What keeps your bike in top riding shape?
July 6th 2017
I used to think that, if I did a REALLY good job weeding the lawn, I’d never have to do it again; everything would just stay perfect forever.
Yeah, it doesn’t work that way with bike maintenance either. Life happens, and basic physics require you to do some level of routine maintenance to keep your bike rides enjoyable.
The great news is, you’re starting out a bit ahead of the game. One of the advantages of well-recognized component sets, like Shimano shifting and FOX shocks on CHANGE bikes, is that a lot of the annoying maintenance busy-work is already reduced through good design. You’re left with this short list.
1. Pump up your tires and shocks.
When your propulsion energy comes from your legs instead of your gas tank, you notice inefficiency quickly.
So get a good floor-mounted bike pump and pinch your tires before each ride.
One good way to test tire pressure is to put your thumb on your tire and try to push it in with your other hand.
Spend a minute with a tire pump once a week, and you’ll have more enjoyable rides.
If you have air shocks, like on the CHANGE 612 MTB, you’ll want to keep the pressure appropriate for your weight as in the FOX Shock user’s guide.
2. Adjust for fit.
Adjustable seat posts tend to drop slowly, imperceptibly, over time. Then one day your legs are really tired during a ride and you realize you need to raise your seat a whole inch! Proper position is so that you are on the balls of your foot when on your seat.
Similarly, if your handlebars are rolled too far forwards or backwards, you’ll feel fatigue–this time in the wrist. Adjust accordingly.
3. Clean carefully.
High-pressure hoses can blow all the dirt, grime, lube and grease out of your bike, leaving it looking better but performing worse.
Better to use a garden hose and rub it down–if it even needs cleaning. Focus on cleaning more in sloppy winter weather than sunny summer weather.
One thing that can always use cleaning is the tension gear of your rear derailleur arm. Simply reaching down and pinching the gunk off the gear keeps it off the more sensitive chain and sprockets.
When re-lubing, NEVER use WD40. It’s designed to strip grease and oil away, so really isn’t a lubricant. Get a small can of cycle lubricant instead, either at a local bike shop or online.
4. Check your drive train for grinding.
The first step in derailleur mis-alignment is the sound of getting almost in gear. Then the wear on selected sprockets, your chain, and your derailleur itself, all of which may need replacement.
If that need for replacement concerns you–not “Yay! I get the latest new Shimano groupset!”–then occasionally spin your rear wheel and test all the gears, the way we do before shipping any CHANGE bike. This is most easily done on a repair stand, but there are mini-stands that work just as well down lower. They’re just really hard to find.
This old type of stand, called a Y stand, is super-portable and convenient, but we can’t source it anywhere anymore. Do you know of a supplier?
The closest we can find is the Topeak FlashStand–same function, possibly a bit more complex, but also even more portable:
Why not just flip your bike upside down to work on wheels? For starters, it reverses gravity and puts your handlebars and seat on scratchy stuff. So your wheels won’t drop out properly, your chain won’t function the same, your handlebars and seat will get scratch and worn, and everything will be reversed when you work on it. But if that’s all you’ve got…
5. Finally, have the right tools.
There’s no substitute for the right tools. Here’s a good short list:
- Standing bike pump ($40 and up. You can get less expensive, but don’t. Bent valve stems aren’t worth it!)
- Mini bike stand ($45. See above)
- Hex wrench set (FREE. We include it with your bike).
- Small screwdriver ($1) for derailleur adjustments.
- Tire blades & patch kit ($3).
- Spoke wrench ($5.)
These require specialized tools and aren’t worth it for a CHANGE bike owner. Use a bike shop if you ever need these:
- Pedal wrench (normally useful, but you’ve got pop-off pedals that go on and off in seconds. Who needs a wrench?
- Cassette wrench
- Bottom bracket wrench (these are often even vendor-specific!)
That’s it. For less than $100 in tools, you can keep your bike in top shape for great riding. Enjoy!
Bob Forgrave is president of Flatbike, an
ecommerce company offering full-size folding bikes
and kits to make any bike take up half the space.