Many of us are finding ourselves with a bit of spare time on our hands, and in the northern hemisphere spring is finally beginning to blossom. So what better time to refresh your bike maintenance knowledge – or learn a few new basic bike maintenance skills.
Start with the ABCs
To help prevent flats make sure your tires are properly inflated. You can find the recommended tire pressure on the sidewall of your bike tire. While you’re checking the air, take the opportunity to ensure your quick-release levers are properly secured.
Give your brake levers a squeeze to make sure that the brakes engage properly. There should be about an inch of space between the inside edge of your brake lever and handlebar when they are fully engaged. Your brakes should hold solidly against your leaning weight.
Make sure you regularly maintain your chain and drive-train. Keeping your chain clean and lubed will not only make for a smoother ride but it will also prolong the life of your drive-train.
Helpful Skills For Smooth Rides
Fix a flat
So you checked the pressure in your tire before heading out, but like death and taxes, if you ride your bike enough a flat tire is inevitable. The good news is, if you are prepared with the right tools and know-how you’ve got nothing to worry about. In terms of tools, you should always carry tire levers, a correctly sized spare tube, patch kit, and a mini pump (or CO2 cartridge).
- Take the wheel off the bike: Release your brakes, then the wheel.
- Remove the tube: Deflate the tube completely and remove it by pressing on the bead (edge) of the tire or using a tire lever so you can access the tube.
- Find the cause of the flat: Inspect the wheel, tire and tube for the location and causes of tears or punctures.
- Patch or replace the tube: When out riding, you may prefer to replace the tube with a new one and fix the damaged one later.
- Reinstall the wheel: We’ll walk you through the steps for the front and back wheel.
Let Stephen Colbert show you that anyone can change a flat. Ok maybe not but it’s worth a laugh.
Try this video for actual step-by-step instructions for fixing a flat.
Brake Basics: Cleaning and lubricating brake levers.
If your brakes are performing poorly, the levers themselves may need cleaning. The points on which the individual parts of your brakes and derailleurs pivot will not move as smoothly and will invite rust. Applying a small amount of lubricating oil to the pivot areas while squeezing the levers open and closed will help.
Clean your chain and drive-train!
You will have noticed a theme here – keeping your bike clean can save you a lot of trouble. For example, regularly cleaning your chain will keep your bike running smoothly. To clean your chain and drive-train you will need old rags, lube for your chain and maybe a retired toothbrush.
- Start by wiping down the chain ring with a rag and if needed you can take a retired toothbrush to it to remove larger chunks of dirt and grime.
- Once you’ve removed all the dirt you can from the chain, hold your bottle of lubricant above the top-middle point of the chain and squeeze out a thin, steady stream, spinning your pedal backwards to move the chain as you apply lubricant.
- Wipe any excess lube off your chain and you’re ready to roll! (Hint, if you frequently clean and lube your chain, it will take you less time it takes you do this. )
Check out this video for an illustration of the process.