Bike

The Dos and Don’ts of Taking Care of Your Bike

Keep your ride running smoothly with our key tips.

If you treat your ride right, it’ll treat you right. Treat it wrong, and get ready for a world of trouble. Use these bike maintenance tips and you’ll further your enjoyment on the roads and extend the life of your bike and its parts.

Bike Maintenance Tips

DO
Lubricate your chain frequently, wiping crud off it while you’re at it. Keeping your chain clean and lubricated reduces frictional drag and reduces wear.

DON’T
Let it get dirty. It’ll make you do more work to go the same speed and require more frequent chain replacement.

DO
Properly inflate your tires to reduce rolling friction and flats. Check your pressure before every ride.

DON’T
Ignore your tire pressure by letting your tires get low or overinflating. You’ll not only work harder to maintain the same speed with tires that are too hard or too soft, but you also overly strain the casing and the beads of the tire itself with too much pressure or encourage pinch flats with too little inflation.

DO
Replace your chain every season. Not only will a stretched chain run the risk of breakage, but it’ll wear out your chainrings and cogs. Check it weekly with a chain gauge, and when it gets beyond the wear indicator, replace it.

DON’T
Wait for it to break or for poor shifting. Chains are not cheap, but they are much (much) cheaper than rear cassettes, which you will also be buying if you let your chain wear too long.

DO
Make sure disc brakes don’t rub. The gap between rotor (disc) and pad is tiny, so if the brake caliper is off, one or both pads will hit, slowing you down and making noise.

DON’T
Expect it to simply go away. To align, slightly loosen a mounting bolt, and incrementally push one end of the caliper one way or the other. If the rotor is warped, you’ll need a dial-indicator gauge to true it by bending it accurately. In that case, you’ll probably want to take it to a shop.

DON’T
Pull a hydraulic disc lever without the wheel in the bike or a spacer between the pads. Doing so can push the pistons out of their cylinders so far that they won’t retract fully.

DO
Use a spacer when the wheel is removed. To get the wheel back in with no rubbing after accidentally pressing the pads together, you will have to push the pistons back in first; this may require removing the pads.

Lennard Zinn is the author of Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance and a custom frame builder.