Everyday Bike Maintenance
Haven’t given your bike any attention in a long time or have been wondering what you could do to keep it spick and span before going out on a ride? Find some tips on prepping your ride and brush up on your bicycle ABC’s.
I’m sure by now everyone knows their ABC’s, however, bikes have their own version that will help you remember what your bike needs to get going.
Tires need air to be able to ride smoothly and cushion the ride. You’ll need a pump; if you don’t have one at home, you can find one at fix-it stations all over Arlington. They’re labeled on our bike map. Bike shops offer pumps if you’d like your own. They’ll have two kinds: a floor pump (great to keep at home) and a hand pump (useful for on the go and for quick fixes).
There are two common valve types: the Presta and the Schrader. The Presta is a thinner valve with a head you have to loosen to let air out and in. The Schrader is thicker than the Presta and is similar to valves found on car tires, where you can attach the pump onto the valve without loosening anything. Some pumps can take both types while others may only take one. On the end of the pump where the air will be coming out, there’s a lever that should be lifted to lock the pump onto the valve allowing airflow. To know how much air to put in the tire first check on the side of the tire for the recommended PSI (pounds per square inch) which generally ranges from 40-100 depending on the tire. Once you’ve found the range, use the gauge on the pump to get it to where you prefer. What happens if the pump doesn’t have a gauge? In this case, you can estimate it by squeezing the tire between your fingers—there should be little to no give when you press down.
To be able to stop you NEED working brakes which is why it’s always a good idea to check that your brakes are working properly before riding. First, engage the brakes by pressing the brake levers. There should be enough engagement so that the levers don’t touch the handlebars whenever you press down but not too much that they won’t move at all. You also want to check that your braking area (found on the rim of the wheel or rotors) is clear of mud/debris by clearing it with a rag. If you have disc brakes, be extra careful not to contaminate the rotors so use a clean rag. While you’re at it, check that the brake pads still have life to them. They usually have a wear line etched in that indicates when it’s time to switch them out. Also, make sure that the pads are hitting the braking area fully and not rubbing on the tires.
Having gears that work properly and move smoothly to help you get up and down all the hills in Arlington is most preferable to having gears that won’t shift and sound like ticking clocks. To prevent that, take your bike to get its yearly tune-up at one of the local bike shops since parts tend to wear over time. For everyday riding, take care of the drivetrain, which includes the chain, cassette (gears on the rear wheel), and front chainring(s) by making sure the area isn’t extremely dirty or dry. To maintain the drivetrain, clean the area with a rag and lubricate the chain with chain lube at least once a month. If you have a single gear you have less to worry about but still want to make sure that your chain is on the bike and moves freely. Where you store your bike may also impact its condition: indoors is always best as your bike will be exposed to the elements and rust if left for long periods of time outdoors.
Last but not least, make sure to check that your wheels are on securely and give your bike a quick joy ride to ensure that nothing is loose. This illustration by Bikeyface sums it all up nicely:
Image credit: Bikeyface.com