Currently, 42% of people over the age of 5 in the UK own a bicycle, but not everyone knows how to look after their bike properly. Whether you ride road, mountain or just like to commute to work, knowing how to properly maintain your bike will not only help it run smoothly, but will also increase the lifespan of your cycle. There’s a lot more to bike maintenance than what you might think! There’s a few simple things you can do at home to keep your bike in good shape.
Essential Bike Maintenance Tools
Ensuring you have all the right tools to fix any slight issues with your bike is really important and can save you time and money! A few basics you have are:
· Allen keys (usually about 3mm- 6mm)
· Puncture repair kit
· Tyre levers
· Floor pump
· Set of spanners
ABC Quick Check
The first thing you should do before riding your bike is the ABC quick check, to ensure your bike is safe enough to ride.
Step one (well, step A) is to check the air pressure of your tyres. The first thing you need to note is what kind of valve your bike has. There are two kinds, a Schrader (this is a standard car valve, it’s short and fat) and a Presta which is long and thin (this is often found on road or newer bikes). Some bike pumps will only work with Schrader valves so ensure you have a pump that will work. (Most pumps now have a double sided head with the letters S and P on so you know which side to use).
Once you have identified your valve type, press your hand on your tyre, if there’s a little give and it appears squishy, this is a sign that you need to get your pump out! When filling your tyres with air, make sure that you note the PSI (measurement of pressure) on the side of your tyre (this is often next the measurements of your tyres). Another thing to look out for when adding air, is the type of valve your tube has. If you’re running Presta valves, you’ll need to loosen the valve a little bit for the air to be able to enter.
The B stands for brakes. Before you head out on a major ride, ensure that you check your front and back brakes. Push your bike alongside you and individually squeeze your brakes. They shouldn’t be slack and you should not have to pull the levers in hard to feel the brakes beginning to work.
There are two main types of brakes that you’ll find on your bike. The first are rim brakes (these grip the wheel itself to help it slow down and these can be adjusted by yourself). The second option are disc brakes (these can be mechanical or hydraulic). These are more effective than rim brakes as they grip on to a disc in your wheel rather than the wheel itself, however, these will have to be adjusted by a bike mechanic but are far more reliable than rim brakes.
The final letter in the ABC quick check stands for chain and crank. Ensure your chain has not slipped off the drivetrain at all, and pull at your pedals to see if they’re loose at all. If they are, just tighten the bolt in the middle of the crank set!
The quick part of this check only applies if your bike has quick release mechanisms. These mechanisms are often used on your wheels (usually the front) for ease of transportation and maintenance. This allows you to remove and put your wheels back in a matter of seconds. If your bike uses these mechanisms, ensure they are tightened correctly before you set off!
Don’t forget the lube!
Just like anything with mechanical parts, lubrication is key. Bike “lube” should be put on your chain to remove dirt that is prohibiting the smooth run of your cycle. Lubrication should be used once a month at a minimum, but this obviously depends on your usage. If you’re riding between 30-50 miles a week, you should be oiling your chain every week- two weeks.
When purchasing bike lubrication, it is important to note that there are two kinds (dry and wet). Dry lube is used in dry conditions (so only for use in summer) and on clean chains. Wet lube can be used all year long and last longer than dry lubricants.
Just like cars, your bicycle needs servicing too. During a basic service, the mechanic will complete a checklist that ensures your brakes are working like new, your gears are in tune, your tyre pressure is correct and that there are no loose screws and bolts. Depending on how often you use your bike (and what kind of riding you do) you may opt for a more expensive and extensive service that includes a full drive chain clean and tyre truing.
A bicycle chain can last between 800-1000 miles of usage (400-600 miles for mountain biking). This means that depending on your usage, you should get your bike serviced every 3-6 months. E-bikes may need to be serviced more frequently due to software updates.
How to lock your bike up effectively
Bike theft has increased around 66% from March 2020. Learning how to lock up your bike effectively is so important. When locking up, make sure that your lock goes through your tyres (just the front one if it’s not long enough for both) and the bike frame. If you put your lock through the front tyre only (and you have quick release wheels) you run the risk of having your bike frame stolen and being left with only your front wheel!
It’s also extremely important that you buy heavy duty locks (anything with a thick chain or a D lock) to help deter thieves. Bike locks are graded in numbers for security, anything with a higher number (around 5-8) is a good quality lock.
Tyres and tubes
Similarly to cars, bike tyres should be changed depending on tread, weather and usage. The main rule is that a tyre should be changed every 2000-3000 miles, but this obviously depends on your kind of riding (mountain bike trails might shred your tyres considerably quicker). If you find yourself getting excessive flats, this is also an indication that you need a new set.
If you’re out on a ride and you get a puncture all of a sudden, it’s handy to keep a patch repair kit with you to quickly seal the hole and get back on your ride. When possible, however, get the tube changed (front tubes are easy to change by yourself but the back can be a struggle with the drivetrain, so you may need to take it to a repair shop!)
Don’t Keep it Dirty
Cleaning your bike is so important to its longevity and well, it’s look! Start by rinsing and wiping the frame of your bike. Next, use degreaser on your drivetrain (your chain, cranks, derailleur and cassette). Using a brush, scrub these components lightly to remove any deep dirt (you can also buy special chain cleaners that only require you to move the pedals whilst it does all the work!). Rinse your bike down again and don’t forget to re-lube your drivetrain!
Helmet and Equipment
Helmets do not last forever, in fact, they actually have time limits on how long you can use them for. A helmet should actually be replaced every three years or anytime it has faced an impact. The foam inside your helmet can begin to break down from sweat, whilst the plastic also loses its integrity from the outside. If you’re looking for a helmet that will give you the best protection, MIPS helmets contain a special technology that decreases the risk of concussion in an impact.
Any equipment you own that can be easy detached from your bike (lights, seat cover, bags, e-bike battery etc) should be bought inside after your ride to prevent weathering. This will help the longevity of your equipment and keep you riding for longer!
If you're looking for a bicycle for your child, look no further! Click here to read our ultimate guide to kid's bikes!