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  • Writer's pictureJohn Robinson

12 Bike Maintenance Tips

Clean your bike.

Wipe it down right after a dirty ride, before the dirt hardness and crusts onto your bike. It’s just easier to clean that way. If you can’t do that, a bucket of hot water and (environmentally friendly) dish-washing liquid will do.

Use lube. But not too much.

If you aren’t lubricating your chain, you’re probably annoying someone with a squeaky chain. A dry chain wears out faster and doesn’t perform as well. We recommend Boeshield T9 or Rock N Roll Gold Chain Lubricant. Don’t forget to wipe off the excess lubricant with a rag. Too much lube will cause your chain to collect grime.

Learn how to change a flat.

Or you can pay a bike shop to change it for you. We’ll take your money--but we’d rather teach you how to change it yourself so you don’t have to walk your bike home with a flat tire. That sucks. Carry a spare tube, tire levers, and CO2 or a mini pump in your seat pack and you’ll always be ready.

Avoid flat tires.

Come of the most common causes are flats are avoidable.

  • Inflate your tires properly. Look at the tire pressure recommendation on the sidewall of your tire, and make sure your tires are within that range before every ride.

  • Going on a road ride? Don’t ride in the shoulder. Broken glass and debris and other crap lives there. If you ride on the road, hold your lane position (three feet to the left of the white line or curb). You’re safer this way, too.

Get thee a multitool.

On most bikes, you can’t even move your seat up and down without a hex wrench. You need one to put on a water bottle cage or to tighten the cleats on your shoes. A good multitool has a few different hex and torx heads, and maybe a chain breaker and a spoke wrench if you get a fancy one. You could also chuck it at someone’s head in a fight if you had to.

Replace missing bar end plugs.

Have you ever seen those scientists who study ice cores from Antarctica? If you lose a bar end plug and fail to replace it, your handlebars could take a flesh core out of your body in a crash. Some riders have been impaled this way. Still not convinced? Google “bar end plug degloving,” but don’t blame me when you can’t sleep tonight. Bar end plugs are cheap, and your shop might even give you an extra one for free just to keep you safe. There’s no excuse for riding around without one.

Cable ends need caps.

Your shifting and braking operate with cables. These work best when the cables are in good shape. Cables without caps can fray, compromising their integrity and their effectiveness. Also, loose wires hurt a whole bunch when they poke your leg or your finger. Those little caps are important. If you lose one, stop by the shop and we’ll give you one.

Change your cleats when they get worn. (need the pic of your worn-ass cleats)

These are John Robinson’s cleats. You might think he lives in a remote location where people have limited access to cleats, or in a post-apocalyptic universe where cleat supply is scarce and cyclists trade Clif bars or craft beer for them. If only John Robinson knew a good local bike shop that carried them. Worn cleats can make it difficult to clip in or out… or make it too easy and allow your feet to come loose when you don’t want them to. Either way, it’s not something you want, and it doesn’t cost that much to replace them. Tell John to replace his cleats more often next time you see him. If you buy your cleats with us, we’ll even install them on your shoes in the right position.

For the love of Pete, get a new chain.

Chains wear out and stretch over time. When a chain stretches beyond a certain limit, it doesn’t fit the chainrings properly, and starts to wear away at the teeth. This wear actually changes the shape of the teeth, which can prevent a new chain from fitting properly on now-worn-out old chainring. Okay, look, short answer, it’s cheaper to replace your chain than your chainrings and maybe your cassette. If you get regular tune-ups, we’ll make sure your chain is in good shape.

Know when it’s time for new tires.

Tread wear is one of the easiest ways to know it’s time for new tires. That nice tread pattern that was there when you bought your bike has completely worn off? That’s tread wear. But what if you don’t put enough miles on your bike to wear down the tread? Those old tires may still need to be replaced. The rubber and sidewall should feel supple, not hard, crunchy, or flakey. You might even see cracks. Whether you’ve put 100 miles or 1,000 on them, it’s time to replace.

Use grease on your water bottle cage bolts.

Even a person who doesn’t do their own bike maintenance can put on a water bottle cage, right? Sure, but don’t forget the grease! Those bolts that hold the cage to the frame can seize without grease, making the difficult to remove later. Removing seized bolts can even damage you frame. We recommend bike-specific grease like Park Tool Polylube 1000.

Yes, paying for an annual tune-up will save you money in the long run.

Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to bodies and bikes. Your annual tune-up allows your mechanic to catch problems, like a worn chain, that can damage your bike and end up costing you hundreds of dollars later in replacement parts. And if you don’t know how to check your brake pads for wear, your annual tune-up is a must. You don’t want to find out the hard way--on the road--that your brake pads are bad.

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