Five-Minute Bicycle Maintenance

One of the most critical things that you need to know when you’re out biking around is how to perform some basic maintenance tasks.  You don’t need to be one of those crazy bike shop techs by any means (no disrespect to you fine ladies and gentlemen – YOU ROCK!) to do any of this – my view of shop techs are that they are CRITICAL to use for those once-a-year bike tuneups.  (They’re also awesome for telling me that I should buy “this” brand of shorts over “that” brand even though they’re $10 more expensive – because they won’t make my rear end look like two pigs wrestling over a milk-dud…)

This was a GREAT article that was sent to me by Bicycling Magazine.  (for the original article, click on this link)  I’m going to cut / paste some of the meaty bits into my post here, but I strongly encourage everyone to head to the source website for more details and to sign up for a subscription!

Here are seven (7) simple checks that you can – I should say SHOULD – perform on your bike after each and every ride.  Your safety and the safety of those you ride with depend on it!

Your Wheels

CHECK FOR: Trueness

HOW?: While spinning the wheel, watch the distance between the rim and the brake pad. It should be uniform for the entire rotation. If it wobbles, the wheel needs truing.

ON YOUR NEXT RIDE: Your wobbly wheel won’t lead to more serious problems, such as a shudder while descending or brake pads rubbing.

Your Quick-Release Wheel Clamps

CHECK FOR: Side-to-side play in the wheel; QRs or skewers that aren’t tight or secure

HOW?: Make sure quick-releases are closed all the way, and that bolt-on skewers are securely fastened.

ON YOUR NEXT RIDE: Your wheel won’t come loose and detach from your bike midride.

Your Brakes

CHECK FOR: Grit on the pads, caliper alignment

HOW?: If your brakes feel gritty, clean the pads with a rag and degreaser; replace pads if the grooves are worn more than 50 percent compared with new pads. Calipers are aligned if the pads are equidistant from the rim.

ON YOUR NEXT RIDE: You won’t go to grab the levers only to roll right through the stop sign at the bottom of the hill.

Your Tires

CHECK FOR: Low tire pressure, embedded glass, slices in the tire or sidewall

HOW?: Inflate tires to proper pressure, and carefully remove embedded debris with tweezers. A cut tire or sidewall is prone to a blowout and shouldn’t be ridden; replace it.

ON YOUR NEXT RIDE: Your chances of flatting will greatly decrease, and you may have prevented a nasty midride blowout.

**This one I can’t stress enough!  Of anything that will go wrong with your bike, you’ll blow a tire first.  Learn how to change your tire – both front and back.  At the beginning of the ride year, I’ll replace my tubes both to just get fresh ones in there as well for a refresher course in changing them out.  Your rear wheel has all of that fun stuff that looks complicated to work around, but really it can pop out pretty easily.  Invest in a cheap 3-part plastic wheel change kit, a fresh tube, and a CO2 canister!

Your Seat bag

CHECK FOR: Supplies you may have depleted on your ride

HOW?: If you used something during a ride, replace it so it’s there for the next ride. If your spare tube has been in there for a while, give it a quick inspection to make sure it’s still intact.

***I would even say to recycle any tube that has been in your bag for a year – tubes are cheap compared to the frustration of an old tube popping on you!

ON YOUR NEXT RIDE: You’ll have a spare tube and CO2 cartridge to lend to the guy who didn’t follow this postride checklist.

Your Cleats (if you use Cycling Shoes)

CHECK FOR: Loose bolts and overall wear

HOW?: Worn-out cleats won’t engage as crisply. You’ll know when they’ve just plain quit on you, then it’s time for new cleats. Bolts can loosen over time. If your cleat isn’t secure to your shoe, tighten the bolts.

ON YOUR NEXT RIDE: Your foot won’t pop out without warning, and you won’t tumble to the ground because you couldn’t disengage your cleat.

Your Frame

CHECK FOR: Cracks, especially at the joints

HOW?: Using a rag and bike polish, wipe dirt and moisture from your frame. Look for cracks, flaking paint and other irregularities.

ON YOUR NEXT RIDE: You’ll either be on your bike because you didn’t find a crack, or you’ll be on your way to the shop for a pro evaluation. If your carbon frame is cracked, don’t mess around. Failure could be catastrophic.

Stay safe out there!


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