Everyone should understand that a great bike – be it budget or expensive – needs maintenance. This does not mean that you need to train as a bicycle mechanic or spend money on services as if we were talking about a car. You can do a lot, or even almost everything, with your own hands, you just have to try: you won’t get too dirty, you won’t mess anything up, and you’ll also save money – there are only advantages.
We, of course, will help you with practical advice: what can and should be done for your iron horse, and what tools we will need. Make up your mind, it’s just a bicycle—there’s nothing special to break!
How to maintain and how to fix your bike
Chain: Clean, lubricate, or even change
The chain is always the dirtiest part of your bike, but it is also the most important part that keeps everything moving. It consists of metal plates and pins connected to each other. It doesn’t matter how many speeds your bike has, the chain always looks the same (whether it’s wider or narrower doesn’t matter in this case). There are, of course, belt-driven bicycles: a cool thing, but far from universal. It is easier to wash a belt: what is true is true. But you will have to tinker with the chain if you want to extend the life of your bike and enjoy riding.
Essentially, there are only two tasks: clean the chain and lubricate it. Let's get started.
How to clean a bicycle chain?
There is no point in servicing a new chain: it was lubricated at the factory and lubricated well, so there is no point in messing with it. But the road does its job: the lubricated chain literally attracts dust, dirt, and sand from under the wheels. After kilometers of travel, the lubricant partially thickens, is partially washed out, and ceases to perform its function normally. For you, this means two problems: first, your cool, beautiful, fast bike suddenly begins to crunch, groan, and creak like an ancient old man; second, the wear of drive components is rapidly increasing. Sand clogged in the chain interferes with its normal operation. You will be surprised to learn that strong metal is susceptible to unusual loads and can stretch and break. And a dead chain also kills the stars that spin it. In general, the entire system is under attack.
Let's solve the problem. The easiest way to remove all dirt from the chain is to use a special cleaning tool. This is a closed container with rollers and brushes: the chain is clamped and passes through these rollers, thereby cleaning itself. You can, of course, use a couple of shoe brushes, Some even do the same job with toothbrushes, but with such a machine the work goes faster and cleaner, primarily for you.
In addition, a special liquid is poured into such a device, which separates oily dirt from the chain, even where it is impossible to manually reach. Agree, it is difficult to wash greasy dishes without detergent – the principle is absolutely the same here. Once upon a time, the most desperate people used diesel fuel for these purposes. Today, there are less sophisticated and in many ways safer and more effective cleaning methods.
After the chain has been cleaned and dried, you can proceed to the next step. Agree, so far everything is simple.
How to lubricate a bicycle chain?
Together with the dirt, we washed the old grease off the chain. A dry chain looks clean, but it cannot and should not work normally in this condition: the mechanisms need lubrication. There has been debate for decades about which lubricant is the best for a bicycle chain, and there is no winner in this field, and there cannot be one. Everyone has different preferences. It is enough to always adhere to only two principles: choose a lubricant for the weather conditions in which you plan to ride. If riding in the rain is a completely acceptable activity for you, then the lubrication should be appropriate. The thing is that lubricant for dry weather is more easily washed off by rainwater, which is fraught with problems. The second principle is that no lubricant lasts forever. There are no perfect solutions: whatever lubricant you choose, sooner or later the entire procedure with the chain will need to be repeated again. Don't worry: once you get used to it, it will take you about 20 minutes or so. Is it worth visiting a bike mechanic for this?
When should you change the chain?
Unfortunately, it's a fact of life: a metal chain is a consumable item. It stretches from loads, and the stretched chain begins to “eat up” the stars, which will inevitably lead to incorrect operation of the drive and transmission. How long your chain will last is a difficult question. It all depends on your riding style, and on the working conditions, and the moment when you decide to change the chain. But checking your chain condition is easy. There is a fairly simple tool that is inserted into the chain, allowing you to determine its stretch.
How to replace the chain?
You only need one tool: a squeezer. It removes any of the pins, thereby unfastening the chain. The new chain must be the same in length and width, that is, it must be created for the same number of speeds and consist of the same number of pins. We count the pins on the old chain, measure the same number on the new one, remove the excess with a squeeze, and then connect the chain to the bike. It's simple, you just have to try it. By the way, we have a video tutorial on this topic.
The wheel is such a simple and indispensable invention. The most honest kilometers disappear from under a bicycle wheel: you always know how much effort you put into them. We need to keep our tires inflated and level at all times, and this task can often be accomplished on our own.
How to inflate a bicycle tire?
The average cyclist needs one pump, and the advanced cyclist needs two. The average cyclist knows that a tire needs to be inflated and can pump it up if necessary. Some people use car pumps for this purpose, but there are also regular bicycle pumps on the market. It’s great when the model is equipped with a pressure gauge – a scale with an arrow or a digital screen that displays the current tire pressure. You can, of course, thoughtfully squeeze the tire with your fingers, assessing whether it is hard enough, but guessing will be much more difficult than choosing a watermelon at the market. A mistake is fraught with the fact that the rubber will not work where it should: traction with the road will be worse in any case, which can lead to a fall, a puncture, and increased wear of the component. Do you need it? The permissible pressure range is always indicated on the side of the tire – stay within these limits.
Anyone who travels a lot and far always should have a compact hand pump on hand in case of a puncture on the road. They are inexpensive, but completely irreplaceable, such a nuisance happens. At the same time, using a hand pump as the main one is not always convenient: try to “drive” 6-8 atmospheres into a road wheel with such a little thing – this is possible if there is no other way out, but you won’t do this on an ongoing basis.
How to remove the tire and seal the puncture?
In case of a puncture, the pump alone will not save you: you need to get to the inner tube and to do this, remove the tire. The easiest way is to use beading blades: plastic, is inexpensive, but they are absolutely indispensable in cycling life. It is undesirable to use something else for the same purposes: firstly, not much will do, and secondly, you need to avoid damaging either the rubber or the rim.
The set usually comes with three blades. We pry off the tire – and voila!
Having reached the chamber, it is necessary to find the puncture site. At home, you can resort to the old-fashioned method: fill the bathtub with some water and lower the pre-inflated chamber into it. Where the bubbles come from – there is a puncture. On the road, the task becomes more difficult, but a few tips can be given: inflate the chamber a little more so that the pressure increases (just don’t overdo it), and rely on your ears. Air comes out through a small hole with a characteristic whistle – this is usually audible.
When the puncture site is found, we proceed to stripping and gluing. Don’t worry: patches are now made to be reliable, and their installation will not require any special skills or effort.
How to tighten a spoke?
Expensive wheel models, of course, are more resistant to loads. But the need to tighten a spoke or two may still arise, at least in order to get to the place of a full repair. If you want a solution to any potential problem, then a spoke wrench is a definite must-have in your toolbox.
Screws-bolts: check, tighten, don't worry
Multitool – mini
From experience: the most unpleasant thing on any trip is when the steering wheel has become loose and there is nothing to tighten it with.
You can make such a mistake only once in your life. Having received bitter experiences, anyone will draw the only correct conclusion and acquire at least the simplest tool in order to avoid this in the future.
Why can the screws on a bicycle become loose? From constant vibrations on the road, because they were not sufficiently clamped – but you never know the reasons. Experts give a very logical recommendation: check the tightness of all screws before the start of the trip. But hardly anyone does this in good faith every time before a summer ride. And a compact tool kit that fits in any pocket is a miracle cure for almost all cycling “diseases”. Something has come loose, you need to fix the brake pad, rearrange the handlebars, change the position of the saddle, and in the end, help someone not so prudent – that's what a multitool is for.
If you get a taste of it and prefer to maintain your equipment yourself (respect!), It makes sense to take a closer look at the tool kits right away. As a rule, in them, you can find everything you need to solve an urgent problem that you can handle yourself, without resorting to specialists. And not the fact that the set will be more expensive than all the tools you need separately. Again, it all depends on personal needs: a set of hexagons is enough for someone, and someone can’t imagine home maintenance without a pedal wrench, a whip (this is to remove the cassette), and a hydraulic line cutter.
Torque can make a difference, especially if your bike has carbon components. Carbon does not like and does not accept extreme efforts. It’s one thing to just rip off a thread: everyone is strong, it’s happened to everyone at least once. But if you overtighten, for example, the seat clamp, this can easily lead to a broken seat post (do you know how much a replacement costs?). And you can’t help but put pressure on it—they’ll move out.
Therefore, when dealing with an expensive bike, it definitely makes sense to fork out for a torque wrench. The tightening torques of all components are most often marked directly on their surface or can be easily Googled. Please note that we are not talking about a car – in bicycles the scale is different, a small wrench with a tightening torque of up to 15-20 Nm will be enough for you. Properly tightened screws do not break off, do not unscrew, and generally bring a lot of happiness and joy to the owner. Such an investment is not a waste, but a contribution to the reliable and durable operation of the bicycle.