Is your bike having a minor problem? We know that even a flat tire can trouble first-time bike owners, yet there are so many sources with too much information for beginners to decipher. That is why we are here to help. This is a simplified guideline to introduce you to the basics and provide you with some tips on how to do the bike maintenance easier.
Break down your bicycle
You need names to call the parts in order to understand the issue and detect problems with your bike. Here are all the vocabularies on a picture:
Where to learn bike maintainace?
Of course, friends and community are the first options! They are always around and can even guide you through the first few tune-up sessions. It is also more convenient to contact them for emergencies, like when your bike broke down in the middle of a route for example.
Books about bike repairing can be found in stores or online (e-books). Some very useful ones include Park Tools’ Big Blue Book and Dennis Bailey’s Bike Repair and Maintenance for Dummies. The instructions provided are short and clear, suitable for people who are new to this, along with referencing pictures for better imagination.
Websites are more time-efficient and accessible, although it is sometimes dubious whether the information are correct or not. Of all the trustful sources, a to-go would be Sheldon Brown’s website, where the author gives you in-depth information upon each possible technical mishaps you may meet. Another hub would be r/bikewrench on the QnA-forum Reddit, where in about two minutes you will get an answer from fellow cyclists. A tip would be to send in a detailed question – that way people would be more interested in providing solutions for you. If you only need a general answer, search for keywords in the Subreddit instead.
Youtube is another open source for people who learns faster by watching other people do it. There are thousands of videos with reliable content, both by professionals and amateurs, that you can have a look. Some “big” channels we would like to name are GCN, Berm Peak and GMBN Tech.
You cannot just clean or fix anything with your bare hands! Here is a very stripped down version of a toolbox for bike maintenance, which (1) does not cost a lot of money and (2) is not complicated to use.
Cleaning solution: You can either buy degreasers in stores or make your own by mixing dish soap with water on a 2:1 ratio (two pumps per bucket). When cleaning you can use either a spray bottle and rags or a bucket and a sponge.
Chain lubes: Avoid using WD-40 – this is not a good liquid for lubrication. You can always go for dry lube or ceramic lube depending on your budget and biking condition, but the extra cost on ceramic type is always worth it.
Wrench (metric) hex keys: A very important tool for cyclists would be a travelling wrench set for various uses. You should pick out sets with materials like steel for a long duration.
Wire rope cutters: They are small and strong enough to cut through anything, particularly brake and shifter cables.
Chain tools and links: The name is pretty self-explanatory. Check what kind of chain your bike has beforehand in order to avoid ordering the wrong size/type.
Tire inflator: A manual hand-held inflator should be fine, but if you are too lazy you can come to bike repair shops and ask them to do it for you.
How to tune-up your bike
We are listing off problems based on the structure of a normal “tune-up” checklist, thus we will not be able to cover everything. If you are in need of advice on a particular case, do check out the list of research sources we have mentioned above.
Clean your bike: This is a given. Cleaning creates a sense of preparation and can also provide you with a first full look at the bike. Take your time to wipe down to the smallest details.
Take care of the chain: Use a chain-checker to see if yours are worn out or not. If the chains are just dry, you can insert drops of chain lubes. If it is already stretched, replace it immediately. You wouldn’t want a squeaky chain that can potentially damage your chainrings and cassette.
Inspect your brakes: Have a look at your brake pad and check for any signs of tear or wear. If the metal is poking out from the pad, get yourself a new pad. After that, adjust the pad so that they are hitting properly on the rim and make sure that they are not too loose or tight against the braking surface. Scan through the brake cable as well. Finally, give the wheel a spin for a last checking.
True your wheels: First, squeeze the adjacent spokes to check its ability to resist. If there are loose spokes, use your spoke wrench or take your bike to the repair shop. Inflate your tires if they are flat and learn how to patch them if there are cuts.
Tighten necessary parts: Headsets, seats, pedals, bottom brackets – check out all of them and see if they are in their right positions or not. If they are not, use the right wrench to tighten them. For the last two parts, remember to rotate to see if they are working smoothly or not.
Inspect the bike: See if there are any dents or cracks at the joints. If there is, make an appointment with the local repair shop to check.
Tips on how to keep your bike on good condition
Choose a bike you can afford: This may sound like an empty point but having a bike that is too fancy can turn out to be a bad investment, especially if the replacing parts for it are too rare in your neighbourhood. It is always wise to buy your bike at the same place that can give you a warranty and always has replacement stocks available.
Have a tune-up schedule: Brake pads, chains and tires should be checked weekly. Bike frames can be washed per month or two, along with rims and braking surface. Other things can be done seasonally.
Wipe down your bike after every trip: It is a good idea to do a clean through once you have arrived home, especially after a rainy day. This can help you at reducing the amount of dirt on working parts and detecting problems early.
Keep your bike indoors: If you have enough space, keep it inside. The weather can easily wear the parts down and leave it in decay mode. Also, if you really treasure your bike, you would not want it to be stolen away by naughty kids.
Be a familiar at your local repair shop: Check-up packages are usually overlooked but they are truly useful if you’re an avid cyclist with long trips. You should do it once every few months. If there’s a problem you cannot fix, bring it to them as soon as possible as small issues can always turn out to be big without proper help. If you have any questions about biking, this is also a perfect opportunity to ask professionals – they will be more than willing to share.
Change worn out parts before it breaks down completely: TMI: It is even more expensive to replace a whole set of chainrings after your completely out of use chain has destroyed them. Start getting yourself used to this motto and replace parts that are easier to buy when they start showing signs of being worn down.
These are some of the aspects that you should be aware of before deciding to fix or tune your own bike. Depending on the type of bike you are owning and the route, there will be other advice you should take. We hope that you can always keep your bike in its best condition and enjoy your trips to the max!