The basics of bike maintenance

Haven’t had the chance to dust off your bike and go for a ride yet? We’d like to help get you back in the saddle if you haven’t been on a bike in a while.

Here are our best tips for fixing up and maintaining your bike through the cycling season.


What you’ll need:

  • Rag: A rag will be useful for cleaning all parts of your bike, especially the chain.
  • Toothbrush: For a thorough clean of your chain and gears, you might want to use an old toothbrush to get in to those small places.
  • Tire Pump: By far your most useful tool. You’ll use this regularly to pump your tires.
  • A patch kit: In case you find a hole in your tire, you may want a patch kit to fix or replace the inner tube.
  • Bike lubricant: Lubricant is a solution that you put on your bike’s chain after you clean it. It is a multipurpose tool, but helps to keep your chain and your brakes moving well.
  • Degreaser: Degreaser is a solution used to clean your chain, before you lube it. In some cases, you can buy a particular bike lubricant that will perform double duty, and will clean your chain while also lubricating it.
  • Allen keys: Another versatile tool to own, you will want several in different sizes to use on different parts. (They come with IKEA furniture).
  • Dish Soap: Dish soap is useful for cleaning the rims of your tires, your seat, etc. We would not recommend using this on your chain.

How to tune up your bike:

  • Clean your bike! Using the dish soap and rag, clean all large parts on the frame of your bike and the rims on your tires. Do your best to keep your bike as clean and dry as possible. Too much water will eventually lead to rust. It may be easier for you to clean the bike if it has been flipped upside down, this way you can pedal the bike freely. Afterward, using the rag and degreaser, clean your chain and gears. These tend to get dirty with wear, and cleaning them will ensure a smoother ride.
  • Check your gears. Take your bike outside for a quick ride down the block. While you’re riding, switch your gears up and down, to see if they are switching smoothly. If they are not, take some lubricant and apply it to either end of the gear cables. This will help things move smoothly in the future.
  • Check your brakes. The same goes for your brakes. If you find your brakes are sticky, lube either end of the brake line cable in the same way. Secondly, check your brake pads. If you find that your brake pads are completely worn out, you may need to replace them. There are many different types of brakes, so visit your nearest bike repair shop with your bike in tow, so you can ensure you purchase the right set of new brake pads.
  • Pump up your tires! Look at the label on your tire for the recommended psi (pounds per square inch measurement of air). While you’re pumping the tire, watch the gauge and make sure you don’t exceed the psi limit.
  • Tighten loose bolts and parts. Check your seat post, handle bars, and all areas for loose parts.

Bike Maintenance Tips

  • If you are riding your bike regularly, check your tire pressure every week or two.
  • Clean your bike approximately 3-4 times a year. Depending on whether you ride all year, or just spring to fall, you may want to do this at the beginning of the season, half way through your own riding cycle, and at the end before you put your bike away for the winter. The more frequently you clean and maintain your bike, the easier it will be in the future.
  • You really only need to clean your chain twice a year, if you’re using your bike regularly in mostly dry conditions. Approximately once at the beginning of the spring/summer riding season, and once before you put it away.
  • If you are regularly biking in the rain, make sure you dry your bike off when you bring it home. The less exposure to water, the less opportunity for rust to form.

If you need a little visual reinforcement, I found this video to be very helpful. But, if you don’t feel comfortable completing a tune-up on your own, take your bike to a local repair shop and ask for advice from a professional.