Top image photo credit: Dave Chiu. Cross-posted from People for Bikes.
Bicycle maintenance can seem so hard. It can be tricky and time consuming. And even though we all understand its importance—a smooth running bike makes good rides better—it can be downright tiresome.
At least it seems that way. The truth is, the easy way to keep a harmonious machine is to build maintenance into your routine. Follow these tips and you’ll always get to enjoy pedaling a dialed ride.
1. Clean it
Your dirty bike hates you and wants your ride to suck. Maintenance begins when your ride ends. There’s no point in tuning a gunky bike, so as soon as you’re back home, knock off dried-on dirt with a stiff brush and scrub away any muck with a brush and warm water. Resist the urge to blast your bike clean at the car wash, even if it is already conveniently on your car.
2. Examine it
Don’t neglect the safety check. Save great pain and suffering to your body and checkbook by giving your bike a quick overview after every ride. Catching small problems before they become big ones is huge. Spin the wheels to make sure they haven’t gone wobbly. Are there cuts or holes on the tires? Look to see that your brakes aren’t dragging and make sure you have plenty of brake pad left while you are at it. Check cables for fraying and hydraulic brake hoses for kinks or deep scrapes. Are all of your chainring bolts still there? Wiggle your wheels, headset, and bottom bracket. Do they jiggle? If anything looks wrong, make it right (this might entail a visit to your local shop) before your next ride.
3. Lube it
A lubed bike is a happy bike. Fortunately, modern bikes are remarkably low maintenance so you only really need to check your chain. Is it dry? Then lube it. Wasn’t that easy?
Lube your bike's chain anytime it appears dry to extend its life and prevent noise. Photo credit: Garrett Lau.
4. Apply pressure
Give a quick squeeze of the tires. Low tire pressure can make a bike feel slow in a straight line and sketchy in the turns. Plus, underinflated tires can lead to rim, tube, and tire damage. Learn what amount of tire pressure is right for you, decide whether the gauge in your thumb is good enough, and do whatever it takes to make sure you always have enough air in your tires. A floor pump is well worth the $40 if you don't already own one.
5. Store it
Give your bike a good home. Where you store your bike will have a lot to do with how much maintenance your bike needs. Try to keep it somewhere that isn’t blasted by the sun, clouded with dust, or hosed by water (or your dog).
The busy bike room at PeopleForBikes headquarters.
Kristin Butcher is a freelance writer based out of Boulder, Colorado. She spends her time writing about people, the outdoors, and, of course, bikes. You can read her column, Butcher Paper, in BIKE Magazine.