Breakaway Cycles has a fully-equipped workshop to repair and upgrade all types of bicycles. There are a few things that you can do at home, however, to make sure your bike doesn’t have any major hassles in between servicing.
Tyres are porous and allow air to seep out over time. Road bike tyres should be checked before every ride and mountain bikes at least weekly. Use a good pump that has a built-in gauge and follow the manufacturer’s recommended pressure (which is written on the tyre sidewalls).
Failure to keep tyres pumped up is probably the number one reason bikes fall apart. Some folks stop riding because they think their tubes need to be replaced at the store (and never get round to bringing the bike down). Others ride with underinflated tyres and give up cycling because it’s harder work and less fun than they expected. And many people damage their rims, tubes or tyres by hitting potholes or rocks with soft tyres. Keeping your tyres pumped will make cycling more enjoyable and avoid unnecessary damage.
A bicycle is made up of a bunch of moving metal parts, many of which are meshing with each other. They need to be lubricated so that they don’t grind each other to dust as you pedal merrily along.
When your chain looks shiny or squeaks when you pedal, put a light coat of lubricant on the chain. A good technique is to:
- lean the bike against a wall,
- put down paper to catch drips,
- apply lubricant while pedaling backwards,
- let it soak in for a bit, and
- wipe off the excess (which would otherwise attract dirt and accelerate wear).
This is a good time to also lube the body of your derailleur and the pivots on your bike (the places where derailleurs and brakes have moving parts). Here too, be sure to wipe off the excess.
If your clipless pedals start creaking, often all it takes is a little bit of grease on the cleats (but don’t walk into your house and leave grease on your carpet). If the racket is coming from the pedals, apply a few drops on the jaws and spring.
Once a year the bearings on your bicycle – the wheels, pedals, bottom bracket and headset – need to be dismantled, checked and regreased. These jobs require special tools, however, so you may prefer to bring your bike to our workshop.
Mountain bikers, especially those who ride in the mud, should keep a cleaning kit in the corner of the garage ready for use at ride’s end. All that’s needed is a bucket, sponges, dishwashing detergent, a hose and lube.
When you return from a ride, prop the bike up and spray off the majority of the mud and muck with the hose. Don’t blast the water sideways at the bike or you’ll strip grease from the bearings in your pedals, hubs and bottom bracket. Instead, spray water only from above and avoid directing the water at greased parts.
Once you’ve knocked off most of the dirt, fill the bucket with warm water and enough detergent to raise some suds and go to work on the bike with the sponge. If there are lots of nooks and crannies on your rig, consider using getting various brushes (or use an old toothbrush) to speed up the cleaning process. When you’ve scrubbed the bike fully, dribble water from above to rinse off the soap. Then relube your chain, pivots and derailleur so that they don’t rust.
We advise everyone to store their bikes indoors, as this is the best way to keep them running and looking like new.
If space is at a premium, a bike hook (shaped like a question mark and coated with vinyl to avoid scratching your bike) will allow you to hang your bike from your wall, rafter or beam. We’ve seen bikes stored in stairwells, bathrooms, bedrooms – anyplace you can find dead space is fine. It’s also possible to use two hooks and hang the bike horizontally, one wheel on either hook, or to use a bike stand.
It’s not the hanging that saves the bike, it’s keeping the bike out of the environment. Leaving a bicycle on a porch or deck is not enough, even if there’s a roof covering it, as moisture will attack the metal parts of the bike. Especially caustic are areas close to the ocean where the salt in the air will quickly corrode components.
Bikes are tough but you greatly increase the chance of problems and rapid wear if you beat them. You’ll protect your bike and enjoy riding more if you learn how to ride smarter. The key skill is to constantly scan the road or trail ahead and avoid the things that ruin a bike – potholes, ruts, roots, rocks, glass, oil spots and so on.
Some of these things can’t be avoided. And riding off road, you have to ride over obstacles all the time. But there are ways to do it, and still save the bike. Learn to get up off the seat and bend your arms and legs the same way a jockey sits on a racehorse. If you do this every time you spot objects you can’t ride around, you’ll protect the frame, fork, wheels and components.
If you enjoy jumping a mountain bike, learn to do so professionally. Good jumpers rarely land hard. They work on their technique so they land softly; you barely hear the impact. Ditto for riding wheelies or hopping over logs and things. The lighter your technique the better chance your bike won’t take a beating. It’ll save you money in replacement parts, greatly reduce the chance of injury, and ensure that your bike keeps running trouble-free.
All machines wear, and a bike is no different. Expect changes in your equipment if you ride a lot and prevent failures by inspecting your bike weekly or monthly, depending on how much you ride.
Scrutinize the brake pads to see if they’ve worn out – most have grooves in them; when the grooves disappear, replace the pads. When the pads shrink from use, you not only lose braking power, the chances of the pad diving into the spokes or striking the tyre and popping it increase.
Operate the brake and shift lever and look closely at all four cables both at the levers and at the derailleurs and brakes. Also inspect along the frame. If you spot any signs of fraying or rusting or even if you see cracking in the cable housing sections, have the cable and housing replaced by a shop. That’s much better than getting stranded miles from home with no brakes or a bike stuck in a super-hard-to-pedal gear.
Check the tightness of key component by putting a wrench on every important bolt and snugging slightly to see if it has loosened. Check the seat and seatpost bolts; the wheel quick releases; the stem and handlebar bolts; the brake and shift lever bolts; wiggle the spokes to feel for loose ones; tighten clipless pedal screws; and don’t forget bolts holding on accessories, which can loosen too.
That’s it! If you follow these simple guidelines to bicycle care, your bike should give you many years of enjoyable riding.
Happy riding from the Breakaway Cycles Team!