Bike Maintenance Basics


Bike Maintenance Basics

The maintenance schedule for a bike can vary somewhat on how often it’s ridden and what condition it’s in to begin with. Bikes that are ridden off-road or in the rain will need a little more TLC than one that ventures over the Brooklyn Bridge once per month.

However, using the following guidelines will help keep a bike good working condition – and help you know when it’s time to bring it in to a mechanic.

These tips require a few basic tools (allen key, wrench, bike lube and de-greaser.) We sell these in-shop, if you need them. And: Don’t forget a good bike pump, to keep air in your tires!

Every Ride (A Safety Check)

  • Check tire pressure. if it’s low (if the tire feels “squishy”), fill to the correct PSI – which is listed on side of your tire.
  • glance over the tire tread on both tires for embedded debris, to avoid getting a flat.
  • if you have quick release parts (such as wheels or seats, instead of nut/bolt), check that they are tight and that the wheels are secure
  • spin wheels to check for wobbles. if the wheel wobbles (instead of rolling smoothly), this indicates that you need to have your wheel trued
  • squeeze brakes to make sure they’re grabbing.  glance over brake pads to see that they are in good condition and that  they touch the rims (not the tires!)
  • if you have a mountain bike, push down on (compress) and release the bike’s suspension to be sure that it’s responding properly
  • look over the bike chain. add chain lube if it looks dry.
  • make sure you are prepared with tools (a spare tube and/or patch kit, tire levers and a pump), in case you encounter a flat while riding. or, that you are close to a bike shop who can do it for you.

Monthly (Every 500 miles)

  • clean bicycle frame with a cloth. inspect frame and components for signs of wear, such as cracks or dents.
  • wipe the chain and cassette cogs clean with a rag + earth-friendly degreaser.  re-lube chain, cassette.
  • check the wheels for loose spokes. if the spokes are loose, you may need to replace them. (this is pretty inexpensive.)
  • using a wrench, test the tightness of the moving and connecting parts: crankarms, pedals, chainring bolts, seat bolt, seatpost bolt, stem bolts, handlebar bolts and all accessory mounting bolts/screws. you are checking to be sure all parts connect properly.
  • lube the brake, derailleur and pedal pivot points.
  • lube the brake and gear cables to prevent binding.  check the cables for fraying and rusting. replace if necessary
  • check clipless pedals and cleats for loose screws/bolts
  • if you have a mountain bike, maintain and lube your suspension

Six Months (Every 2,500 miles)

  • clean and wax the frame to protect the paint/finish.  once it’s clean, inspect bike frame and fork for any cracks or dents.
  • check tires for wear such as dry rot or areas where tread is now too worn. replace if cracks or wear are significant. check your spare tube and patch kit: make sure the spare still holds air and the patch kit has glue + patches.
  • check the condition of hubs, bottom bracket, headset. adjust and/or overhaul as needed.
  • check all cables and housings for fraying, breaks, rust and corrosion and replace if necessary
  • check for worn brake pads and replace if needed; also replace worn handlebar tape or grips
  • check for chain, cassette cog and chainring wear and replace worn parts as needed
  • clean the drivetrain (chain, chainrings, cassette, front and rear derailleurs) with biodegradable solvent and rags
  • if you have a mountain bike, maintain and lube your suspension components

yearly (or 6,000 miles)

  • check all bearing systems: hubs, bottom bracket, headset and pedals. adjust and/or overhaul as needed, based on their condition.
  • check all brake and gear cables + cable housing for fraying, breakage, rust, corrosion. replace if necessary.
  • replace brake pads, rubber brake hoods and handlebar tape if necessary
  • clean and check wheels carefully for signs of wear such as worn sidewalls or cracks where the spoke touches the rim or hub
  • check the hubs, bottom bracket, headset: adjust and/or overhaul as needed
  • overhaul the pedals to check the bearings and add fresh grease. (this can be tricky!)  if you’re using toe straps, check them for wear and replace if needed.
  • maintain and lube your suspension components according to the advice in the owner’s manual
  • lube your frame and home tire pump. check basket, racks and accessories – be sure attachments and bolts seem in OK condition.

Bike care tips:

Keep your bike inside; avoid storing it outside. Weather’s water and dirt will combine to cause harsh wear and cost you more in repairs and service.

Bicycles ridden in rain and/or off-road typically require more frequent and extensive service. If you are a frequent commuter or distance rider, you may find that your bike needs service more often. Probably because you’re having more fun. Nice work!

Don’t use WD40 on your chain!! WD-40 is made for doors and things that move sometimes, not bikes – which have lots of pressure and movement. In fact, WD40 will actually strip your chain of oil, causing metal-on-metal grinding. Rather: Use chain lube!

If your bike has been crashed, or you purchased a used bike, we recommend bringing it in for a thorough check-up to ensure that it’s running properly. Where parts connect or move, if instead of turning or moving they instead “wobble” or creak, something is likely in need of attention. Bring it in – we’re happy to take a look.

Enjoy it! The #1 goal of a bike should be to provide transport and fun. If these details overwhelm you, just focus on the “every ride” section in the left column! Our mechanics are happy to answer questions if you feel in over your head. If you want to learn more, we invite you to check out our maintenance and repair classes!