Keep Your Bicycle Tuned And Clean
If you take care of your bicycle it will take care of you, if you don’t,it won’t. Besides making you work harder, it will become annoying to operate, leave you stranded at the worst moment, cause you pain, cost a lot to fix and be no fun.
Probably not what you had in mind when you bought a bike…All bicycle warranties (including ours) have a clause that voids it if the bike is not properly serviced and kept clean. So the bad news is if you’re going to ride and enjoy the scenery, you have to either take care of your bike, or pay somebody to it. The good news is you really don’t have to do much or need a lot of stuff to do it.
How often you should service things depends on how much and where you ride. If it looks dirty it probably needs cleaning.A bicycle is a thing of beauty, if you ride it much it will bond with you
and you’ll want to treat it kindly.Here are a few simple things you can and need to do to keep your bike working as it should and be trouble free. This is by no means a comprehensive list, it’s just a basic guide to information taken from the sources indicated.
A bicycle that doesn’t work right, besides being no fun, can really hurt you. Don’t take it for granted, know what it feels like when all is well and do something about it when something seems amiss. Most problems you can prevent or fix yourself, for those you aren’t comfortable with, visit
a competent bike mechanic.
If you’re not into any of this, that’s ok, but at least do this:
- Keep it clean & check the tires!
- Clean & lube the chain
- Adjust the shifters
- Check the brakes
- Clean the cables
- Check the wheel bearings
- Check the stem bearings
- Check the crank bearings
Keep it Clean
If you ride it, it’s going to get dirty, and the dirt alone will cause things not to work right and to wear out prematurely. Wash it all over with soap (I use Simple Green), water, brushes and rags. As you rinse, be careful not to force water into places that don’t like it; the wheel bearings, crank bearings (bottom bracket) and fork stem bearings (headset).Clean the chain and sprockets!
Dirt builds up on the chain and sprockets and causes rapid wear, poor shifting, skipping and increased pedal effort. Use a brush to clean the gunk off the gears and the spaces between them.
Clean the wheel rims and brakes. The bike stops because the brake pads rub against the wheel rim, hard. The more dirt between the two, the less it stops and the quicker the expensive rims are destroyed.
Clean the front and rear derailleurs. Use a rag and a little brush or a twig or whatever it takes to get the dirt and grunge out. Each derailleur has two little wheels that turn with the chain, hold the chain off of the wheels and make sure they turn freely and aren’t caked with crud. When it’s dry drip a little chain lube into the parts that rub against each other Wipe off the exposed parts of the cables, there’s usually four, front brake, rear brake, front and rear derailleurs. If the cables pass under the bike, there’s probably a small plastic cable guide screwed to the underside of the
bike where the pedal crankshaft passes through the frame (bottom bracket), make sure it isn’t packed with crud. A bit of car wax and some elbow grease not only looks good, it helps to preserve
the finish. For a good article, with pictures, on bike washing click here.
Check the Tires
Do this before every ride. Perfectly good tires loose air as they sit. Soft tires make you pedal harder, have less control of the bike, wear out quicker and are more likely to go flat. The recommended air pressure is stamped on the side of the tire and gives a minimum and a maximum. Inflating to the mid point is a good choice for most rides. Inflate to the maximum if all out speed and minimum rolling resistance is what you’re after, but expect a harsh ride. Use the minimum if you want better traction on soft surfaces and won’t be riding on pavement. You need a tire gauge that registers up to 100 pounds and a good pump. Check the tire for cuts, bumps and signs of damage.
Clean the Chain, Chainrings & Cogs
Scrub the chain with a brush and soap or degreaser and water. Simple Green or the like works well for me. Do the same with the front and rear sprockets (chainrings & cassette). Get all of the crud and dried up chain lube off-even if you have to scrape it off with a blade or a small stick. By far the easiest, fastest and cleanest way to clean the chain is to use a chain scrubbing tool. You fill it with chain cleaning fluid, fasten it around the chain and turn the pedals .Several little rotating brushes clean the chain as it passes through the fluid reservoir. No muss, no fuss. When it’s dry, lube the chain with bicycle chain lube (Not oil or WD-40). Chain lube dries on the chain and doesn’t attract dirt and sling off onto your bike and legs as oil does. Drip the lube onto the chain as you turn the pedals and wipe off the excess with a rag. Chains stretch and wear out and need to be replaced periodically.
Check the Brakes
Stopping is important. Brakes should grip firmly and smoothly when applied. Clean the brake pads and wheel rims. Make sure that the wheels are centered in the frame and that the skewers or axle nuts are tight.The wheels should be centered between the pads and the pads should be aligned to contact the center of the rim evenly. The pads should be in good condition, new ones are not expensive or difficult to change.To learn how to properly adjust and maintain your brakes look hereClean the Cables There are usually four of them, front and rear brakes and front and rear derailleurs. Dirt and grime works it way up into the cable housing and causes the cable itself to bind in the housing, causing erratic gear changes and brakes that won’t let go of the rim. The cable abrades in the housing and breaks, usually when you least expect it.On most bikes you can create enough slack in the wire to enable you to pull the housing out of the frame stops. The housing can then be moved along the wire enough to clean and lube the normally hidden part of the wire.Brake and gear cables wear out and need to be replaced periodically, once a year isn’t too often for many road or mountain bikes. The improvement in shifting and braking with clean, new cables is very noticeable. They don’t cost much and are fairly easy to change.More on this atbicycling.com
Adjust the Shifters
Shifters and derailleurs tend to be a bit sensitive and may require minor adjustments from time to time. You’ll know it when you change gears with the shifter but the chain doesn’t quite go onto the next sprocket. Usually this can be cured by putting more, or less, slack in the wire. On most bikes this is accomplished by turning a small barrel adjuster, either at the lever end, the derailleur end or both. The amount of slack in the wire determines whether or not the chain will line up with gear you want it to landon.
Check the Wheel Bearings
With the wheel off the ground, give it a slight spin to see if it spins freely. It should coast to a smoothgradual stop. Make sure the brake pad or anything else isn’t rubbing on the wheel. Turn it lightly and see if it feels smooth or does it feel coarse and gritty? If so, the wheel bearing is either too tight or dirty or both. In either case it needs service.Grab the wheel with hands at top and bottom and try to rock it from side to side. You’re trying to see if the wheel feels loose on it’s axle.
If you feel play, the bearing is too loose and needs service. Put your hands at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock and do the same thing.Check the Stem Bearings (headset) Squeeze the front brake lever and gently rock the bike forward and backward. See if you can feel any looseness or play where the fork stem passes through the frame. Sometimes you can hear a slight knock if it’s loose.With the
wheel off the ground, gently turn the handlebars and see if they turn smoothly, without binding. If it feels rough, tight or wants to stay in one place, something’s wrong and needs service.
Check the Crank & Pedal Bearings
With the crank arm and pedal straight up or down, try to rock it towards and away from the frame, to see if anything feels loose.Make sure the pedal is tightly threaded into the crankarm and the crankarm tight to the spindle. If it still feels loose, it’s probably the bearing and needs service.Shift the chain onto the smallest front sprocket and lift it off until it rests on the bottom bracket housing (frame) and the crankset can spin free. Turn it slowly and see if it spins smoothly without binding or grinding. If it doesn’t, it needs service.Try to rock the pedal on it’s shaft and see if it has play or feels loose. Give it a spin to see if it binds or feels gritty. Either condition needs service.
All of these things have a huge effect on how your bike rides and are not difficult to maintain. What’s important is knowing what it feels, looks and sounds like when everything is just right and getting it fixed when it isn’t.