Top 10 bicycle maintenance tips

Top 10 maintenance tips to make sure your ride is fit for purpose.

Check tyre pressure

Overinflated tires are as much to blame for pinch flats as underinflated ones. A floor standing pump allows you to pump large volumes of air with ease, making them quicker, easier and more efficient than a hand pump. Some bike shops will let you borrow theirs. Look on the side of your tyre for a number, followed by the letters PSI. That tells you how much air to put in. 

 

Check brake pads

Worn brake pads reduce breaking efficiency. You can tell they are worn if you can no longer see the grooves in the rubber pads. Fitting new brake pads is cheap and easy, and any number of websites will show you how. All you need is a set of Allen keys and some patience.

 

Clean your chain

Regularly cleaning your bike’s drivetrain, including the chain, means it will perform better and last longer. You don't need to remove the chain; all you need is hot water, a toothbrush, rags, brushes and sponges, a degreaser and chain lube. For a quicker job, you can use a handheld chain cleaner. Just wash and degrease, rinse, dry and then lubricate.

 

Silence squeaky brakes

Screeching brakes are often dirty brakes, or at least dirty wheel rims. Clean and dry both properly, and 50% of the time you've solved the problem. If that doesn't work, they might need adjusting.

 

Tighten saggy brakes

If you squeeze a brake lever and it’s practically touching the handlebar, they need tightening. Unscrew the brake barrel adjuster (which can be found by the brake lever or the brake itself). If that doesn’t increase the tension in the brake cable, you’ll need to loosen the cable fixing bolt using an Allen key, then pull the cable nice and tight (with some pliers). 

 

Lubricate

Buy some bike-specific lubricant and use it sparingly on any parts of your bike where metal touches metal, such as the chain, brake and derailleur levers, cables and bearing systems. Don’t oil your chain unless you’ve cleaned it properly first, as this will create an abrasive paste that will grind away at the chain. Use a lube appropriate to the weather conditions you ride in.

 

True wheels

Turn your bike upside down and spin your wheels. Do they wobble a little from side to side? If so, they need "truing", which involves adjusting the length of some of the spokes using a spoke key. Anyone can true a wheel but there's a knack to it. If it's your first time, best not to do it on your swanky racer! A bike shop will do this for a small fee. True wheels are stronger, roll better and don’t rub brake pads unevenly. 

 

Sitting comfortably?

If you are prone to sore bum syndrome, experiment a little with your saddle, raising or tilting it slightly to suit your riding style. If you get sore knees while cycling, you might have your saddle too low. When you pedal, your legs should be almost straight on the downwards revolution. 

 

Storing your ride

Storing your bike somewhere dry, away from rain, dampness, dust and direct sunlight will improve your bike's upkeep and reduce the amount of maintenance required. Sheds, garages and under-stairs cupboards are ideal places to keep a bike. If you're short on space, there are plenty of storage solutions for the cramped urban dweller, such as wall brackets.

 

Service your bike

Servicing your bike once a year is usually adequate, ideally at the start of spring if you've been brave enough to cycle though winter. However, there is no shame in getting an expert to take a look – think of it as your bicycle MOT. 

Page last reviewed: 11/06/2014

Next review due: 11/06/2016

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