The following tips will keep your bike running smoothly - 

1.) Keep the drivetrain clean and lubricated, you save loads of money. 

Do you get annoyed when someone rides past you with loud rattling and squeaking sound coming from the chain and sprockets? Maybe the sound is coming from your bike? That is the not-so-sweet sound of metal rubbing against metal and grime and mud, because all lubrication has long since worn off. That is a really good way to go, if you want to shorten the life expectancy of your chain and sprockets. It is not cheap to replace them, so save yourself some money by regularly cleaning and lubricating the drivetrain.

You will need disposable rags, bike oil, some degreaser product and maybe a used toothbrush and a flat headed screwdriver to pry off the larger gunks from the rear derailleurs jockey wheels and chainrings. Get all the dirt you possibly can get off the chains, sprockets and chainwheels. After everything is nice and clean, turn the cranks slowly backwards and simultaneously apply a drop of bike oil on the inside of every link on your chain.

The more often you clean and lube, the less time it takes every time you do it. Why not clean the frame and wheels while you’re at it?

2.) Keep your tires inflated!

The most important thing, or at least in the top three, that have an effect on the quality of your bike ride is tire pressure. If the pressure is too low you have to work a lot more to keep the same speed than with proper high pressure. And you will get flats more easily, especially when hitting a curb hard. One of the most essential must-have tools you should own is a quality floor pump with pressure gauge. Check the suggested pressure from the side of your tires. The rear tire should have more pressure as it is taking more of the riders weight than the front. Make sure you check your tire pressure at least once every two weeks.

If you’re not going to ride your bike for a long time, like six months or a couple of years, try to remember to keep the tires inflated even during the pause. If this is not possible, take the tires off completely. By doing this you prevent cracks on the sides of the tires.

3.) Keep the nuts and bolts tight, but don’t overtighten them

Keep all the screws, bolts and nuts in your bike where they belong by checking regularly if they are loose. It is annoying if you loose the screw holding your mudguards in place and having to listen that rattling and banging sound all the way home. Note that with some of the newer bikes the parts have the maximum torque limit written on them and you can buy tools that apply only a specified amount of torque. When you are buying a new bike, ask your bike shop to give you a bag of spare nuts and bolts. You should get them for free, because they are dirt cheap.

4.) Make sure your brakes are adjusted correctly, check and change brake pads if necessary

If you like to drive fast , you’d better make sure you stop effectively when needed. If you have to pull the brake lever until it touches the handlebar and still almost nothing happens, you have to adjust the brake pads closer to the rim (or your disc).

You can do this by tightening the adjusting barrel (if your brakes have one) in the brake lever or the brake arm end. Tightening the screw moves the pads closer to the rim (or disc). You may also need to unscrew the bolt holding the wire, tighten the wire and then screw the bolt back on. Before tightening the bolt again, twist the adjuster holding the wire and the wire housing to the loosest setting. This way you have more room to adjust the brakes.

It is also important to keep both the pads and the braking surface clean from dirt and oil. Dirty pads wear out themselves and the braking surface substantially faster.

5.) Learn how to fix a flat tube

You probably guessed that fixing a flat tire would make the list? You were right. Youtube has tons of good videos in all languages guiding you how to prepare, glue the patch on and remount the tire. If you start getting many flats with the same wheel, check your tire and the inside of the rim for sharp objects or protruding spoke.

First check a video on how to remove a tire from the rim and how to put it back on. You will need two plastic tire levers and some patience. You will get better.

So, there you are. Master these five skills and practice them often. As a result, and I promise you, your rides will become more enjoyable, not to mention safer.

If you have a very tight time schedule, let your local bike shop do it for you. I just did that and took two of my bikes to YBB, and I was more than happy with the result. In conclusion: take care of your bike and it will take care of you. Enjoy your rides.

Article by  / The urban bike magazine    Header photo by  Tom Conway 

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