The of exhiliration of training and racing on a bike comes from achieving so much speed on such a small, lightweight machine. At it’s best, cycling is a melding of your body with the bike.
At those moments when you’re flying down a hill at 30 mph or more, it’s easy to forget that your life depends on the proper operation of all the bike’s essential parts. Maintaining your bike is not just a way to extend its useful life, then; along with wearing a helmet, it’s really one of the primary things you can do to keep safe and healthy.
Many people want to take care of their bikes but don’t know what they should be doing, and when they should be doing it. Here’s a quick primer:
- Get to know your bike shop. A good bike shop is more than just a place to buy gear; it’s a place to find out about group rides and a source for advice and information. If you’re hearing strange sounds when riding, or something seems wrong with your gears, the first place to go is to a bike mechanic you can trust. Find the nearest bike shops in your area and stop in for a chat. Your instincts — along with the advice of friends — will tell you which shops you like.
- Do an equipment check every time your ride. Make sure your tires have no cuts or worn patches, which can lead to a blow-out, and make sure they are inflated at or just below the tire pressure recommendation posted on the tires sidewall. Take a look at your brake pads and check for excessive wear. Give the brakes a squeeze to make sure they are working properly. Take a look at the cables — especially the housings at the cable ends — and make sure they aren’t frayed or broken. Finally, when riding, go through all the gears and make sure the shifters are working properly. Cables stretch over time, as does the chain, and they’ll need to be replaced eventually.
- Do a weekly clean-up. If you ride your bike at least three or more times a week, plan to give it a washing every week or so. Use a rag and some soapy water to give a general cleaning, and then use a chain-cleaning kit and lubricant. (Your bike shop can tell you how to do this and direct you to an inexpensive kit, degreaser, and lubricant.)
- Annual tune-up. Although not every rider does this every year, it’s a good idea. Bring your bike into the shop for an overhaul – they will do a safety check and lube the chain all bearings in the wheels and the bottom bracket, which is where the pedal arms attach to your bike frame.