With summer on the horizon and the nights drawing out, more hours of carefree pedalling are on offer and you wouldn't want these to be curtailed by a crocked bike. We've put together a handy bike maintenance guide to help you get the best from your machine.
As with much in life, bike maintenance lives by the maxim 'prevention is better than cure'. Keep your bike clean and in good working order and bigger problems shouldn't occur. Ignoring that rattle, wobble or squeak could prove costly in the long run as they could develop into a broken chain, flat tyre or faulty brake.
1. Clean your bike
A clean bike is a smooth riding, faster bike. Keeping your bike free of grit and dirt will help the drivetrain remain fluent and enable you to crisply change gear. Stand your bike upright, or use a workstand, and rinse the bike all over to get rid of dirt and grit using a cleaning product to remove any stubborn grime. Then get to work on the chain using a brush and degreaser to clean the chain on both sides ensuring you get into the teeth of the chain rings. Next, clean the wheels paying attention to the cassette and brake track. Rinse again with clean water, dry the chain with a rag, re-lube it and your bike will look road/track ready.
2. Check your wheels
Dirty wheels can compromise your safety as the brake pads won't grip as effectively on grubby rims and you'll be at increased risk of getting a puncture – dirt and grime will also hide any cracks or splits in the tyre – inspect them carefully as your tyres are the only contact point between you and the road. Once you've thoroughly cleaned your wheels check that your spokes are sound and correctly tensioned and then flip the bike over and ensure that the wheel is true – it should spin freely without any side-to-side movement.
Why is it important to keep your bike tyres clean? / Image: Solé Bicycles, Unsplash
3. Check your brakes
You don't need us to tell you the importance of being able to stop efficiently so take this opportunity to carefully check your cables and pads. With the wheel off the ground, spin it and pull the brakes – the wheel should lock immediately. Ensure that the brake pads are making even contact with either side of the wheel rim and that they're wearing at an even rate. In addition, check that the brake lever operates cleanly and lubricate accordingly and ensure that the brake cables have enough tension in them.
4. Tighten everything up
Once your bike is clean, well lubricated and you've checked the brakes, wheels etc then one of your final jobs is to ensure that all the key bolts on your bike are tight. It's worth investing in a torque wrench as most bolts on your bike will have a torque rating and therefore should not be overtightened. For example, if you overtighten the headset the handlebar won't turn freely and you could damage the bearings, whilst a headset that's too loose will create a knocking feeling when applying the brakes.
5. Get a bike service
If you're not confident in the art of bike maintenance or if there are certain areas in which you might struggle – replacing a spoke or brake cable for example - then why not go and get your bike professionally serviced by your friendly local bike shop? You should be able to find a bike service on offer at a reasonable price if worst comes to worst and you can't solve the problem by yourself. Here, an expert will be able to check your bike over to give you some peace of mind. There are also different levels of bike servicing available from a simple check and lubrication to a full-blown strip down and service of front and rear hubs, drivetrain etc.
Your well-maintained bike should now glide along smoothly ready for you to be able to take advantage of what's left of the summer weather!