So, you’ve decided to give cycling a try and pull your bike out of the shed, but the tyres are flat and your chain looks rusty. Here are a few steps that you can try at home to get your bike up and running.
Note: At Love to Ride we believe that you should support your local bike shop and get your bike serviced once a year by a qualified mechanic, possibly twice if you commute in all weather. But it's great to be able to do some basic bike maintenance yourself!
A is for Air - Check the air in your tyres before every ride - they should feel very firm.
B is for Brakes - Squeeze your brake levers while pushing your bike forward. Your bike shouldn’t move. Inspect pads for wear; replace if there is less than 1/4" of pad left. (This is especially important when you ride through rainy or snowy weather!)
C is for Chain - Your bike chain should be kept clean and lubed to keep your gears running smoothly, and to keep from premature wear (See details below on how to lube your chain!)
Pump your tyres. Bike tyres naturally lose air quickly due to having high air pressure and low volume. You may need to pump up your tyres every few days if you have a high end road bike, or every 2-4 weeks if you have a hybrid or fatter tyre bike. Keeping your tyres inflated will keep the tubes inside from being pinched, and the tyres from prematurely dry rotting (it will also create less ‘drag’ so you’ll be able to ride faster and with less effort!).
Lube your chain. Keeping your chain clean and lubed will keep your gears running smooth, and they will last significantly longer! If you ride regularly in bad weather, you are awesome. You may also appreciate a guide to more thorough chain maintenance to help you keep yours in perfect working order.
Fix your flat. The best way to avoid punctures is to buy decent tyres and inflate them to the correct pressure (this is printed on the tyre wall). A cheap pair of puncture retardant tyres can keep you riding for hundreds of miles. If you are unfortunate enough to get a puncture, inner tubes are often easy to repair. You'll need some tyre levers, a pump, and a repair kit or self-adhesive patch. First, you will need to remove the tyre. Then you can repair the puncture. This video from the Global Cycling Network shows you how to repair an inner tube with a conventional repair kit; the procedure is much the same with self-adhesive patches. (Did you fix your flat? Earn your badge now!)
Adjust your brakes. It's obviously not safe to ride without fully-functioning brakes. Often, though, brakes that don't halt your bike effectively just need a minor adjustment to get them back to full working order. This short and sweet two-minute video shows you how to adjust your brakes to make sure they are safe. This may vary slightly from bike to bike, and if you’re in any doubt, it’s best to be safe and bring your bike into a local bike shop.
Tuning Gears. Earn the ‘Cap of Cleverness’ and become a Bike Maintenance Smarty Pants by tuning your own gears. If your chain skips or rubs when you change gears, or if you are unable to shift onto your inner or outer rings, you will need to give your gears some TLC to get them running smoothly again. This great video from BikeFixIT gives a thorough guide to indexing your gears. This does take some practice to get right, so feel free leave this one to the pros...we won’t judge you!
When in doubt take it to your local bike shop. If you are uncomfortable with any of the steps above, your chain is rusted straight, or your tyres won’t hold air it is time to visit your local bike shop. If you are limited on time there are more and more mobile bike shops that will come to your work or home to fix up your bike.