The essentials steps:
- Learn to look for problems: Anytime you ride your bicycle,
its components are exposed to myriad stresses. One such stress is,
of course, friction. Friction will cause chains, cogs, bearings, brake
pads and tires to wear. Another type of stress is that the bicycle
sustains in accidents or emergency maneuvers: this will cause spokes
to break, derailleurs to become damaged (or misaligned) and more. Finally,
there is vibration: this will cause nuts and bolts come loose.
Luckily, the stresses caused by day-to-day riding tend to affect mostly certain
areas of your bicycle. The first step in good bicycle maintenance is
learning where to look for (or listen or even feel for)
problems. top of page
- Spotting Problems and Preventive Maintenance: Most bicycle
problems start out small, then worsen only if they are left unchecked.
Expensive breakdowns are usually the result of long-term neglect. Example:
hub bearings (or their races) can "communicate" problems
to you with sound or a felt vibration: a regular, cyclic "wub-wub-wub" that
increases or decreases in frequency as you respectively increase or
decrease traveling speed. Even with this problem, the bicycle may be "usable" for
quite some time. But the longer you wait, the more damage will be done.
In this example, if one attends to the problem immediately, it may
just be a loose hub nuts or bearings in need of grease. Neglect the
problem long enough and you'll need to replace the entire hub -- a
timely and costly procedure.
The best way to maintain a bicycle correctly and avoid expensive repairs
is to develop a maintenance schedule that matches your riding habits.For
example, if you ride your bike in the rain or streets treated with ice-melting
road salt, corrosion is an especially important issue. top
a close eye on cables and cable components. This is a
close-up of a cable "hanger" (aka cable retainer
or housing stop); notice the rust at the weld-seam. This
is important to note because the hanger is a stress
point that helps maintain cable tension -- necessary
for braking or shifting. If this rust is allowed to continue
eating away at the metal, the hanger may snap during
a gear shift or -- more importantly -- a panic-brake
stop. The cable strands also show signs of corrosion.
This bicycle was ridden on wintery streets in Ohio and
road salt was partially responsible for the corrosion.
Cleaning, drying and re-lubricating a bicycle, especially
after wet, snowy or muddy rides is critical preventive
- Learning what to do when a problem is discovered. Once you
identify a problem with your bike, you have to decide whether to tackle
the repair yourself or leave the work to a trained bike mechanic. It's
important to remember that some procedures require more training, more
experience and more technical equipment than you'll have access to
in a home workshop environment.
Remember: attempting to address advanced maintenance or repair problems can
cause additional damage to your bike, and expose you to unnecessary risks
when you ride. So make your decisions wisely. One of the most important parts
of learning how to maintain your bicycle properly is learning when to leave
the work to trained professionals.
The References and Resources section
of this web site has book and link recommendations to help you build your
skills. If you have the tenacity, there is no reason why you cannot master
the skills of a professional bicycle mechanic. top of page
What is the feel of the bike?
This is not some supernatural phenomenon or weird clairvoyance. Rather,
it is noticing something not quite right with a machine you've been riding
for a while. The "feel" is mostly vibrational -- such as that
coming from hub, crank or pedal bearings. If you've had the bike for
a while and something "feels" wrong, your sense is probably
correct -- even if you can't see or hear the problem.
Please note that new bicycles or newly installed components take some
time to "break in". Allow the bike or component(s) some time
to do this before taking further action.