We have a guest blogger today. Dave Baril, mechanic and good looking dude from Moment Cycle Sport.
At the risk of violating all the rules regarding essay composition, I’m going to lead with my topic sentence: doing a small amount of bike maintenance on your own will save you a lot of time and money over the long run. It will also greatly improve your riding experience.
As a bike mechanic, I am frequently asked what maintenance customers can do on their own bikes that doesn’t require a lot of technical skill or a wall full of tools. Here are three recommendations that will help you ride more and pay less.
All tires will lose a small amount of air over time. Left unchecked, you’ll find yourself with underinflated tires that will wear out sooner and leave you vulnerable for the dreaded “pinch flat” – when the tube fails due to not being full enough to resist popping under load. Bikes with underinflated tires also handle poorly – they are slower and turn more sluggishly. Tire manufacturers print their recommended air pressure on the sidewall of the tire. It’s probably somewhere between 110-125 pounds per square inch (psi). Follow their recommendation and you should be fine. Frequency: before every ride. Cost: initial cost of pump ($20-80), then free.
A clean, lubed chain is a happy chain. If it sounds like you’re smuggling a flock of birds in your drivetrain, your chain is probably dry and gritty. Left too long, the chain and gears will wear more quickly and cost money to replace. Lubricant will help your chain run through the cogs and shift between the gears much more efficiently, plus delaying component wear. Apply lube to the inside run of the chain – just a bit over every link – then wipe it off. That’s it! Don’t do this on the carpet – it will be a little messy. Frequency: every two weeks or so unless you’re a daily rider (then more often), and after rain or washing your bike. Cost: $7-10 for a bottle that will last for months.
3) Keep your bike clean.
Besides looking nasty, a dirty bike has secrets – secrets like hidden rust, cracks in the frame, and broken components. If you keep your bike clean, you’ll notice these issues before they become an expensive problem. Soap, water, and elbow grease (you supply the elbow grease) is all that’s required. No high-pressure water, please! If you can’t set up a bike-washing station like we show in our link (I’m looking at you, apartment dwellers), a few paper towels and a kitchen cleanser/degreaser like Formula 409 go a long way. While you’re wiping away the grime, inspect your bike for frayed cables, cracks, loose bolts, etc. You can then fix these problems (or have them fixed) before they leave you stranded on the side of the road.
Refer back to our previous post RE: Clean Bikes are Happy Bikes.
Remember: preventative maintenance beats corrective maintenance any day of the week. Do the easy, inexpensive stuff on your own schedule rather than having serious problems put a halt to your ride and cost you money at an inconvenient time.
Remember, we’re here to help with any problem you might have. Please ask for any recommendations or tricks we use. Regardless of your effort, you will eventually need to replace chains, tires, and other components – better later than sooner, though!
Yours in Bike Maintenance,