We all love our bikes and riding them, but if we want them to work correctly and be on top form, we need to show them some love and give something back to them for all the hard work they give us.
Typically we call this bike maintenance, and you would be surprised at how easy it can be.
If you want to keep your bike on at its best and avoid the local bike shop repairs as much as possible, continue reading this article.
Why Is Bike Maintenance Essential?
Why is bicycle maintenance essential? There are so many reasons to keep on top of your bike’s health and make sure it works properly. Let’s talk about the most important reasons.
The most important reason we will ever have to look after our bikes is safety.
I have been cycling for many years and have seen many potentially dangerous mechanical failures that could have been avoided just by doing a few checks and some basic bike maintenance.
The worst one was someone’s brake failing down a steep descent. Luckily enough, they could stop on just one single break in the end.
Read more: Bicycle Safety
If you don’t look after your bike, it won’t perform well.
Things like an unoiled chain will make you lose power and also might cause other parts to break. For example, if your tires are not pumped up enough, they will lag, and you might get pinch flats. If you don’t keep on top cables, your bike will feel awful to ride and be slower.
To Avoid Further Costs
If you don’t keep on top of general maintenance, you will see other parts of the bike will get affected. In the long run, it will end up costing you much more.
A great example is your chain, if you let that get too worn, it will wear your cassette and chainrings much faster. Then when you eventually go to the bike shop, you will be getting a hefty bill when changing the chain regularly could help avoid that.
What Are the Main Parts That Need Maintenance?
This is basic maintenance, so we’re going to think about bike parts and maintenance we need to keep an eye on and that we can easily work on at home.
In this section, we’re going to speak about parts you can maintain at home, and that are easy to keep on top of, then in the second section, parts that need maintenance, but we recommend seeing a bike shop when you need professional service.
Things to Keep an Eye on at Home
The first thing when it comes to bike maintenance you need to keep on top of is your tires.
They are vital to getting your bike in tip-top shape and in my opinion, one of the most important things to keep an eye on.
The first reason is safety, and if your tires are not in good shape, you can expect them not to have good grip, you can expect chances of getting blowouts, and also they can start to split and wither.
Not only are old tires not very safe you also typically get loads of punctures on old tires, meaning you are spending time and money on repairing and replacing tubes.
They say tires should be able to do roughly around 1,100-1,800 miles, and in my opinion, I believe that’s about the right time to start changing them.
To check your tires, you need to visually have a look first for any holes, splits, or that they have gone past the wear point, then after, give them a pinch to make sure they have a decent amount of air in.
If they need changing, change them like you would a puncture, ensuring they go on with correct rotation.
If there’s one thing not to mess about with, it’s your brakes.
Brakes are vital to keeping you and others around you safe, and they are straightforward to keep on top of.
If your brakes are not up to scratch, they can take longer to slow you down, or they could just stop working altogether, which would be even worse.
So how do we check our brakes? Well, firstly, before anything, visually inspect your pads and if you have disc brakes, the discs too.
Make sure they have enough life left in them by looking at the pads breaking surface, and making sure there’s some left. The discs make sure there’s more than 1.5mm width in the disc.
Once that’s checked, you’re going to want to pull the brakes and make sure the wheels stop, then if so, a quick road test to make sure they work as they should.
If they don’t work correctly, you might need new pads, discs, or new cable inners and outers.
Read More: Different Kinds of Brakes Explained
The next thing I would look at is your chain. If you don’t look after your chain, it is prone to snapping, rusting and working ineffectively, and wearing down other components quicker than normally.
A chain should typically last roughly 1500 miles. Depending on the terrain you’re on, it might be more or less. The better you look after it, the longer you can prolong its life.
How do we check a chain? Firstly, visually inspect it to make sure it isn’t split anywhere, or it’s not loose or sagging.
Then we want to make sure it has enough oil on, and there’s no rust anywhere. Then jump on the bike and give it a ride making sure it doesn’t slip when you put power down, and the gears shift smoothly.
You can also use a chain checker to see the wear and stretch on the chain, which will give you a great indication of when it needs changing.
If your chain is too worn, it can be very easy to change, and watching a Youtube video can show you how to make sure you get the correct length.
Bar tape, Pedals, Grips, and Saddle
One thing that is very important to keep an eye on at home is the parts of your bike which are on the contact points. When I say contact points, we speak about your hands, your behind, and your feet.
You need to make sure that these are well looked after as if they were to malfunction, it can cause you to lose control of the bike.
When it comes to checking bar tape and grips, the key is a good visual look, and just check they are not loose. If they need changing, it’s a simple job that can be done at home.
You want to give the pedals a spin and make sure they are on nice and tight every so often. This can be done with a spanner. Then finally, make sure your saddle is nice and tight, and the post isn’t slipping.
Things to Keep an Eye on Before the Next Service
Although a lot of maintenance can be done at home, some things I believe are best left to the professionals.
These are things you can check at home, but when it comes to repairs are complicated to do at home, and you will need a lot of experience to do.
To check a bearing, you need to spin it and make sure that it feels free, smooth, and doesn’t make a grinding noise. Check the wheel bearings, headset bearings, bottom bracket bearings, and also the bearings in your jockey wheels.
If you feel that your gears are slipping and you have just put a new chain on, then the cassette and chainrings are probably worn and will need changing.
Cables, inners and outers, can be reasonably easy to change, but any errors you make could cause your brakes not to work correctly or your gears not to shift. I’d recommend getting a shop to do these.
If you’re worried about checking them correctly, don’t worry when you take your bike in for a service.
These are all things that are typically checked, and if they do start to wear too much before a service, you will notice before it gets dangerous.
What Tools Do You Need For Basic Home Maintenance?
Being a cyclist, typically, you need a few tools for things like punctures and tightening and loosening bolts. What do you need for your basic maintenance at home?
Learn more: 10 Cycling Essentials Every Cyclist Needs
I personally would recommend these tools:
- Tire Levers
- Spare Inner Tubes and Patches
- Chain Checker, Removal Tool, and Breaker
- Allen Keys
- Oil and Disc Cleaner
- Torque Wrench
- Spanner Set
- Bike Stand
What to Check Before a Ride?
You’re about to go out for a ride, you have all your gear on, and you open up the shed and get your bike out. What are you checking?
First, you want to check the tires for any damage, wear, and also the correct amount of air. Then check your chain and, if needed, add some oil.
After that, make sure your brakes are ok, and nothing is loose like the handlebars or saddle.
See more: Our Cycling Advice Section
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I maintain my bike?
All you need to do is make sure that the tires, the chain, and the brakes are ok and everything works as it should. Then if you get any funny noises, visit the bike shop and maybe get a service from a bike mechanic.
What is basic bicycle maintenance?
Basic bike maintenance is making sure that everything is safe and works properly. For example, checking your tires have enough air in, and they have no slits that could be dangerous. Making sure your chain isn't rusty and slipping and that the brakes and gears work properly. If you want your bike to perform and be reliable, you just need to do a few checks.
How often should you take your bike for maintenance from a bike mechanic?
That depends on a few things. How much do you keep on top of the maintenance yourself? How many miles do you ride? Does your bike many any strange noises it should do or not perform correctly. It's going to be different for everyone.
We would advise once a year to take your bike in for a proper service in a shop, then the rest of the year doing your own bike maintenance and only going to the shop when something is wrong.
Bike parts and maintenance are pretty easy, and you can do this at home with basic cheap tools.
Once you learn how you can save yourself a considerable amount of time and money by not needing to visit a bike shop regularly for minor repairs.
It not only will help you learn, but you can also help your friends and help make sure they can maintain their own bikes.
One thing we would highly recommend when doing anything on your bike, such as adjustments to use a torque wrench it makes sure that bolts are not too tight or too loose.