Performing your own bike maintenance is a good thing. It will save you money, and understanding how your bike works is helpful for those roadside malfunctions that can occur from time to time.
There are some maintenance mistakes that nearly all cyclists make in their first year of riding – here are 5 that you can avoid;
1) Not checking a tyre for damage in the event of a puncture
Time and time again I’ve heard criticism that a tyre is faulty, or inner tubes are faulty – the validation behind this assertion being that the user has suffered multiple punctures, in quick succession.
Tyres and tubes can be faulty – but it isn’t all that common. What is very common is for riders in a hurry to get back on the bike after a flat not slowing down to check the inside of the tyre for debris – thorns or stones. I’ve done this myself on a cold ride – the result was stopping 2 minutes down the road to repair the second puncture (as snow continued to fall).
Most punctures are caused by debris – thorn, glass, flint – and if you don’t find and remove this object, it will pierce a new tube just the same. If you struggle to find it, pump up the old tube, and use the location of the hole to match up on the tyre (that’s why your tyre Logo should match up with the valve).
2) Not wiping down a lubed chain
Lubing your chain is good – it prevents rust, and keeps it running smoothly without rattle. Too much lube is bad – it picks up dirt which effectively exfoliates the chain.
When you apply lube, run a small dribble of it along the inside of the chain – and turn the pedal as you go, shifting between gears to get even spread through the cogs. Then, wipe the excess of gently with an old rag, again rotating the pedal backwards as you hold the rag still.
Then, wipe the chanistays – to remove any lube they may have picked up, that will just be a magnet for dirt.
3) Not greasing pedals and overtightening them
Yay – you’ve bought new pedals! Your current concern is getting them on the bike, and taking them for a spin.
At this point, spare a thought for ‘you’ in 6 months time, a year, or 3 years – when you need to pack the bike into a bike box, or buy new pedals. If you don’t apply a thin layer of grease to the pedal spindle, and overtighten them, this will be incredibly hard, and can result in you slamming your hand in to the chainring with the force required, or a trip to the bike shop.
The grease needs to be just a tiny fingerfull, spread evenly over the spindle. In terms of tightness, do the majority of the job with your hand, then use an allen yet to turn the pedal so it is firmly in place, but don’t feel the need to yank it tight.
4) Over-tightening bolts
It can be tempting to tighten a bolt as hard as you can – to make sure it doesn’t slip. This is not necessary.
Seatposts, steerer and bar clamps are bolts that often get over-tightened. The component or bike manual will tell you what the correct torque is – usually 5Nm. If you have a torque wrench, use that. If not, ask someone in a bike shop to show you how tight that is, and learn how it feels.
Over-tightening at best results in rounded off bolts which need to be drilled out (as the allen key slips when you try to loosen them), and at worst, cracked components – though this applied more to carbon parts.
5) Leaving cable replacement too long
Brake and gear cables need replacing fairly regularly – once a year is sensible, though this will vary depending on how often and where you ride.
It isn’t a tough job, but it is a bit fiddly, and one that it’s easy to put off. However, leave it too long and the gear cable can stretch, making shifting tough, or fray – which makes shifting tough and replacement a bigger job if fibers of the cable are so thin that they become hard to remove. They can also snap, which means a long ride home in the same gear.