The Beginner’s Guide to Essential Bike Maintenance Skills
We all can get in a habit of simply hopping on our bike and riding off, assuming that our bikes are in the same condition as your last ride. A quick safety check before every ride should become second-nature, especially if you frequently travel with your bike (even to the group ride or the local trails). It’s rare, but even experienced cyclists have left a quick-release dangerously loose every once in a while. A full once-over every couple of hundred miles would also help you find minor problems before they become major ones!
- Inflate tires & inspect for cuts or wear (explained below)
- Check headset of the bike by grabbing your front brake and rocking the handlebars back and forth. If you feel any movement or knocking your headset needs to be tightened. To confirm, you can put your fingers on the junction of the headset and frame as you rock the bike forward and back.
- Tug gently on the quick releases on both wheels to ensure they are fastened down snuggly. When in doubt, open completely and retighten.
- Grab each brake lever individually and pull tightly while trying to roll your bike forward. Your brakes should fully engage and keep your wheel from moving.
- Pick up the front end of your bike and softly spin your wheel. The wheel shouldn’t brush up against your brake pads. Repeat with the rear wheel of your bike.
Caring for a bike chain
To degrease a chain, you will just need a rag and cleaning solvent. We recommend using diluted citrus solvent at a 1:1 water to solvent ratio. Start by shifting your chain into the smallest sprocket on the rear wheel of your bike. Hold the chain in place with one hand while firmly wiping the lower set of the chain with a damp rag soaked in solvent. Continue along the entirety of the chain.
Keeping air in your tires
Tire pressure can change with weather shifts. On a hot day, the pressure may rise and your tube can pop. On cold days, tire pressure will lower. Riding on a flare tire will wear out your tread and make your wheels untrue. Make sure to check the tire pressure regularly, especially if your bike has been sitting for a few weeks.
Adjusting your brakes
There is a tensioner above each caliper that can be tightened or loosened to increase the brake pad’s resistance. However, worn-out brake pads are usually the main cause of issues with braking. These can easily be replaced with a new set of brake pads.
Tightening bolts & screws
Bolts are used to build the mechanical aspects of bikes because they can withstand vibration tension. You can attach washers and tighten them from both sides so they are more secure. You want to have a pair of whatever wrenches or sockets you would need since they are all usually all-thread with nuts on each side. Have a pair of necessary wrenches or sockets on hand that fit your bike’s bolts. You will find screws on second auxiliary attachments, like water bottle holders, baskets, and racks.
Cleaning your bike
To clean your bike, use a big brush and a fast-evaporating solvent. In The Crucible’s Bike Shop, we use a 5:1 dilution of Simple Green. Scrub the valve, spokes, hub, and the full surface of the wheel. Rinse and let air dry.