Do-it-yourself Bicycle Maintenance
At THE BIKE SHOP, we perform all kinds of repairs, from a simple tire change to complicated refurbishments. While we love working on your bike, we also know that every day your bike spends in the shop is a day you can’t ride it! Here are a few common, simple things you can do at home to keep your bike running smooth:
Keep your tires inflated
Bicycle tire tubes are made from butyl rubber, which has microscopic holes that slowly let the air out. It is normal for your tires to soften over a period of time. Generally, skinny road bike tires are noticeably soft about a week after inflating, and mountain bike tires take around a month.
Soft tires are bad for two reasons:
- First, a soft tire is much more likely to become a flat tire or a damaged wheel. When a soft tire hits an obstacle like a curb or a pothole, the impact can compress the tube enough to puncture it and even bend the rim of the wheel. Even if you don’t hit a catastrophic bump, soft tires wear sooner than properly inflated ones, which puts you and your bike back in the shop sooner.
- Second, a bicycle with soft tires is much harder to pedal. Keeping your tires properly inflated will make for an easier, more efficient, and much more enjoyable ride.
What to do
Use a pump with a built-in pressure gauge to “top off” your tires regularly (THE BIKE SHOP sells these). A mountain bike should be checked at least once a month, and a road bike before every ride.
Your bicycle tires (not the tubes) will have pressure recommendations from the manufacturer, which you should follow. Generally speaking, mountain bike tires usually have pressure recommendations of 40-60 psi, while road bike tires often recommend 90-120 psi. Always check and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when inflating your tires.
Keep your moving parts lubricated
Your bicycle is a highly efficient collection of moving parts. From wheels to gears to chains to brakes and everything in between, the smoother your moving parts move, the smoother your ride will be.
The key to keeping your moving parts moving smoothly is lubrication. Non-lubricated parts can grind against each other and wear out faster, or even worse, seize up and not work at all. Routine lubrication of important parts will keep your bicycle riding like … a well-oiled machine!
Parts that spin with bearings, like the wheels, pedals, and steering come pre-lubricated from the manufacturer. It is wise to disassemble these parts about once a year and re-grease them. You can do this yourself, but since it takes special tools and doesn’t need to be done often, we suggest you bring it in to THE BIKE SHOP and let us do it as part of your annual tune-up.
What to do
Fortunately, the parts that should be lubed often are easily accessible. These are the chain and pivot points on the brakes and derailleurs.
Use a bicycle-specific lubricant (we recommend Ice Wax, which we sell at THE BIKE SHOP) that is less likely to attract dirt and grime. With the bicycle stationary, slowly rotate the pedals backwards, putting roughly one drop of lubricant on each link of the chain. When the entire chain has been lubricated, let it set for a few minutes, then gently wipe any excess lube off of the chain with an old rag.
The brake and derailleur pivots are the points where the brakes and derailleurs move. As with the chain, use a bicycle-specific lubricant and place a small amount right at the point where the part moves. Be careful not to get any lube on your brake pads!