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  • David Blades

A beginners guide to essential bike maintenance

While a certified bike mechanic will certainly have the tools and skills required for jobs that are beyond the scope of a home mechanic’s mechanical repertoire, a modest measure of do-it-yourself bike maintenance will allow you to stay on top of the regular service routine that will not only increase the longevity of your bike, but also allow you to perform temporary fixes in emergency situations when you do not have easy access to a qualified mechanic.

This article will present an overview of the most essential bike maintenance tasks as well as a list of the necessary tools and supplies.

Keep your bike clean

A clean and dirt-free bike is a happy bike. Cleaning your bike’s frame and components also allows you to spot any issues that might require attention before they become bigger problems.

What you’ll need:

  • A small bucket with some water and some washing up liquid

  • Sponge

  • A cleaning brush

  • Some old towels

How to do it:

Quickly hose down the bike to loosen up dirt and grime. Use the brush and sponge to througroughly get into all the nooks and crannies of your frame and components. When done, give the bike a quick rinse, and thoroughly dry with towels or shop rags.

Note: Do not use cleaning products with aggressive chemical solvents, as this can damage the finish on your bike’s paint and metallic components.

Degrease and lubricate your drivetrain:

What you’ll need:

  • Degreaser: There are many environmentally-friendly degreasers on the market, citrus-based ones work well for drivetrain degreasing and they don’t have harmful chemicals.

  • Your choice of chain lube: there are variants like wet lube, dry lube or wax

  • A chain cleaning device (like Park Tool Cyclone chain scrubber) or some cleaning brushes.

  • Shop towels or rags

How to do it:

Step #1: Degrease

If you own a chain scrubber, fill it with your degreaser of choice then Follow the manufacturer usage instructions. If you don’t have a chain cleaning device, you can simply apply the degreaser directly to your chain and cassette and scrub away with a brush.

Once you have scrubbed away most of the funk and grime, rinse the drive train with water.

Step # 2: Dry

Remove excess water from your chain by grabbing it loosely with a rag and turning the pedals backwards. Use the rag to floss between the sprockets to get any stuck dirt off.

Sep # 3: Lubricate:

Grab your chain lubricant and apply to the inside of your chain, where the links come into contact with your cassette cogs and chainrings.You only need to apply lube to your chain, not directly to your cassette gears or chainrings. Wipe off the excess lube.

Fix a flat:

What you’ll need:

  • Tire levers

  • A bike pump

  • A new inner tube

How to do it:

You’ll first need to remove the wheel. Modern bikes have quick-release axles which makes this part easy. If you have thru axles without levers, you will need a hex wrench in the matching size.

Depress the valve to let out any remaining air. Wedge your tire levers below one side the tire bead and pry upwards and away from the rim to pop the tire off. If you have carbon rims do not use metal levers otherwise you may damage your rims. Once you have one side of the tire off the rim, it is just push the valve stem out and remove the punctured tube.

Inspect the inside of the tire for any sharp objects and clean if necessary. Pump a small amount of air into the tube, then install it by placing the valve in the valve hole first, then using your thumbs to work the tire bead back onto the rim (you may need the additional leverage of a tire lever in the final part). Inflate to recommended pressure (usually printed on the tire's sidewall) when the tire bead is fully seated.

Perform a pre-ride safety check:

It is always advised to do a quick safety check of your bike before heading out on a ride.

The following steps are easy and quick to perform, and will ensure that you always know that your bike is in good mechanical condition before riding it.

  1. Check your tire pressure: If you own a pump with a pressure gauge, it is easy to take a quick readout and top up pressure if needed. If your pump does not have a gauge, you can check by applying pressure to the tire using the palm of your hand. If the tire feels too soft, add some air.

  2. Check your brakes: rock the bike back and forth while applying the front and rear brake levers. Your brakes should have a strong enough bite to be able to bring you to a complete emergency stop when needed. If you do not feel like you have adequate braking power, your braking system might need service, such as fresh brake pads, a brake fluid bleed or re-cabling in case of mechanical brakes.

  3. Check your wheels: Inspect your rims for any cracks or dents. Check your quick-releases or your thru axles to make sure they are tight and holding the wheels firmly in the frame dropouts. Check for any loose or broken spokes. Check for any excessive wobble in your rims which might be a sign of an out-of-true wheel, or sometimes a tire that is not properly seated on the rim.

Final words

Becoming a good cyclist isn’t only about developing your fitness and bike handling skills, but also being able to keep your bike ready to optimally perform. Take a little time to familiarize yourself with the above skills so that you’d always be able to keep your bike in sound mechanical condition.

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