Bicycle riding has so many health benefits for you and the environment, but in order to enjoy those benefits you need to keep your bike in tip-top shape. Routine bike maintenance is important to keeping your two-wheeled steed safe and in good shape for years to come. As you get ready to dust off those wheels and hit the road, here are a few tips on how to tune up your bike.
Pump It Up
It goes without saying that a flat tire is not what you want to face when you're ready to ride. Checking the air pressure in your tires regularly and keeping them inflated can not only make for a smoother ride, but also help prevent flats and bent wheel rims. Whether you're an occasional weekend rider, a green commuter, or a bike enthusiast, the number one tool any bike owner should have is a simple floor pump with a pressure gauge.
Check your tires every time you ride or at least every couple of weeks. The side of your tire will indicate the correct pressure level for your bike. If you plan to store your bike or stop riding for a long period, you still need to check the pressure regularly to prevent the tires from wearing and cracking.
It's also helpful to carry an emergency patch kit. All the items you might need—including patches, a hand pump, a wrench, and a bike lever—should be able to fit into a small bike seat bag so you don't have to lug anything extra on your back. If you've never fixed a flat before, check out Park Tool's video to give you a better idea of how to do it.
A clean bicycle is a happy bicycle, and knowing how to clean yours properly is an important part of learning how to tune up your bike. You can wash dirt off of the body of your bike with water and dish soap, but you'll especially want to focus your efforts on the chain.
For a light cleaning you can wipe away any grime on the chain with a rag, but for a more thorough tune up, spray the chain with a de-greaser. Use a small brush to clean between the links. Wipe the chain with a clean cloth and make sure it's completely dry before you ride. If you're new to bike care and unsure if you have the right tools for cleaning the chain, you can purchase a chain cleaner—an easy-to-use gadget with built-in brushes and magnets that clear off particles and draw them away from the chain.
A Well-Oiled Machine
Once you've got the chain cleaned, it's important to keep it lubricated. You should check the lubrication on your drive chain once a month and add just enough that you can barely see it. If you use too much then the excess grease can actually attract more dirt and debris onto the chain. Put a few drops on the all the chain links, then shift the chain through all the gears and back. Wipe away any excess lube with a clean cloth. Spray a small amount into the brake cable housing, too.
The type of lubrication you use depends on the kind of terrain and weather you're biking in. For mainly city biking in moderate weather, stick with an extra-dry lubricant. If you're biking in rain, try using a wet formula.
Check the Brakes
Just like with your car, functional brakes are important to a safe ride. If you're gripping your brakes as tight as they go and the bike doesn't halt, then you need to adjust your brake pads or replace them altogether. To adjust the pads, loosen the bolts holding them in place and shift them up or down until they are centered on the rim again, and re-tighten the bolts. It's also important to keep the brakes clean. Make sure to wipe away any dirt on the pad and brake surface.
Trikes Need TLC, Too
Just because a bike is adorned with sparkly unicorns and training wheels doesn't mean it doesn't require the same care as your own vehicle. It's never too early to learn how to care for your bike, so prop up those little ones alongside your own and get your kids to help out with the tune-up process.
A regular tune-up is important to maintain the life of your bike, but you should take a minute every time you go out for a ride to quickly check the basics. Make sure your tires have enough air, your chain is lubricated, and your brakes engage when you give them a squeeze. With good maintenance, you'll be pedaling into the sunset for years to come.
Why It’s Good
Learning how to tune up your bike is important whether you're a novice biker or an expert. Proper care and maintenance can extend the life of your bike and keep you riding safely no matter how often you use it.