Bike maintenance is one of the most important jobs for any avid rider. Most people will end up heading to a bike shop for mechanical issues, as they don’t have the confidence to maintain their own bike. But as I found out when I became a Cytech qualified mechanic, learning basic bike mechanic skills is not difficult, you just need to put in a little time and effort. To help you on your way, here’s a quick guide on how to maintain your bike at home, which will save you money and time compared to taking it to a bike store.
Cleaning the bike
Cleaning your bike helps improve its performance, and the best part is that it’s easy to do and shouldn’t be viewed as a chore.
All you’ll need is a bucket of warm water, some bike cleaner (or non-abrasive soap), a sponge, a brush, and a clean clean cloth to get started. Liberally apply bike cleaner all over your bike then use a wet sponge to work it in. Don’t forget all the nooks and crannies, especially around the wheels and suspension.
Use a stiff brush to clean the drivetrain, ensuring you get rid of as much of the muck and grime as you can. Rinse off the soap using clean water, then wipe the bike dry with a clean cloth. To make things even easier, bike cleaning brands like Fenwicks, Muc-Off and Juice Lubes all offer bundle kits which cleaners and brushes. Prepare to shell out around £40 for one of these, it’s worth it in the long run. If you need more info, check out this bike cleaning video from British Cycling.
Waiting for a mechanical failure to occur is a cardinal mistake, more so because you can usually prevent these by simply doing routine bike checks. It’s a great ideal to get into a routine habit of inspecting your bike. It’s best to do this when
Inspect your wheels by making sure they are tightly fitted and secure. This includes the tyres, be sure to check for wear, damage and pressure. Examine the spokes to make sure they’ve not become loose, and you can do this by plucking each spoke; they should all sound similar. This is especially important for mountain bikers because we love to rag our bikes over rough terrain. Be sure to check over the chain, the brakes, suspension in a concise way. I’d recommend following the M-Check rule, which this video tells you all about.
Give the chain some love
The BBC’s bike maintenance guide points out that many riders neglect their chain, so it’s a good idea to spend some time making sure it’s clean and well oiled.
What tends to happen with bicycle chains is that the oil we use to lubricate its movement also acts as a magnet for dirt as well. Grime begins to build up between the links which transfer throughout your cassette, jockey wheels and the whole drivetrain system. Cleaning this isn’t tricky if you have the right tools though. Most bike cleaning brands offer specific drivetrain cleaners, or degreasers, which work to break down that oily build up. Here’s a helpful video of how you can get a sparkling clean chain and drivetrain.
Secure the bike
Another big part of bike maintenance is keeping your bike safe and secure. Obviously, there’s always the threat of your bike getting stolen, especially in light of an Evening Standard report noting that a bike was stolen every six minutes last year in the UK.
However, even if thieves aren’t a problem, it’s still not a good idea to leave your bike out in the open. The elements can do a lot of damage over time, notably through corroding the chain. The effects may manifest gradually, but nonetheless, they make your bike worse off day by day. If you can’t keep your bike indoors, investing in a bike shed is the best way to protect your bike from the harsh British weather. The bike sheds on Screwfix show how storage units can vary in size depending on the space you have available in your garden. While a bigger shed is good for keeping all your equipment and tools in one place, the most important job of a bike shed is to keep your bike protected from the elements and potential thieves. Check out this video for more bike storage information.
Taking care of your bike doesn’t have to be a chore. By spending a little time and money to have the appropriate things in place to take care of your bike, means that your bike will take care of you for a lot longer!