When you spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars on a bicycle, it’s natural to want to protect your investment. Whether you use your bike every day for your commute, regularly for workouts, or pulling a trailer to relax with your kids at the weekend, bike maintenance is an excellent way to keep your machine in great condition. Luckily, bicycles are far more straightforward than cars to maintain. Even beginners can pick up some useful maintenance and repair tips that will keep their bike on the road and out of the repair shop.
Bicycle Maintenance Guide
Keeping a bicycle in top condition is not as difficult as you’d think. Bicycles are, compared to most other vehicles, simple machines. Simply keeping its constituent parts clean and, where appropriate, lubricated will go far. For example, you can extend the lifespan of your bike chain and sprockets by regularly cleaning and lubricating the drivetrain. When the drivetrain is neglected, metal can grind against metal and grime, rattling and squeaking and contributing to chain wear. It’s an expensive part of any bike to replace. Chain cleaning requires objects you have lying around the house, and a couple you might need to pick up from any bike shop. Rags, bike oil, degreaser, and a used toothbrush (or even a flat-head screwdriver) will be all you need to remove any gathered dirt from the chains, sprockets, and chainwheels. The toothbrush or screwdriver is to winkle any large gunks of dirt off the rear derailleurs, jockey wheels, and chainrings. When the chains, sprockets, and chainwheels have been cleaned, turn the cranks backwards slowly and simultaneously drip a droplet of bike oil on the inside of every link in your chain. This is a good habit to get into: the more regularly you clean and lubricate your chain, the less time-consuming it is.
Another task to keep on top of is tire pressure. Low pressure means you’ll have to work harder to maintain speed, and you’ll experience more flat tires, in particular when you impact a curb hard. Every bicyclist should own a quality floor pump with pressure gauge so that you can check on your tires every two weeks at least. All bike tires have a recommended pressure which is detailed on the sidewall. The heavier the rider, the higher pressure the tires will need. The rear tire should have higher pressure than the front, as it takes more of the rider’s weight. When you’re putting the bike away for a period (for example, during the winter, or if you’re leaving town for a couple of months), it’s a good idea to keep the tires inflated to high pressure during the pause, or have someone else do it. If this isn’t possible, take the tires off the wheels to prevent the sides of the tires from cracking as air leaks over the months.
Top Bicycle Maintenance Tips
Another great bicycle maintenance habit to get into is frequently checking on the screws, nuts, and bolts in your bike. Be sure, though, not to over-tighten any of the fixtures. Any time you go in for a large purchase at a bike shop, see if they’ll toss in a free bag of spare nuts and bolts. It costs them next to nothing and saves you a lot of effort tracking down the right ones for the job. Brake maintenance is also vital to keeping you and your bike safe. If little is happening when you squeeze the brake lever, you may need to adjust the brake pads. You may be able to tighten the adjusting barrel in the brake lever or brake arm end. This will move the pads closer to the rim (or disc). It might also be necessary to unscrew the bolt that holds the wire, then tighten said wire before screwing the bolt back on. If you keep the pads and braking surface clean from dirt and oil, you can extend the life of the pads and the brake surface by a considerable amount.
How Can I Make My Bike Last Longer?
Not all bikes are subject to the same conditions. A bicyclist living in a humid climate, such as by the ocean, will face different challenges than a bicyclist living in the desert, or a bicyclist who lives at high altitude in the Rockies.
When living by the ocean, cleaning your bike after every ride is vital. Gently wipe down your frame, wheel rims, and chain to prevent saltwater degrading your bike’s parts. Use a blanket or bicycle cover to prevent moisture clinging to your bike when not in use. Sprays covers a multitude of sins: silicone spray protects the frame, while sealant can protect the chain and cables, keeping them lubricated and waterproofed.
A dry environment like a desert can be better for bikes so long as you keep on top of the dust. Caked on mud and dust can be dealt with by using a damp cloth, so long as you remember to dry everything as you go with another cloth. Just a little soapy water can make a huge difference for a bike, especially around the tires. Avoid hosing your bike down— if water gets into crevices it shouldn’t be in, it can stay there and cause a lot of damage. Clean your bike’s suspension system regularly and pump the suspension components while you lubricate it, to ensure you haven’t overlooked any dust. Excess lube should be cleaned away to prevent dust sticking to your clean bike and so that your bike is entirely clean and dry when you finish. Dry lubricants, such as wax-based products, are less sticky, but less durable in wet weather.
At a high altitude, tires have lower pressure. This isn’t necessarily a problem while cycling at that altitude (although cyclists unused to high altitudes must take extra care not to become dehydrated) but when bringing tires up to higher or lower altitudes, it is a good idea to check their pressure to ensure they are still within safe bounds, and correct if not. It’s also important to remember that tire pressure also changes based on variations in ambient temperature. If you’re doing a bike ride in cold conditions at high elevations, it is something to take into account.
Safe Bicycle Storage for Maintenance
One aspect of bike maintenance that hasn’t been discussed is the importance of safe and weather-resistant bike storage. Leaving your thousand-dollar bike exposed to the elements overnight is a sure way to compromise its value and efficiency over time. Even if you keep your bicycle in your garage or shed, it can still be subject to water vapor and extremes of temperature. You can invest in solutions like covers, but these will only protect a bike from wind and rain, not theft. A sleek, 21st century bike deserves an equally sleek, 21st century storage solution. The Alpen Bike Capsule is a shell-like case, shaped perfectly to store your bike and cycling accessories when not in use. It raises the bicycle off the ground and keeps it dry. Any bike, even mountain bikes with wide handlebars, can fit in the Capsule. Made from highly durable polyethylene and fitted with an integrated locking mechanism, it will keep your vehicle safe and protected inside or outside your home. If you have questions about what Alpen Storage can do for your bike security needs, we can answer them for you.