Guest blogger Simon Bone is the founder of mobile bike servicing, BikeUp. Visit www.bikeup.co.uk and book mobile bike mechanic in just a few clicks.
For some cyclists, giving their bike hours of TLC is all part of the joy of cycling. But for the rest of us time strapped 21st century guys and gals, bike maintenance ranges from ‘necessary evil’ at best, to ‘black art best left to the professionals’ at worst.
However, it doesn’t need to be complicated. And when it comes to bike maintenance, prevention really is better than cure. Setting aside 15 minutes after every few rides to check the condition of your bike will save you a lot of time, money and nights on the sofa (earned as a result of having to summon your other half to the middle of nowhere to pick you up because your bike has given up the ghost).
Below is an easy 10-point bike health check to help you keep your bike in tip-top condition.
1. Check for cracks in the frame
A cracked frame is a serious safety risk. The most common places to find cracks on aluminium frames are welded areas, or where the frame is butted. Places to check include the down tube, and particularly below the head tube – look out for hairline cracks as well as the more obvious damage. Carbon frames have a special coating and when this is scratched, it can look like a crack. If you are unsure, it’s always best to take advice from a qualified mechanic.
2. Remove the seat post and reapply grease
It’s common for seat posts to get stuck in the frame, as the materials can bond together over time (and it can be a tough job getting it out!) The best way to avoid it is to regularly remove and regrease the seat post. You can use some black tape to mark the height of your seat post before removing and regreasing. Normal bike grease is find for an aluminium post, but you should use carbon assembly paste for carbon frames and seat posts (this prevents your seat from slipping).
3. Inspect wheels and rims
Any dirt on the braking surface is going to affect your braking performance. Clean them with a rag or sponge, being sure to follow manufacturer instructions if you have specialist wheels such as carbon fibre rims. Also, check that there is no damage to the rims themselves, including bends or gouges. Spin your wheel in the frame and watch for any sideways wobble, which is a sign of loose spokes and can affect the performance and safety of the bike.
4. Check your brakes for wear
If your brakes are squealing they may require readjustment. For calliper brakes, you can rough the pads using sandpaper or an emery board, and be sure to remove any grit or metal. If the pad has hardened, or if it’s below the wear line, it will need to be replaced. Disc brake pads and rotors should be cleaned with a brake-specific cleaner.
5. Check braking performance
Simply apply your brake lever. If it reaches the handlebars (or gets with a couple of cm), your brakes will not provide effective stopping force. This usually requires adjustment to cable tension or bleeding of hydraulics to correct.
6. Inspect cables for wear
Check the end of the cables to make sure they have a crimp in place, and that there is no fraying. Inspect any visible inner cable for rust or damage, and spray them with lubricant after every few rides.
7. Check bearings for wear
This requires a little more knowledge and expertise. If you feel grittiness or play (sideways movement) in your headset and bottom bracket, you may require new bearings. However, you’re always best to get a qualified mechanic to check this if you are unsure.
8. Check chain wear
We recommend you buy a proper chain tool to check wear. They are very cheap and will come in handy. If the tool shows wear <.75 you should think about replacing your chain in order to preserve the order drivetrain components.
9. Check tyres for cuts and wear
Deflate the tyre to about it half its normal pressure, so the tyre is pliable but not completely flat. Rotate the wheel in the frame and use your hand to manipulate the tyre and expose any cuts in the sidewalls or tread. If the cuts go all the way through, or are very deep, you should replace the tyre. Using good quality tyres, and keeping them in good condition will minimise punctures.
10. Check all bolts and fittings to ensure nothing is lose
It sounds obvious, but its crucially important for both safety and performance of the bike. Bolts should always be tightened to manufacturer torque settings using a torque wrench avoid over-tightening (particularly when dealing with carbon frames and components).
Bike maintenance may not be the most exciting aspect of cycling for some, but looking after your bike will help ensure your safety, improve your performance and maximise your enjoyment.
In addition to your own maintenance regime, we recommend you get your bike serviced by a qualified or experienced mechanic at least once a year to keep it running smoothly. And my best advice is that if you are ever in any doubt, don’t wing it; get in touch and we’ll be happy to provide you with advice and support.