6 Most Common Bike Maintenance Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

author : Team BT
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Triathletes need to maintain their steed for consistent training

By Amanda Wilks

When you think about the nature of a bicycle, thinking of it in terms of being a complex machine may not be the first example that springs to mind. It may seem as simple as a pair of wheels stuck to a few metal bits, after all, but a bike is a moderately complex machine. Every machine requires regular care and checkups and taking care of your bike on a timely and regular schedule is both an important and time-light investment when it comes to your safety and ability to travel easily.

Yet there are pitfalls to consider when handling a machine of any complexity. With an arrangement of gears working in tandem, bolts and screws to over-tighten, chains to grease and cables to adjust it's no small wonder that a bit of bike repair with good intentions can go awry in ways both large and small. If you've ever wondered why your favorite bike sprays chain lubricant all over your legs after a greasing or why you just can't get rid of the strange clicks and groans that come from overly tight components, you've come to the right place.

1. Irregular Maintenance

It seems only fitting that the first mistake on the list leads into other mistakes: Not taking care of your bike costs you time and money. Avoiding regular upkeep on nearly any device you use on a daily basis is a recipe for disaster. Grease wears away, brake cables become frayed and tires become worn. Before you know it, an easily fixable problem may lead to expensive damage. A broken set of brakes can turn an outing into a stranding situation in seconds.

Check your tires and brakes before every ride and ensure moving components on your bike are appropriately greased and reviewed for wear and tear. When in doubt, take your bike to a local shop for a check-up.

2. Weather Preparation

Moisture leads to rust and not preparing for changing weather conditions means your bike will be left to fend for itself through mud, slush, sand and surf. Keeping to a regular light cleaning schedule can go a long way to keeping rust and damage at bay. The only place a rusted chain will take you is to a repair shop.

3. Over-Lubing and Under-Lubing

Two halves of the same coin, over-lubing your chain may be preferable to never lubing it at all, but knowing how much oil your chain needs and which types to use are key in ensuring its consistent, smooth performance. Slathering your chain in the same oil you might put in a car might lubricate it but you're going to notice problems when it isn't lubricated correctly or breaks down in unexpected ways.

Along that train of thought, avoid WD-40 and other general greasers for bike maintenance. It may cause oil to break down and seize up otherwise smooth gears and chains when you least expect it which is exactly the problem you were trying to solve in the first place. Ensure your grease or oil is made specifically for bike applications. 

4. Ignoring Tire Wear

Most tire checks boil down to a glance at the tires to ensure they're on the rim and have some measure of air in them before taking off down the road. If this is something you usually forget to do, at least make sure you pack one of these handy bike pumps before embarking on the next biking adventure.

Just like the tires on a car, bike tires wear down over time and require replacement as the tread wears away and the inner tube suffers enough stress to cause structural weakness. Not accounting for the age of your tire can lead to repeated punctures which aren't the least bit fun to replace during an otherwise enjoyable bike outing. If it looks old or bald, chances are it needs to be replaced.

5. Over-Tightening Bolts

A bolt that falls off your bike is a bolt that is likely to cause an accident or at least set you back several dollars for a replacement, but an overly tight bolt can do unseen damage that may set you back even more. 

Cracks and fractures are the worst-case scenario from an overly tightened bolt or screw, especially in bikes made of carbon fiber, as the additional force put on the frame or other components leads to fracturing during heavy impacts when riding. Keep things tight but not tight enough to snap!

6. Ignoring Warning Signs

If something about the way your bike is handling feels wrong or different than you are used to, pay attention to that sign. A sudden change in your saddle height may point to an adjustment error, or a slip in your brakes may signal an overly long cable or a set of pads in dire need of replacement. By ignoring small details, issues tend to compound and lead to big breaks further down the trail.


As long as you keep an eye on your bike and check it regularly for signs of breaks, keeping up with bike maintenance can be a simple weekly event that keeps you riding safer and further with fewer pit stops. Isn't that what we're all aiming for?


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date: November 30, 2017

Team BT