Routine Maintenance & the ABC's of Bike Safety - Updated for E-bikes!
Jeff, our Bike Expert, breaks down the importance of bike maintenance and the standard pre-ride safety check.
There are a few things you want to look over on your bike before you head out on the road or trail. Do you know your ABC's? Do you have the essential tools for proper bike care? Do you know how to fix a flat? Never fear, Bicycle Warehouse is here to fill you in on all the nitty gritty learning to ride. Also, check the class and ride page for upcoming events
Inspect your bike prior to each ride, pay special attention to the headset and axles to ensure everything on the bike is snug and safely torqued. Numerous bolts and nuts of varying sizes hold your bicycle together, and it's important to maintain a snug fit to ensure safety and high performance. Inquire with the owner's manual or the manufacturer directly for information in specific torque limits for the components on your bike.
A - Air!
Checking your tires air pressure prior to each ride is crucial to maintaining the best ride quality possible as well as preventing flats. Tires and tubes are made of rubber and, despite their function of holding air, are porous. Tubes can gain or lose pressure depending on temperature change (this can happen overnight) and will eventually lose pressure over time. You should check your tires before every ride to protect against flats and to make sure you have an awesome ride! The max pounds per square inch (PSI) is written on the sidewall of the tires, and you can reference this marking to know how much to inflate your tires to. During the air check it's important to double check the quick release skewers or thru axles holding your wheels onto the frame, they can loosen over time with use and need to be snugged down periodically.
B - Brakes!
Brakes are the most important safety feature on our bike. Before every ride, make sure they are in good working order and the pads are in good condition! Spin each wheel and make sure the brakes pads are not rubbing the rim. If you are unsure on how to fix the problem, bring the bike in to service to have it looked at. Walk your bike beside you and take turns squeezing your front and rear brake levers. This ensures your brakes are engaging properly and reducing speed smoothly. Test the responsiveness of your brakes on flat ground and ensure the stopping power is adequate before bombing down your nearest hill!
Check out our BLOG Tune Up Guide - Mountain Bike Disc Brakes Tips & The Best Techniques
C - Chain (Clean!)
Remember, your bike is a collection of moving parts. When these parts get dirty, wear and deterioration will occur. This means, you will have to replace parts sooner! The drive train of your bike is where you will see this deterioration first. Cleaning your bike is easy with the right tools (rags, dish soap, a bike-specific degreasing agent, a big brush, a little brush, a sponge and chain lube)! Get in the routine of cleaning your chain every other ride, and re-lubing regularly with use. A clean drivetrain is a long lasting drivetrain!
Additional Checks - Turn it Right to Tight
The second component of your pre-ride bike safety check is to ensure that the essential bolts are tight and secure. This includes the following:
Wheel: Both wheels’ axle nuts should be tight. Tires should not be wobbling.
Handlebar: Ensure the bolts are tight and the handlebar is straight in alignment with the wheels. If you have a removable display and/or throttle (E-bike), ensure the bolts are fitted securely to the handlebar and the handlebar to the headset.
Saddle: Check that the seat is adjusted to the right height for you and it is centered. Tighten the clamp to lock your adjustment in place.
Charge your battery properly: E-bike batteries require special care to ensure their longevity. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for charging your battery, and avoid overcharging or undercharging it.
Regularly service your e-bike: Just like a car, e-bikes require regular servicing to ensure they are running smoothly. Take your e-bike to a professional for a tune-up every six months to a year, or as recommended by the manufacturer. Remember, maintenance is usually cheaper than a repair after something breaks. Check our blog E-bike Best Practices for Care and Maintenance
Bike Cleaning 101
For your E-bike check our blog E-bike Best Practices for Care and Maintenance. Cleaning your bike is essential to keeping your bike running smooth and performing at its highest. Proper bike cleaning should be a big part of your bicycle maintenance routine. Washing your bike regularly will ensure all your expensive bike parts have a long and happy life. Whether you ride a road bike or a mountain bike, taking the time to wash your bike (especially your drivetrain) is a necessity. For road bikes, we suggest degreasing and "re-greasing" your drivetrain every 100 miles. For mountain bikes, you should clean your bike after every muddy ride or every couple of weeks with regular use in dry climates.
Basic Supplies (click the items for links to products):
- Hose & nozzle
- Bike-specific degreaser
- Brush kit
- Chain lube
- General bike grease
- Rubbing alcohol* (if you have disc brakes)
- Bike polish
How to Wash a Bike
1. Fill a bucket with water and dish soap or bike-specific cleaner. Try washing your bike in a shaded area to prevent premature drying.
2. Rinse your bike.
DO: Use hose on “shower” setting to thoroughly rinse your bike.
DO NOT: Use too much pressure, like a power washer or the “jet” setting. Using high pressure on areas that having bearings (like your bottom bracket, pivots, headset, and hubs) could cause dirt and debris to move into these sensitive areas. You could also wash away grease which is intended to prevent water and dirt from penetrating into your bearings.
3. Apply degreaser.
DO: Use bike-specific degreaser on the entire drivetrain (cassette, derailleurs, chain, chainrings) and allow the solution to soak in for at least 5 minutes while you clean the rest of your bike.
DO NOT: Spray degreaser onto brake calipers/brake pads/rotors if you have disc brakes. If degreaser finds its way to these areas, it can cause contamination and squeaky brakes!
4. While the foaming degreaser is working, use your brush kit to scrub the rest of the bike. Keep “drivetrain brushes” and “frame brushes” separate, lest you fancy having a very greasy bike! You can scrub everything easily accessible! Continue to occasionally dip your brushes into your soapy water as you scrub.
A brush kit provides lots of safe brushes for your frame and finishes, and the brushes come in different shapes and sizes allowing you to get into the nooks & crannies of the bicycle. Make sure to use soft-bristled brushes for your bike frame and firmer brushes for the drivetrain.
5. Re-visit the drivetrain with your “drivetrain brushes” and scrub the entire thing, including the pulleys on the rear derailleur cage. Holding a sponge on your chain as you pedal backwards is a great way to clean off goopy grease.
6. When you’re satisfied, again use the “shower” setting on the hose to rinse off the entire bike.
7. Take your bike off the stand or flip it over and bounce it on the tires to remove excess water.
8. If it is a sunny day, you can sit the bike out in the sun to dry. If the bike isn’t likely to dry in about 5-10 minutes, you’ll want to dry it as best you can with clean rags. Pay careful attention to bolts, the drivetrain and any other location that tends to hold water. To dry your drivetrain, wipe the cage and chainrings and hold a rag on your chain while you pedal backwards.
9. After drying your drivetrain, always add lube to keep your chain moving freely. There are many different kinds of lube out there (Wet, Dry, Ceramic, etc), ask your shop what they would recommend for the conditions you usually ride in. Shake the lube well before applying. Hold the nozzle at the chain and squeeze gently to release a gentle stream of lube while you pedal backward with your other hand. You want to coat the entire length of the chain, so back pedal at least 6 pedal rotations. Allow the lube to soak into the chain for about 5 minutes.
*You do not need to lube the cassette or shift while the lube is sinking in. The goal is to lube the chain, not the rings of your cassette or chain rings.
10. Wipe away excess lube with a rag. Excess lube will attract more dirt to your drivetrain.
11. If you think you may have contaminated your rotors while cleaning your bike, you can clean your rotors with rubbing alcohol.
12. With frequent washing, some parts of your bike may need fresh grease to prevent squeaking or seizing. This includes: saddle rail clamp bolt(s), seat post, seat post clamp, headset, stem bolts, thru-axles, pedal threads, bottom bracket bearings, derailleur pulleys, etc.
13. At this point, your bike should be super clean! If you’re looking for a “showroom” appearance, you can use bike polish to give your bike some extra sparkle. Using a clean, dry rag, spray some polish into your rag, and wipe down the frame and other shiny parts! Be careful not to polish the rims where the brake pads make contact (if you have rim brakes) or the rotors (if you have disc brakes).
14. Way to go!
***DISCLAIMER: If you ride a road bike, you can generally get by without using a hose. Skip the spray down and go straight for the degreaser. Use a speed degreaser that does not require any rinsing with water. And use a soft, clean rag to wipe down the frame and apply a protective polish.
Depending on how much you ride, a regular maintenance schedule is recommended.
Weekly Bike Checks
In addition to your pre-ride and post-ride inspections, the following are some safe-keeping best practices to monitor at least once a week. You don’t need sophisticated bike tools to do them and should be a straightforward undertaking.
- Inspect the hardware for the proper torque (i.e. exact tightening making sure they aren’t too loose or too tight). Consult with the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure that they meet the recommended torque values.
- Inspect the drivetrain (this includes the chain, chainring, freewheel, and derailleur) to ensure it is properly aligned and functioning seamlessly.
- Clean the frame by wiping it with a damp cloth, avoiding any moisture near the electrical components of your electric bike as well as the drivetrain.
- Bolts not being torqued to the recommended levels, an improperly functioning drivetrain, or damage to the bike frame and/or electrical components can all cause component failure, or worse, resulting in compromised riding safety.
Monthly E-Bike Checks
This part of the bike inspection checklist occurs less frequently but is nonetheless equally important. You’ll be conducting a bit more of an in-depth inspection of your ebike, which may require more sophisticated tools for a tune-up. Looking further into the performance and functionality of your electric bike, these bike checks will help determine where safety may be compromised, and if so, what you’ll need to do!
- Check brake pad alignment and brake cable tension, cleaning both the brake and shift cables. Be mindful of any corrosion or shredding among the brake or shifter cables. This could be a sign for a replacement!
- Continue checking if your bike is shifting properly, then clean and lubricate the drivetrain.
- Check spoke tension. True and tension both wheels if you discover any loose spokes.
- Following your monthly bike testing is a complete tune-up. It’s recommended to have your electric bike professionally tuned up at least once a year to year and a half if you’re a casual rider, or twice a year if you’re a daily rider. Your local bike shop will likely offer this service, and will check all of the above and more to ensure your bike is performing at its peak and keeping you safe!
By following these A, B, C's and best practices for bike and e-bike care and maintenance, you can ensure that your bike remains in top condition for years to come. Not only will this save you money in the long run, but it will also ensure a safe and enjoyable riding experience and FUN.