2. Inspect your brake system

Brakes are a vital component of all bikes because they provide control over the speed you travel. Controlling speed reduces the likelihood of being in an accident. Brakes also permit the cyclist to manoeuvre while turning, riding up and down hills and avoiding debris or other obstacles.
 
First, check the brake pads. Just like the brakes in your car, bicycle brakes wear down over time and need to be replaced. If you notice a ridge or other uneven wear pattern, you may need to have your brakes adjusted. Replace the pads if they show excessive wear. Next, squeeze the brake lever on your handlebars and watch the brake pads. They should hit the rim at the same time. If they don't, you can adjust your brakes with the brake arm tension screw, which is located on one of the brake lever arms near the tyre. If you notice too much slack in the cable when pulling your brakes, roll out the barrel adjuster at the end of the lever (where the cable enters the housing) to add tension to the brake cable, thereby making the brakes react more quickly.

3. Watch your wheels

Wheels (rims) hold your tyres in place, and provide stability and smoothness while riding. Your bike would not move without rims because they allow consistent contact between the tyres and road surface.
 
Clean the wheels with rubbing alcohol and a clean, dry cloth. Inspect the rims for nicks, scrapes, dents or other damage. Next, elevate one end of the bike and spin the wheel. The wheel should move smoothly, without wobbling. Repeat for the other wheel.
 
Damaged rims cause uneven wear to tires and brake pads, which can shorten their lifespan. In addition, uneven tire wear usually leads to flat tyres or a blown tyre while riding. Replace your wheels if denting or other damage is excessive. A wobbly rim can be adjusted with a spoke wrench, a simple fix that a bike repair shop can handle better than most do-it-yourselfers. Adjusting spokes yourself can lead to more problems if you do not know what you’re doing.

4. Inspect the drivetrain

A bike’s drivetrain includes the pedals, chain, chainring, derailleur (the device that moves the chain to make riding easier or harder) and rear wheel cassette (all the little teeth in the centre of the rear wheel). The drivetrain is important because it transfers the power generated by the rider's legs to the rear wheel. This transfer of power provides the force that moves the bike.
 
You will need a partner or bike stand to assist with this part of the tune-up. Raise the rear wheel and spin it as you did when checking the wheels. This time, shift through all the gears. Shifting should be smooth and easy to perform. Inspect the chain, chainrings, derailleur and cassette for damage (excessive wear, missing teeth, dents, scrapes). Note that small chainrings wear out sooner than large chainrings, and that chains are the most frequently replaced component of the drivetrain.

5. Check you tyres

Check your tyres for splits, cracks or tears, especially along the sides (where the tire does not touch the ground). You will also want to check the tread for uneven or excessive wear. If the brake pads were out of alignment, make sure they have not damaged the tires.
 
Tires are fairly inexpensive to replace, so if you are in doubt about keeping a tire, it is best to have it replaced. Damaged tires are prone to burst, causing a sudden loss of control, a potentially dangerous situation. All bike shops will repair tyres, but it's a simple task to change a tire on your own using tire levers and a pump to re-inflate the inner tube.

6. Check the cables

Cables are made of tightly coiled metal wire surrounded in plastic housing. Cables connect the shifters and brakes on the handlebars to the derailleur and brake pads. Cables connected to the shifters assist with moving the chain from one gear to another via the derailleur, while those connected to the brakes aid in stopping the bike when the lever on the handlebars is used.
 
Inspect the cable and surrounding rubber housing for cracks, crimps, rust, dirt and looseness.
 
New cables make shifting and braking smooth, which increases bike performance. If you notice damaged or worn out cables, get them replaced at your local bike shop. Unless you're well trained in this task, changing bike cables can be tricky and time consuming. Schedule replacement of cables every 2-5 years based on use. If you ride your bike year-round, consider replacing your cables yearly.

7. Add lubricant

Oil lubricant coats the chain and other components of the drivetrain, helping them last longer and work more efficiently. Lube also reduces accumulation of dirt and grime, which helps increase performance of the moving parts.
 
Apply lubricant evenly to the chain while slowly rotating the pedals in an anti-clockwise direction. Also, remember to lubricate moving parts on the derailleur, the pivot point on the brake levers and any exposed cable wire. Remember to wipe off any excess oil with a clean, dry rag, especially on the chain.
 
A properly lubricated bike makes shifting and braking smooth, thereby increasing performance. You can fix minor rust spots by rubbing them with steel wool. You may want to wear work gloves to protect your hands as steel wool can cause splinters in your skin. It is usually too difficult to remove rust from certain components (for example, the chain), which should simply be replaced.