Basics of Bike Maintenance

Bike in garage
Time to tune it up, and get rolling! Photo credit: florriebassingbourn
As the bicycle continues to gain popularity in cities around the Bay Area with each passing week, more people are undoubtedly dusting off those old 10-speeds that have just been sitting in the garage for the past decade. It doesn’t take much, so if you’re looking to hop on the bike train, it might be a good time to make sure your bike is up to speed and in shape for riding. Here are a few things that can easily be checked and maintained to keep your bike in operable shape:

  • Tires: Perhaps the most instinctive thing we all check on our bikes before rolling; just squeeze the tires and if necessary, inflate the tires until they’re firm, right? Not quite…. somewhere along the sidewall of your tire there’ll be a recommended PSI that the tire should be inflated to, inflate to that number, and no higher (or risk popping your inner tube!) If your tires are several years old, it is probably a good idea to replace the tires and inner tubes altogether.
  • Chain: If you haven’t been riding for a while, your bike’s chain may need a little lubrication to run smoothly and efficiently. Making sure your chain is well lubricated is something to inspect on a monthly basis and performed as needed (which may be indicated by the chain making sounds, clunking while pedaling or if you’re having trouble shifting gears).
  • Brakes: Naturally, it’s helpful to have functioning brakes when cycling. Before getting on your bike, especially if it’s years old and hasn’t been used, apply the brakes to make sure they work adequately for your needs. While maintaining brakes is not as straightforward as lubing a chain or inflating a tire, it is easy to detect if something’s astray with your stopping ability. If your brakes are not as responsive as you’d like there could be a number of issues, ranging from oxidization of the brake cables to adjusting the space between the brake pads and the bike wheel’s rims. Thankfully, bike shops often diagnose problems for free and if a minor fix is needed, bike shops or bike cooperatives, may even offer to help you for free. If you want to try your hands at getting the job done yourself, there are helpful videos such as the one below that are easy to follow and clear with instructions

There are of course, many other parts of a bicycle that need maintenance, but these are some of the “usual suspects” that keep a bike from properly running and are relatively easy to fix. Hopefully these tips can keep the wheels rolling on your faithful, if old and slightly rusted, steed!

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