Road Bike Maintenance 101

author : chrisandniki
comments : 3

Learn to perform routine maintenance on your bike. Knowing basic maintenance will make you a better rider. You’ll also come to recognize the complexity and beauty of this machine.

(Updated May 2020)


With this year's spread of coronavirus, we can't count on others to stop and help us with our bikes. Each cyclist can strive to be self-reliant, and bike maintenance is one of the ways to achieve that.


Sometimes this happens:


You’re whistling through the countryside on your metallic steed; racing up and down hills like you’re Lance Armstrong. And then - one of your tires becomes mushy. You’ve gotten a flat.


This happens so often that many veteran cyclists take for granted how daunting this is for new riders. Well, rest easy. You can learn to perform maintenance on your own bike. But why should you bother? Bike stores are everywhere? Consider the following:



  • Performing basic bike maintenance is easy. Even if you have trouble hanging a picture or putting together your children’s Christmas gifts, you can learn to work on your road bike.

  • Basic bike maintenance doesn’t require strange and fancy tools. You probably have everything you need hanging around the house. And even if you don’t – you’ll only need a couple of inexpensive tools.

  • Performing your own basic bike maintenance is cheap. Why pay a bike shop to fix flats when you can do them cheaply yourself? Besides, no one will do as good a job on your bike as well as you will. Bike shops also get busy. Why wait days for them to get around to fixing problems when you can do it immediately? Local bike shops often provide lessons on fixing your bike for low cost as well.

  • Basic bike maintenance will get you out of trouble. There’s nothing worse than being stranded twenty miles from home because your bike’s broken down and you don’t know how to fix it.


In this article, you’ll learn to perform routine maintenance on your bike. Knowing basic maintenance will make you a better rider. You’ll also come to recognize the complexity and beauty of this machine. Treat it right, and it’ll ride you to victory.

The Parts of Your Bike
Before we start, let’s look at some of the key parts of your road bike:









Photo courtesy of www.specialized.com
Illustration by Chris Tull


You don’t have to know every nuance of these parts. Just knowing where they’re located is enough bike maintenance background to get you started.



The Basic Bike Maintenance Toolkit









Photo courtesy of www.trek.com


The following are tools you should have with you always – even on your rides:



  • A pressure gauge – You use a pressure gauge to make sure your tire has the right amount of air pressure whizzing through the wheel. You need a pressure gauge that reads up to 120 PSI. Many air pressure gauges (like the one’s you can find in sporting goods stores) perform in the 45 – 60 PSI range. You may need to visit your local bike store to find a pressure gauge reading to find the right PSI.

  • A frame-mounted pump - You can find frame-mounted pumps which are convenient to carry with you as you ride. But they’re also often stolen. Make sure you take your frame mounted pump with you when parking your bike.

  • A tire patch kit

  • A spare tire tube

  • Tire irons

  • Sandpaper


You may also want to get a bike tool set with various wrench sizes, including:



  • 4mm, 5mm and 6mm hex wrenches

  • 8mm and 10 mm open-wrenches

  • A flat-head screwdriver

  • A Phillips-head screwdriver


As you become more and more comfortable with bike maintenance, you’ll eventually need these tools.


You might also buy a tool pouch that attaches to your bike. It’s a good idea to keep these tools with you as you ride. Having tools on your rides allows you to fix a bike emergency in minutes, rather than spending hours walking your broken bike home.


Performing a Pre-ride Checklist
Pilots have been performing pre-flight checks for years. Before even stepping into the cockpit, they walk around their plane and visually check their equipment and parts before each flight. You should do the same before taking your bike out for a spin.


For major frame or component problems, you’ll probably need to take the bike into your shop for repair. However, it’s better to find these problems out at home rather than out somewhere on the road.


The following explain what to check before each ride.



1. Check front tire pressure.



o Use a pressure gauge (that reads up to 120 PSI) to test the tire’s air pressure (the squeeze test where you pinch the tire to see if it’s too soft isn’t accurate enough).
o To find the recommended tire pressure, check the sidewall of the tire. The words will say something like, INFLATE TO 90 PSI MAX or OFF ROAD 45 PSI ON ROAD 65 PSI.
o You want to use the maximum pressure listed.
o Soft tires pick up gravel and glass off the road more so than firm tires. Thus, the best way to avoid flats is to always keep your tires hard before a ride.
o Avoid using gas station hoses to inflate your bicycle tires. Gas station hoses often display false pressure readings for bicycle wheels. They also can inflate your tires too rapidly. Hand-operated pumps work best.



2. Make sure the wheels are straight.



o Spin both wheels. See if the wheel turns straight through the brakes and the frame. If the tire wobbles (either up-or-down or side-to-side) take the bike in to a bike store. They’ll need to fix or replace your tire rim.



3. Check your brakes.



o Make sure the brake pads aren’t touching the wheel or rim. You can move the brake with you hands so they don’t rub the wheel. Brakes should be 1 to 2 mm from the wheel.
o Spin your wheels. Then, squeeze each brake lever on the handlebar. The wheel should move freely and then stop when you apply the brakes.
o If you can squeeze the brake level all the way to the handlebar, the brake is too loose. Take the bike to your bike shop for adjustment. Braking systems are difficult to adjust properly without the proper tools or training.



4. Check your handlebar and stem.



o Check the handlebar and stem for any cracks, dents or deformation. If there’s any sign of damage, take the part to your local bike shop for repair or replacement.



5. Check the pedals.



o Ensure the pedals spin freely. Also make sure they not too loose or wobbly.




Fixing a Flat Tire
The most common problems cyclists face are flat tires. Practice changing flats at home before you hit the road. Make sure you always have an extra inner tube and a patch kit with you on every ride.


Here’s how to fix a flat:



  1. Remove the wheel with the flat from your bike. Leave the axle nuts and washers on the wheel. They’re too easy to misplace if you don’t (I say this from experience).

  2. Remove the tire off the wheel rim with tire irons. Slide a tire iron under the lip of the tire. Then, push the tire's edge over the rim.

  3. Leave the first tire iron in place. Take a second tire iron and repeat the process a few inches farther down the rim.

  4. Pull the tire off the rim with your fingers.

  5. Pull the popped inner tube out from beneath the tire. The inner tube is what you’ll need to patch.

  6. If you can’t find the leak, inflate the inner tube. Listen and feel for the air leak.

  7. If the hole isn’t too big, prepare the inner tube for patching. To do this, rough up the leaking spot with sandpaper. If the hole is too big to patch, use a new tire tube.

  8. bike flat1

  9. Apply cement to the leaking area of the inner tube. Don’t use too much and make sure to spread evenly. Make sure you allow the cement to dry before applying the patch.

  10. bike flat2

  11. Apply the patch to the leaking area (or apply a new inner tube if needed).

  12. Check the tire for sharp objects. Remove anything you find (it’s a good idea to wear cycling gloves for this reason).

  13. Pump air into the new or repaired inner tube. This is where it’s helpful to have a pump that attaches to your bike frame or seat.

  14. Replace the inner tube on the rim beneath the lifted tire. Pass the inner tube valve through the hole in the rim.

  15. Slip the tire back onto the rim. Start with one side of the tire at a time. Don’t try to slip both sides of the tire on at once.

  16. Put the wheel back on your bike and you’re good to go.



Good Reference Books
For some great books on the subject of bike maintenance, check out the following:



About the Author: Chris Tull is a writer based out of the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Once upon a time, he was a ‘burgers-and-beer-only’ kind of guy. Chris has since lightened up on the diet and added yoga, weight lifting, and (of course) triathlon training to the mix. You can contact him at chrisandniki@yahoo.com  or visit his online journal at http://ctull.blogspot.com/ 
 

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date: May 31, 2020

chrisandniki

Chris Tull is a writer based out of the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Once upon a time, he was a ‘burgers-and-beer-only’ kind of guy. Chris has since lightened up on the diet and added yoga, weight lifting, and (of course) triathlon training to the mix.

avatarchrisandniki

Chris Tull is a writer based out of the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Once upon a time, he was a ‘burgers-and-beer-only’ kind of guy. Chris has since lightened up on the diet and added yoga, weight lifting, and (of course) triathlon training to the mix.

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