5 Bicycle Maintenance Tips & Tricks You Can Try At Home
Bicycle owners have all different kinds of motives. Some are avid cyclists that compete in races; others like to hop on for a leisurely neighborhood ride. But the one thing that all bike owners have in common is a desire to protect their investment. After all, bikes are not cheap. So keeping yours in a healthy condition requires a little bit of knowledge on routine bicycle maintenance. Let us help you get started with five helpful tips and tricks you can learn right now, regardless of your experience level.
1. Make sure your tires have plenty of air
This first tip is so easy and obvious that it might pain you to see that we called it out. However, you would be surprised at how long some cyclists go without ever thinking about tire pressure. Here’s a simple trick to help you build a healthy habit. Use your hand to touch both of your tires before every ride. The simple act requires no equipment, only a brief moment before you take the saddle. If your finger can push the tire in, add a little air. Once you get comfortable with this routine, you can graduate to learning about how much PSI is appropriate for your model. As a general rule of thumb, use between 80-130 PSI for road bikes, 30-50 PSI for mountain bikes, and 50-70 PSI on hybrid models. If you’re looking after a little one, children’s bike tires should fall somewhere between 20-40 PSI.
2. Keep your bike’s drivetrain clean & lubricated
Your bicycle’s drivetrain is arguably the most important mechanism of the machine because you can’t get anywhere without it. A bicycle’s drivetrain includes the sprocket (or chain wheel), derailleur, cassette, and the chain itself. All components work together to propel the bike forward, but this system fails if excess dirt and grit are actively living on these surfaces. More importantly, you can cause significant damage to the drivetrain if your chain is not adequately lubricated. You can avoid any headaches that will cost you a pretty penny in repairs with a chain cleaner and lubricant. All you have to do is put a thin layer of product directly onto the chain while peddling backward. By making this another healthy habit, you won’t hear that unsightly grinding noise while going out for a ride. Instead, you will be gliding along with the peace of mind that comes with a strong drivetrain.
3. Tighten loose nuts & bolts without “overdoing” it
Another simple trick that doesn’t require much expertise is running a simple audit of your bicycle’s nuts and bolts. These little pieces are crucial to maintaining the integrity of your bike, especially if you don’t want to faceplant the next time you go for a ride. We’re assuming you don’t. Therefore, take a look to see if anything seems loose. Take a moment to tighten up any loose components, which will inevitably happen over time. Just keep in mind that there is no need to overtighten these loose pieces. All bike models have specified torque limits. If your bicycle is held together too tightly, you can cause physical damage. Start with weekly checks of the nuts and bolts to get a good feel for the “sweet spot.”
4. Use a combo cleaner & protectant
There are many opinions out there about whether or not washing your bike is a good idea. Those who are against it are primarily concerned with water causing rust, and rightfully so. Corrosion is a huge issue that negatively impacts the performance of your bicycle. However, keeping your bike clean will not only help it appear new. It will extend its usable life. The key is finding a compatible cleaner and protectant that works well on common bicycle surfaces (like metal). Regular application will clean away dirt and grit from the tires, frame, and handlebars while leaving a protective shield over the finish. If you’re wondering how often you should clean your bike, it’s no different than washing your car. Have you recently gotten back from a muddy ride? Best to give your bike a proper bath before your next ride.
5. Test & inspect your brakes once a month
Last but certainly not least, you have to inspect your brakes on a monthly basis. The last thing you want to do is find yourself descending on a hill at top speed with no way of slowing down. You can avoid this scenario by running a test of the brake pads before hopping on. While standing, walk your bicycle forward and check both of the handlebar brakes. If you don’t feel a sudden stop, your brakes are not functioning as they should. Most bike models have a wear indicator for the brake pads. If you are close or over the line, the time has come to take it into a maintenance shop for a professional inspection. You and the other cyclists around you will be glad that you did.