Quick maintenance tips to keep your bike running

Anything that has moving parts has maintenance requirements. None more so than a road bike. When the tolerances are measured in millimetres and you can detect something wrong in seconds, bike maintenance becomes very important. Even more so if you venture into the countryside.

Since moving to Cornwall, I have started going further and further afield. Rides include Dartmoor, Exmoor, Bodmin and some windy coastal roads in the middle of nowhere. Because of the isolation of many of these rides, maintenance has become a key part of my routine.

Here are some of the maintenance tips I have learned along the way. Prevention is always better than the cure!

Listen to your bike

If your bike squeaks, rattles or groans, it is trying to tell you something. Do not ignore it. It could be the first sign something isn’t right and you should investigate as soon as you can.

Lubricate sparingly

Going easy on the lube may seem counterproductive, the more oil, the less friction right? Wrong. Too much lube can be as damaging as not enough, especially on your drivetrain. Too much lube and it sprays all over your frame and attracts every piece of dirt and road debris you ride over. That debris acts like sandpaper to wear down the chain and gears so is best avoided.

Keep the chain clean, lube the links sparingly and run a kitchen towel or cloth over the chain once lubed to remove excess. Use a Teflon based lubricant for best effect. If it moves, lube it.

Keep an eye on brake pads

Managing your brake pads means they will always be there when you need them. Check for wear before any big ride, if they begin squeaking or you used them a lot during the ride, check them for glazing. As the pad slows you down, it generates heat, too much heat and the rubber glazes, reducing friction and making them less effective.

If you find your pads glazing, take them out and roughen them up with sandpaper. I tend to do this with new pads too to bed them in.

Watch those rims

The other side of your braking force is your wheel rims, unless you’ve gone disc. Ensuring your rim is always clean, free of dirt, grease and road debris will help keep them working well. Familiarise yourself with the rim wear indicator if your wheels have one and get used to checking it every couple of weeks.

If you ride in bad weather, make sure to wipe your rims down after every ride to remove dirt. This will stop it being caught in your brakes and scoring the rim.

Maintain your seatpost

It may seem counterintuitive to grease something you need to stay in place, but there is nothing more frustrating than a stuck seatpost. That becomes even more annoying if you have a carbon post and/or frame as hammers are out of the question!

Simply mark the post at the correct height, remove it from the frame, wipe it down, wipe the inside of the frame, use a thin layer of grease or copper slip on the seatpost and replace. That’s it. You only need do this once or twice a year.

Lube your cable guides

The jury is out on whether you actually need to lube your cables or not. I tend to use Jagwire cables which are ready lubed. What you definitely do need to do though is turn your bike upside down and lube those little guides under the bottom bracket.

What you see there will depend on whether you have internal cable routing or not. For bikes with elements of external routing, you should see a small piece of plastic that holds the gear cable(s) in place. Make sure that is clean, free of debris and lightly lubed. LIGHTLY lubed, as it will quickly attract dirt if you use too much.

Keep an eye on your tyres

You have two tiny points of contact with the road, make sure they are the best that they can be. Your tyres are the only part of your bike that gives grip, can stop you and can stave off some of that road buzz. Look after your tyres and they will look after you.

Make sure your tyres are on the right way if they have directional tread. They should have a helpful directional arrow. Always keep them inflated to the recommended PSI. Check them regularly for wear, splitting, chips and damage. If you spot anything untoward, change the tyre.

I don’t subscribe to spending huge amounts of money on a bike unless you need to but tyres are one place where cost really doesn’t matter. Always buy decent tyres and change them as soon as they begin to look tired or are damaged. For the sake of £15-20, it’s the right thing to do.

There are plenty more quick maintenance tips to come in a future post. Keep an eye on Road Cyclist for them in the coming weeks!


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