Cycling is one of the most beneficial forms of recreation and exercise for people of all ages. With that in mind, here are a few simple tips for keeping your bike in tip-top shape.
Bike maintenance checklist
- It’s crucial that all the working parts of your bike are kept in good order to minimize the chances of your brakes failing, tires slipping or steering letting you down. Fortunately, most maintenance is simple enough that you can teach children to look after their own bikes.
- A rickety bike is hard work to pedal and not safe to ride. Brakes and tires are the main safety points to check, but every bit of your bike must be working well for you to really enjoy your ride.
Before each ride
- Check your tire pressures.
- Make sure that brakes and cables are working well and that any quick-release levers on wheels or saddle are tight.
After each ride
- Check tires for any sharp stones or glass.
- Make sure you haven’t buckled a wheel, and clean off any mud.
Once a month
- Inspect the chain, looking for wear, any tight links or looseness.
- Lubricate the chain (see below).
- Check and lubricate brake levers, all cables and the gear mechanism.
- Look for wear on tires.
- Check and tighten all bolts, particularly on the stem post, headset and cable mounts.
Every six months
- Inspect the bike thoroughly.
- Look for any damage on the frame or signs of rust.
- Check the seat post, handlebar stem, handlebars, chainrings, brake calipers and levers and make sure that all bearings (in the headset, hubs and pedals) are running smoothly.
Maintain the chain
Oil your chain once a month with bicycle oil. This is best done when the chain is clean: remove it using a chain tool, and then soak in white spirit, or use a cleaner that fits directly onto the chain. Chain cleaners are expensive, and not as effective as a long soak, but are quick and easy to use.
Repair a bicycle puncture
- Remove the wheel by unscrewing the nuts or opening the quick-release lever, working the rear wheel free from any gear cogs as you go. Let the air out of the tire.
- Insert a tire lever between the wheel rim and the tire, taking care not to catch the inner tube. Pry the bead of the tire away from the rim, and hook the lever on a spoke. Insert a second lever about 15 centimetres (six inches) farther to release the next section of the tire. Repeat until you can pull out the inner tube.
- Pump up the inner tube, and listen for hissing air to locate the puncture, or immerse the tube in a bowl of water and look for bubbles. Mark the hole with chalk or crayon, deflate the tire, and roughen the area around the puncture with sandpaper. Apply rubber solution, wait until touch-dry, then stick on a patch.
- Inflate the tube slightly, insert the valve into its hole, and slide the tube little by little under the wheel rim. Push the bead over the rim with your thumbs, working your way round until it’s in place. Refit the wheel on the bike, then pump up the tire.
There you go — now you can make sure your bike is in great shape so you can get out and enjoy your ride!