Bike Maintenance 101
By Nathaniel Wu
As we exit the winter season and move into spring, you may want to hop on your bike and go out for a ride. Not so fast. Bike maintenance is always important, but it is a priority after the winter season. Today, we will explore the very basics of bike maintenance to prevent issues during a ride. The last thing you want to happen is walking your bike home on the first ride of 2022.
Washing and Cleaning
Washing is more applicable to mountain bikes, but keeping the bike clean has many advantages. Cleaning makes the bike look better, which comes in handy when taking photos. Functionally, removing dirt and grime can allow moving parts like the chain to run smoothly. In cold temperatures, mud can harden onto the bike frame. The longer mud stays on the bike, the harder it is to remove, so clean your bike when it looks visibly dirty. A hose with a medium spray should be enough to clean most dirt off the bike frame.
Derailleur and Shifting
Shifting gears is one of the core skills of riding a bike. Before a ride, make sure that all your gears shift correctly and smoothly. Even if the shifting performance seems adequate, periodically tune the derailleur. To do this, check out this video by Park Tool: How to Adjust a Rear Derailleur. You will need a Phillips-head screwdriver and some way to keep the rear wheel off the ground.
Before every ride, make sure that the tire pressure is sufficient. To know the range, check the tire sidewall for the “PSI” indication. Through the winter, your bike probably lost a significant amount of air, so be sure to use a pump or air compressor to get it within the PSI range. If not taken care of, a tire pressure that is too low can result in a flat.
Just like shifting, braking is another core skill of riding a bike. You may need to replace a brake pad or two, but most braking adjustments require adjusting the cable length. When properly set, you should only need to press about halfway through to stop the bike. To find the best video for you, check out Parktool’s braking series.
Maintaining the chain is crucial for pedaling and shifting. Naturally, the chain will wear down, but proper maintenance can increase the longevity of your chain. Clean and lubricate the chain about once a month and any time the chain gets dirty. However, too much chain lube can attract dirt and grime.
By taking a few minutes before every ride, you can extend the life of your bike and reduce the number of problems on the trails. As always, go outside and have fun riding!