Riding your bike is one of the best feelings in the world, but you can be quickly kept off the saddle if your bike breaks. To ensure you can continue enjoying your favourite pastime, you need to make sure your bike is properly maintained.
Even if you’re a complete mechanics novice, it’s never been easier to service your own bike, with tools easily available and a plethora of online guides (like this one!) and video tutorials. Whether you’ve just brought your first bike or you’re looking to save a bit of money by doing some DIY, we’ve created an ultimate bike maintenance guide to keeping your two-wheeled companion in peak condition.
Your tool checklist
You’re not going to be able to do a good job of maintaining your bike without the correct tools on hand. Handily, a lot of the things you need you’re likely to have around the house already, and the rest are very easy to get hold of from your nearest bicycle shop.
After every ride
It’s tempting to get into the habit of hopping off your bike and putting it straight into the garage – especially when you’re exhausted after a long ride - but doing a few checks and bike maintenance after each time you’ve been out will save you a lot of time (and money!) in the long term.
1. Clean your bike
Keeping your bike clean not only psychologically gives you a boost, but it also makes your bike more efficient as a build-up of grime affects the drivetrain. To save you a longer job somewhere along the line, it’s best to give your bike a five-minute rinse with a hose after every ride to keep on top of it.
2. Make the necessary checks
Checking a few things after every ride means you’re able to spot any issues that may have started to show and nip the problem in the bud before it worsens and turns into a more serious (and expensive) problem. Here’s what to look out for after each ride:
- Tyre pressure - If it's low (if the tyre feels squishy), fill to the correct PSI which is listed on the side of your tyre.
- Tyre surface – Look for any debris that may be embedded in the tyre to avoid a flat.
- Quick release wheels – Check they’re tight and secure.
- Brakes – Make sure they’re grabbing and that they’re touching the rims and not the tyres.
- Chain – If it looks dry, add some lube.
Every month or 500 miles (whichever comes first)
Once a month has passed, or you’ve ridden 200 miles, it’s time to do a more thorough clean and check over.
1. A deeper clean
For your bike’s monthly deep clean, take a damp cloth and run it over the chain, frame and in between the sprocket frames, and use an old toothbrush to scrub the chain and the derailleur. Warm soapy water usually does the job, but if the chain is particularly oily, use a degreaser on the toothbrush and re-lube after cleaning. Your bike’s frame will also benefit with a spray of bike wash before the final rinse down.
2. A more thorough inspection
Hopefully, because you’ve been giving your bike the once over after each ride, you’ll have spotted any issues that may have arisen. However, some problems need a more thorough check to diagnose, so every month look out for:
- Cleat wear and tear - You might not notice how worn down your cleats are until they fail. Check them every month to make sure they haven’t worn too thin.
- Worn brakes - Most pads have grooves in them, and you should see daylight looking through those grooves when looking from the top of the bike down through the brake pads. If your pads are so worn there are no grooves visible, they need to be replaced.
- Loose spokes – If you check the wheels and the spokes are loose, the wheels may have to be re-trued.
- Pivot points – Lube the pivot points of the pedals, brakes and derailleurs to prevent premature wear.
3. Test moving and connecting parts
Testing the tightness of the moving and connecting parts regularly is important for obvious reasons – something coming loose mid-ride is far from ideal!
Using a wrench, test the tightness of the pedals, handlebar bolts, crankarms, seat and seat post bolts, and the chainring bolts. Even if they’re all tight, it’ll certainly help your peace of mind while you’re cycling knowing everything is in place.
Every six to 12 months or 4,000 miles
The good news is that you only have to do a very in-depth service every six to twelve months, and because your trusty bike is your pride and joy, this is often a very satisfying experience. This will mostly consist of the checks and bike maintenance you’ve already been doing, just in a bit more detail.
1. An even deeper clean
As with a car, every so often cleaning has to go a little bit deeper than making sure the bike frame and chain are nice and shiny.
Aside from your routine clean that you’ve been doing, clean the drivetrain (chain, chainrings, cassette, front and rear derailleurs) with a biodegradable solvent which will cut through all the grease without damaging your bike’s paintwork.
It may seem counterintuitive to clean your bike’s wheels as they’re going to get dirty again straight away, but cleaning the wheels and rims means you’re able to properly see if there any signs of wear like worn sidewalls or cracks in the spokes or rim.
Read more: How To Clean Your Rims And Brake Pads
2. Other things to check
If you’ve been following the guide so far, you’ve been on the lookout for anything that’s not right with your bike regularly, but there are other things to inspect at least once or twice a year:
- Brake and gear cables – make sure there isn’t any fraying, breakage, rust or corrosion and replace if necessary.
- Bike frame – once you’ve cleaned the frame, check for any cracks or dents that might compromise the structural integrity of the bike.
- Accessories – if you have them, check their bolts are secure and in good condition.
- Chain, cassette, and chainring – if they’re looking worn, get the parts replaced.
- Spare tube and patch kit – make sure your spare tube still holds air and the patch kit has enough glue and patches.
Read more: How To Fix A Puncture
3. Bar tape
It seems a shame to take all this care to look after your bike and leave it with shabby, worn down tape. Nothing gives your bike a new lease of life quite like fresh handlebar tape, so to finish off your bike service why not treat your bike (and yourself)?
Bar tape usually starts to wear down and need replacing once a year, but you can change it every time you want to try a new brand or if you get bored with the colour!
Read more: How To Wrap Drop Handlebars
Our final tip is to keep some latex gloves handy – bike maintenance can get oily!