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How do you do the basic maintenance on a bike?

by Navyatha Sandiri

Your bike needs a lot of care, love, and attention to detail to ensure a smooth ride. And thus, routine bike maintenance is the best way to keep the bike in good condition.

Understanding the fundamentals of home bike maintenance will certainly help you minimize the frequency of your bike shop and will also take a little more life out of your bike components.

Although going to your bike mechanic is often the first thing to consider in case of a problem, there are some simple bike maintenance skills that you should learn and can practice in between rides, preferably at home.

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I’ve worked in bike shops for years, and here are the 7 basic bike maintenance routines that every cyclist should know about.

1. Maintain Your Bike Clean

Keeping your bike clean is one of the most simple maintenance tasks you can do to prolong the life of your bike. It is particularly the case if you spend much of your time riding in muddy or wet weather. Maintaining the cleanliness of your bike parts is crucial to ensuring that it functions as intended.  In addition to keeping your bike sparkling, cleaning also protects bike parts from wear and tear and helps to keep corrosion and rust at bay.

With the best performance, I recommend that you use a cleaner unique to your wheel. A bike cleaner spray will work wonders. Spray the cleaner on your bike and leave it for a few minutes before wiping it away. I’m sure you’ve all seen videos of mechanics cleaning a pro-cycling bike using a high-pressure spray. You’d like to prevent that because high pressure will quickly wash off all the grease on the bearings. Here are some additional bike cleaning accessories that you will need to do the job:

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Clean Rag: Have a range of these near you for general washing, drying, oiling, and wax-related activities.

Cleaning of the brushes: Have a few brushes in different shapes and sizes so you can access the hard-to-reach parts of your bike to remove debris. An old toothbrush could work perfectly, too.

Chain Degreaser: Use a bike-specific degreaser to clean the rubber parts of the chain. Avoid turpentine or kerosene as the color on your bike will be corroded.

Instead, you can get a bike cleaning kit with all the various types of brushes you’ll need, wheel cleaner, chain degreaser, and rags.

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2. Keep the Drivetrain Clean and Well Lubed

I always compare keeping the drivetrain clean with changing your engine oil.

Lubing the chain and cleaning the drive train increases their lifetime, guarantees smoother shifting of the gear, and provides smoother drives. The duration of you cleaning the chain depends on how, where, and when you ride it. Whether you are strict sunny weather or a paved road biker, you can get away less frequently by cleaning the drivetrain.

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So if you ride a lot in muddy and wet weather, after every ride, you can clean and lubricate your drivetrain to prevent your chain from getting dirty. After washing, be sure to re-apply the chain lube. Bike Cleaner / Soap Cleaner. Ideally, you want to use a bike-specific cleaner, but a diluted dishwashing detergent would do the trick as well. T can be a long process to clean the drivetrain, particularly if you’re just starting out. That’s why there are special chain cleaning devices like the Park Tool CM 5.2 that make life simpler for you. Alternatively, if you’re running for a short time, you can use a rag to quickly clean the chain. Wrap it around the chain and turn the pedals back.

Fast cleaning is better than no cleaning at all!

3. Check the Tire Pressure

Check the tire pressure on the bike every three or four days. You’ll be shocked how much air pressure some of the bike tubes will lose in just a few days. Most bikers pump their bike tires up to somewhere between 80 – 120 psi. You want a powerful floor pump with an air pressure gauge at home. The tire pressure is highly dependent on a variety of variables, such as driving conditions, road surface, tire size and form, and body weight.

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Generally, the rising the tires, the lower the air pressure, so that the other factors remain constant. A small change in tire pressure will have a major effect on the handling and comfort of your vehicle. Please remain within the prescribed tire pressure of both the tire and wheelset suppliers. Some clincher wheelsets could have a lower maximum air pressure than the tires you’re using.

Pay attention to that.

4. Ensure Nuts and Bolts are Tight

Your bike parts are held together by dozens of bolts and nuts. No sight is worse than that of a bike falling apart when you’re on a trip. Maintaining a tight bike is crucial because loose and improperly tightened bike nuts and bolts could result in serious wear, reduce performance, and create a risk while riding.

The best way to keep your bike parts safe is to conduct a simple weekly test. You should gently bounce the bike off the ground and keep your ear to any loose nuts and bolts. When tightening nuts and bolts, be sure to test the correct torque requirements with the manufacturer’s manual. Under-tightening could result in squeaky noise while you ride while over-tightening could result in physical harm.

If you have carbon bits, remember to always use a torque wrench and adjust it to the correct torque rates.

5. Check the Brakes

Ensuring that the brakes are working as expected is important to your own safety and to the other cyclists around you. It’s even more important if a lot of descent is involved in your ride. You definitely don’t want the brakes to malfunction when you fly down at 40 mph. The brakes are to compensate for many things:

Check the brakes: Pull and keep the brake levers and make sure the brakes are working as intended.

Wear the brake pads: There is a wear indicator on most brake pads. Make sure you’re not going over the defined line.

The toe-in brake pads: You want to make sure that the front portion of the pads first hits the braking surface and then all the pads when the brake levers are completely pulled.

Contamination of it: If using disk brakes, ensure that the rotors are kept clean to avoid contamination and decreased braking efficiency. You can use disk brake cleaners like those from Muc Off but never use WD40.

6. Index the Gears

Upon riding your bike for a while, you’ll probably remember that the gear doesn’t work as easily as when your bike was new. If the cables or derailleurs are not harmed, you can easily re-index the gears at home.

Here’s how you can easily index the gears.

Locate the barrel adjuster of your wheel. Your barrel adjuster will be on the rear derailleur where the cable is ingressed. It’s normally similar to the shifters for the front derailleur. Do you need some tightening of your cable? You will decide whether you need a tight or loose cable. Place your bike on the repair stand and spin the pedals as you shift gears. If your bike chain doesn’t travel up the larger cogs quickly, you need a strong rope and vice versa.

Adjust the cable tension. You already know what the problem is, so you can use the barrel adjuster to conduct the gear re-indexing. Flip the barrel adjuster clockwise (outward) to slacken the cable and anti-clockwise (inward) to tighten it. The barrel adjuster of your bike will click when you turn it. Each click is considered to be a quarter-turn.

7. Replace Wear and Tear Components

Is your bike making odd noises, is the gear shifting not as quick as it was, or is it taking a little longer to stop? Here are five bike components that you should test and remove immediately.


The chain is possibly the most common bike part that needs to be replaced. A standard bike chain is built to cover between 2000 and 4000 miles, depending on how and where it is being powered. If there’s a significant stretch or wear on your chain, it’s time to replace it.

Cleaning the chain periodically helps you to get more miles out of it before you need a replacement.

You can easily test the chain wear using a chain checker like the Park Tool CC 2.2. It precisely tests the distance between two chain links. If the chain duration is above 0.75 seconds, it’s time to get a new chain. A worn-out chain would easily wear out the tape and chain links, which may lead to even more costly replacements.

The cassette is another that bike part that undergoes wear and tear. As a general rule of thumb, you’re usually going to need a new cassette for every other chain replacement. In other words, the cassette is going to last you two chains. Often, with careful handling and maintenance of the drive train, the cassette will last up to three chains. If you feel that the gears are skipping after you’ve switched to a new chain, it’s a sign that the cassette cog is worn out.

The downside is that even though one cog is worn out, you have to remove the whole cassette because the manufacturers don’t sell a single cog.


Tires are arriving between the chain and the tape. Based on the type of tire you’re wearing, often the tires wear out quicker than both the chain and the tape. This is especially true of the flexible tires used for racing. They typically last between 1,000 to 2,000 miles at most. Some tires like the Continental GP4000 S2 have a very handy wear indicator. On other tires, you’re going to need to manually monitor the miles you’ve made and/or visually inspect them.

For most cases, bike tires will last up to 3000 to 4000 miles if they are worn out naturally (no cuts).

Brake Pads

Brake pads can be tricky because they don’t have to be replaced often. And that’s why they’re still ignored by most riders. The brake wear indicators can be found on most brake pads. Upon hitting the full wear, you want to remove them.