How to Maintain a Bike

Properly maintained things — whether bikes, bike helmets, or biking shoes — tend to outlast items that receive little to no maintenance. If you want your lovely bike to last longer and keep giving you smooth rides, don’t neglect it. That’s why learning how to maintain a bike makes complete sense.

Your confidence around bike maintenance will grow as you learn what to do and how to do it. You might even start enjoying doing all the dirty work required to keep your bike clean and well-maintained.

Without any further ado, here’s a list of 10 bike maintenance tips to keep in mind. These suggestions and recommendations should help you keep that piece of metal demonstrating peak performance consistently.

10 Tasks Required for Good Bike Maintenance

Some of the tasks listed below may not need regular attention, though. Take repainting your bike’s frame, for example. Or adjusting saddle height. These two bike maintenance tasks aren’t activities you do all the time. But the rest of the tasks require consistent attention if you want to get the most out of your bike rides. So, here’s the list:

  1. Clean your bike from time to time
  2. Keep your bike’s tires properly inflated
  3. Check and fix worn brake pads
  4. Adjust or fix squeaky brakes
  5. Lube moving parts regularly
  6. Check if the wheels wobble and true them where necessary
  7. Tighten nuts and bolts
  8. Fix flats
  9. Adjust saddle height to a place of comfort
  10. Re-paint your bike’s frame if necessary

Let’s now look at each maintenance task and see how you might perform it.

1. Clean Your Bike Regularly

Well, it’s obvious — you must clean your bike from time to time if you want it to last long. Cleaning a bike isn’t always enjoyable, but it’s something you need to do regularly. Nor is bike cleaning an easy job.

It’s a tiring activity. But the good thing is that cleaning a bike doesn’t require any kind of expensive or fancy cleaning kit or tools.

To give your lovely bike a proper clean, all you need is some detergent and a bucketful of clean water. You also need a sponge and a degreaser. A degreaser is a product formulated to break down grit and oil in the sprockets, chain, and other areas. A used toothbrush is one more thing that makes cleaning a bike that much easier.

This post isn’t about how to clean your bike, though. But don’t worry; I’ve put together a detailed how-to guide on how to clean a bike. Here’s how to clean a bike to improve ride quality and boost longevity.

2. Keep Your Bike’s Tire’s Properly Inflated

Inflation pressure contributes immensely to ride quality and your overall biking performance. Tires that aren’t properly inflated make riding a bike incredibly difficult. Riding such a bike feels almost like the labors of Sisyphus.

You pedal super hard only to get very little forward motion. It can be extremely frustrating, which is why you should air up your wheels to the right PSI. The right PSI for most bike tires stays in the 90 – 110 PSI, and the right tire pressure depends on your weight.

To know how much pressure your tire needs, check the sidewall of each tire and you’ll the recommended PSI number. But since the rear wheel takes more of your weight, it makes sense to give it more pressure than the front one.

How often should I inflate my tires? Check your tire pressure at least once each week. And when planning a long bike ride, make sure to inflate both tires. Also, carry your bike pump for when you need to add pressure as you pedal through your adventure.

Should you inflate your bike’s tires during storage? Yes, keep the tires properly inflated even during storage. Alternatively, remove tires and store them separately. Taking tires off helps keep cracking at bay.

3. Fix Worn Brake Pads

Your bike’s brakes take a lot of heat, literally, every time you pull the brake to stop. When you brake, the brake pads come into contact with your wheel’s rims. And when the pads and the rims touch, that contact generates friction.

While friction slows your bike down and finally stops it, it also wears out the brake pads. Worn brake pads are useless and won’t come to your rescue when you need to stop, especially abruptly.

So, make sure to check your bike’s brake pads and if they need to be replaced, do it. How do you know your bike’s brake pads are worn and need to be swapped out? It’s when you pull the brake lever and nothing or close to nothing happens! It means that the pads are worn to the point where they can’t reach the rims at all. So, you can’t stop, and that sucks.

Additionally, if you can no longer see the grooves on your brake pads, it means they’re completely worn out.

Here’s good news: brake pads are some of the cheapest pieces of hardware anywhere. Not only are brake pads inexpensive, but they’re also easy to fit.

You should be able to remove worn pads with an Allen Key and a pair of hands in minutes. It’s easy, and you need zero mechanical skills to handle this task.

One way to slow down the rate at which your pads wear out is to keep them clean. Dirty brake pads wear out sooner than clean ones.

Clean brake pads last even longer when rubbing against a clean braking surface. So, keep your bike’s rims sparkling clean.

4. Adjust Loose Bike Brakes

But worn brake pads aren’t the only reason nothing happens when you pull the brake lever. Sometimes, your brakes are ineffective because they’re too loose.

If that’s the situation you’re looking at, it’s important to adjust your bike’s brakes to tighten them up a bit. Do you need to pull your brake levers more than half the distance between their usual position and the handlebars? If yes, your bike’s brakes need a little tightening, because they’re too loose.

One way to tighten loose bike brakes is to tighten the barrel adjuster. The barrel adjuster is located in the brake lever or in the brake arm end. When you tighten the screws, the brake pads should get sufficiently closer to the rims.

However, tightening the screws may not always work effectively. Sometimes you need to tighten the brake wire. And to tighten the brake wire itself, and to do that, first unscrew the bolt that holds the wire. Then, tighten the wire.

Once done, screw the bolt back on and problem solved. If this little task feels overwhelming, consider having a reliable bike repair shop handle it.

5. Lube Moving Parts Regularly

Lubricating moving parts is a big part of what makes engines and other complex mechanical systems work efficiently. Whoever invented the phrase “like a well-oiled machine” must have observed many machines and seen how smoothly well-lubricated ones operated.

Lubing metallic parts that keep rubbing against each other or rotating around each other helps reduce friction.

Excessive friction between moving parts lowers efficiency, causes annoying squeaky sounds, and speeds up wear. In contrast, oiling moving parts quiets them, promotes smooth motion, and slows down wear and tear.

It’s essential to clean your bike first before applying any kind of lubrication. So, clean your bike first and then squirt a bike-specific lube sparingly on the drivetrain. The drivetrain is the engine that propels your bike forward. A bike’s drivechain consists of several parts namely the chain, chainrings, sprocket (cog), and cassette. Make sure not to over-lube your bike’s moving parts.

6. True Wobbling Bike Wheels

If you’re like many recreational cyclists, odds are you don’t have the equipment needed to fix wobbling wheels. If your wheels wobble to some extent during rides, it’s most likely because they’re not true.

Such wheels need truing, and this bike maintenance process requires special tools and equipment. Your local bike repair shop certainly owns the equipment needed. Plus, they have bike mechanics that can provide excellent bike wheel truing services at a small fee.

But how do you know your wheels need truing? Usually, you’ll notice wheel wobbling as you ride. Here’s another reliable and easy way to confirm whether your wheels need truing. Simply flip your bike upside down and then spin the wheels. If the wheels aren’t spinning smoothly but instead keep wobbling sideways, they need some truing.

7. Tighten Screws, Nuts, and Bolts

Nuts and bolts serve a critical role — they hold parts and things together. But with time, some nuts and bolts loosen up.

And that can be dangerous in some cases. I once bought some women’s inline skates whose wheel nuts came loose and I strapped the boots on without checking.

As I bladed downhill one evening, one wheel suddenly came off. You don’t want to know what happened….it was pretty nasty. Thank God I’d helmeted up before putting the damned shoes on.

Now, back to keeping your little lovely bike in tip top condition. Always make sure to give your bike a thorough check to see if there might a few loose nuts or bolts. If any of the nuts and bolts need a little tightening, grab an Allen wrench and do the job.

Nothing annoys me as the rattling sound of a mudguard whose attaching screw loosened up and fell to the ground. It’s a freaking pesky occurrence. And you have to endure the banging noise all the way home just because you didn’t tighten a nut up.

8. Fix Flat Tubes

Flat tires happen all the time — to everyone — even to the most careful cyclists. Sharp protruding spokes have been known to puncture the inner tube, deflating it. Other times, there’s a sort of object whose rugged edges cause the same problem to your tubes.

Fixing a flat tire is a skill cyclists of all riding abilities must learn. It’s a basic bike maintenance skill you can learn in a few minutes watching quality YouTube videos.

The flat bike tube fixing process includes 3 parts. These three parts include preparing the rubber patch, gluing the patch on, and getting the mended tube back in.

9. Adjust Saddle Height to a Place of Comfort

Your saddle needs to sit at a comfortable height for you to enjoy each bike ride to the max. If your saddle height isn’t right for you, you’ll end up with saddle sore. You’ll likely get a sore backside even when wearing a well-padded chamois.

A saddle that sits too low gives you sore knees. What’s more unpleasant than sore knees, painful knees? And if the saddle sits too high, you’ll be a little unstable, and pedaling will get more difficult.

To position your saddle right, raise it or lower it until you come to a point of maximum comfort. If your saddle height is good, each leg should be almost straight at the lowest point of each revolution.

10. Re-spray Your Bike’s Frame (If Necessary)

Well, repainting the frame of your bike isn’t something you do frequently.

Some bike riders get tired of looking at the same frame color and graphics all the time. Such riders want to change their frame’s aesthetics to spice things up a little. Other cyclists decide to repaint their bike’s frame because it looks too old, or unappealing, or whatever.

You certainly can re-spray your bike’s frame at home in the garage. But there’s always the risk of doing a lackluster job. If you lack the skills required to apply the paint evenly throughout your frame, pay someone else to do it for you.

If it’s a steel frame, you can do the painting job yourself. But re-painting aluminum, titanium, or carbon fiber frames often demands specialist-level bike frame re-painting skills. Plus, not many bike repair shops offer to repaint bikes with non-steel frames.

There’s tons of Youtube videos that describe in great detail how to do a bike frame repainting job. You may want to watch a few of those videos and buy the supplies needed. Then, get down to work and give your bike a whole new look.

How to Take Care of Your Bike: Final Word

A well-maintained road bike or any other kind of bike rolls smoothly and lasts long. To boost your bicycle’s overall efficiency, plan a schedule for cleaning and lubing it.

Other critical bike maintenance activities include fixing sagging brakes, replacing broken and worn parts, inflating tires, and truing wheels. And if the frame needs repainting, do it.

You can certainly perform all of these bike maintenance rituals. But if any of the tasks give proves to be outside of your mechanical ability, find help. I bet there’s a good bike repair shop somewhere near where you live. Happy cycling!