1. Listen to your bike
A well maintained bike should run almost silently. It should glide across the road, barely making a noise. If you bike starts to squeak, rattle or clunk, then there is an issue, which needs sorting. It could be something as simple as a dry chain, which needs oiling, or it could be something a lot more significant such as a loose bearing. Whatever it is, get it fixed straight away and don’t let it become a bigger problem.
2. Standard pre-ride checks
Get into the habit of checking your bike before each ride. It needn’t take long. A lot of cyclists follow the ‘M Check’ procedure. Looking at your bike side on, start at the back wheel and work your way up to the saddle, down to the bottom bracket, back up to the handlebars and finally back down again to the front hub and wheel, checking each component as you do so. Visit British Cycling’s ‘M Check’ video on what to look for and how to do it:
3. A clean bike is a happy bike
No one wants to ride a dirty bike, but there is a practical element to it too. A shiny, well-polished bike will ride smoother and be able to crisply shift gears. If your bike is free of grit and dirt you are reducing the chances of any grime getting into your chain or onto your wheels. Dirt in your chain could affect its fluency and ability to shift up and down on the crank set and rear cassette.
Using a spray on degreaser is a great and easy way to help clean your chain. Use a small brush with stiff bristles and work the degreaser into the chain on both sides – with the chain in the big ring. Turn the cranks and work along the leading edge into each chain link. Make sure you get into the teeth of the chain rings and don’t ignore the inside of the chain ring either
4. Wheel health
Mucky wheels will reduce the efficiency of your brake pads, and increase the chances of punctures. If your rims are very dirty, brake pads won’t be able to grip the wheel properly. You are now not in control of your bike and your safety is compromised. It’s very important you keep your rims free from any deposits. Anything sharp could even damage the surface of the braking pad.
Dirt will also hide any splits or cracks in your tyres. Not all punctures are immediate - many are slow. It’s not uncommon to head out on a ride with fully inflated tyres and then due to a slow puncture, completely deflate a few hours later. A clean wheel will help expose any road debris sticking in your tyres. Remove them, inspect the damage, and fix it if necessary. Lift the bike and spin each wheel and keep an eye out for glass or flints. You can clean wheels by simply using a wet sponge.
5. Bike service
If you aren’t bike savvy, then you can go and get your bike serviced. In fact, even if you are, it’s still advisable. Just like you would with a car, getting it serviced will help uncover any potential problems. Even if there aren’t any major issues, getting an expert to give check it, will give you complete peace of mind.
The majority of bike stores offer servicing at a very affordable price. Many will offer different types of servicing depending on what you want. For example, a simple bike service may be just to check components, gears and lubricate your chain. While more extensive servicing will include a full strip down, front and rear hub checks and bottom bracket and head services.
While these checks may seem laborious, repetitive, and in some cases, insignificant, spotting any malfunctions before you ride could keep you safe when out cycling. Remember, you’d much rather have a problem off the bike than on it.