Introduction: Bicycle Maintenance 101

About: I am a human being who is excited about a lot! I love to share that excitement with others who are equally excited. Current graduate student studying electronic music and recording media. When I'm not fixing…

Bicycles are a fun, economical, and environmentally friendly way to travel from point A to point B! But as you probably already know, there is a catch: if you don't take care of your bicycle, it will soon lose it's ability to reach point B comfortably and efficiently! At which point, you can either take your bike to a shop and potentially end up with a pretty impressive bill, or you can learn how to perform some basic maintenance tasks on your own (that's where this tutorial comes in)! What is proposed hereafter is a basic maintenance schedule to keep your two wheeled friend functioning and fly. Some tasks are more complex than others, but do not be discouraged, with the right tools and some patience, you are capable of keeping your bicycle rolling! Read on to find out how!

Step 1: Common Road Bike Anatomy

The following information may be confusing if you are a bit unsure of what each part of your bike is called. To make things a little easier, I made this handy diagram of road bike anatomy.

Step 2: Before You Ride

Before you ride, it is important to check that your bicycle is in safe riding condition. Checking tires for proper inflation, your drive chain moves freely, and that your brakes are functional is especially crucial. A simple way to quickly and thoroughly check your ride is with "ABC Wheel Quick".

ABC Wheel Quick:

A: Air: Ensure proper tire inflation and check for tire wear.

B: Brakes and Bars: Check proper brake function and brake pad wear, and check handlebars for cracks.

C: Chain and Cables: Check for tight, worn, or stuck chain links and for fraying cables.

Wheel: Check wheels for debris, broken, loose, or bent spokes, and trueness.

Quick: Quick Releases:Ensure that quick releases on wheels, saddle, and elsewhere are tightly set and fully seated to hold wheels and other parts in place.

Step 3: After You Ride

  • Inspect tires for glass shards, gravel, debris, and cuts on the tread and sidewall that could indicate a puncture or tear in the tube.
  • Check wheels for true and look for bent or broken spokes.

Clean bike's mechanical parts as necessary. Once a week or every 200 miles you should:

  • Lubricate Chain (with dry lube, or every other week or 400 miles with wet lube).

Step 4: Once a Month

  • Completely clean the bike, including the drive train, to ensure that dirt and debris is not obstructing or corroding moving parts.
  • Inspect chain and freewheel. Measure the chain for wear with a chain wear indicator. Check for tight links and replace the chain if necessary.
  • Lubricate and inspect brake levers, derailleurs, and all cables. I recommend using a light/dry lube on levers and cables. A wet lube can be used on the derailleurs but be sure to clean excess off of exposed parts to prevent collection of dirt and debris.
  • Inspect pedals and lubricate SPD style cleats. Inspect tires for tread wear and tears in the sidewalls and tread.
  • Check all parts for looseness, over tightening, rust, threading, and general wear.

Step 5: Every Three Months

  • Inspect frame and fork form paint cracks or bulges that may indicate frame or part damage; pay particular attention to all frame joints and lugs.
  • Visually inspect for bent or cracked components: seat rails, seat post, stem, handlebars, chainrings, crank arms, brake calipers, and brake levers.

Step 6: Every Six Months

  • Inspect and readjust bearings in headset, wheel hubs, pedals, and bottom bracket (if possible: some sealed cartridge bearings cannot be adjusted, only replaced).

Step 7: Annually

  • Disassemble and overhaul; replace all pitted and worn bearings (if possible and necessary).
  • Oil, clean, and if necessary replace all brake and shift cables.

If you often ride in the rain or mud, or you are a mountain biker who gets dirty regularly, you should overhaul your bicycle more frequently and remember to diligently clean and lubricate moving parts.