How to maintain your bike at home to help it last longer
Regular maintenance is essential to keeping your bike in good condition and extending its life.
Many people own bikes but don’t know how to maintain them properly. However, it doesn’t have to be complicated, and you can keep your bike in good working order with just a few simple steps.
At Swinnerton Cycles, we’ve put together this maintenance guide to help you look after your bike. Applying these simple checks and maintenance tasks can ensure your bike will last for years, work how you need it to and be safe to ride.
Table of contents
Tools you will need
- For cleaning: A bucket for soapy water, a degreaser, rags, a sponge, a towel and an old toothbrush or small brush.
- Chain lubricant
- A bike pump
- Bike repair stand
- Puncture repair kit
- Allen keys
- Chain checker
- Chain tool and chain whip
- Torque wrench
- Pedal spanner
- Bike tool kit sets
Maintenance on the road
Unfortunately, you can’t always guarantee your bike will be 100% reliable when you’re on the road or trail. That’s why we recommend always carrying a spare inner tube, puncture repair kit, pump and a multi-tool when you’re on a ride for emergencies.
Read on for 10 simple ways to ensure your bike stays in the best condition.
How to maintain your mountain bike
1. Check your bearings
Bearings appear all over your bike, wherever two moving pieces of metal meet. If they are loose, the friction can wear away sections of your bike. Your bike will feel wobbly, and your power transfer will be less efficient.
To check if you have loose headset bearings, grab the front tyre and try and wiggle it from side to side. If there is any movement, you must tighten your bearings or replace them if broken.
2. Secure your saddle
If you don’t regularly check to see if the clasp on your saddle is working sufficiently, you could risk a nasty accident. The bike clasp secures your bike saddle in the correct position and prevents you from slipping on and off the saddle.
Make sure the clasp is nice and tight. To check the stability, grab the saddle and try pushing it side to side and up and down. Tighten it if it moves. If you have a specific torque setting for your saddle post clamp in your instruction manual, use this to torque up the saddle.
3. Test your breaks
It’s crucial to test your breaks regularly as brake pads wear down over time. If your bike breaks fail, you could lose control of your bike, causing an accident.
If you have a bike stand, place your bike on it. If not, lift each wheel in the air. Spin each wheel and test the corresponding break separately. The brakes should be firm and pull back to the handlebars, but if it takes a while for the wheel to stop or the brakes feel soft, you need to fix them by checking your brake cables for frays, replace the brake pads, or if it is not under sufficient tension you will need to pump them up.
4. Address handlebar rattles
If you begin hearing any rattles, address them as soon as possible. A rattle indicates something is loose, which can damage your bike, causing it to ride inefficiently.
If the rattle is coming from the front, your front fork is shaking, or the front of the bike is vibrating, you need to tighten the headset. To check if the headset is the cause, apply the front brakes and try and move the bike back and forth by pushing it against the ground. If the headset moves, you need to tighten it.
Grab the torque wrench and tighten the four stem bolts to five Newton metres (unless otherwise stated in your bike manual).
5. Prevent squeaky chains
If your bike chains are squeaking, it can mean they are dirty or broken, which can cause injury or damage to your bike.
On a bike maintenance rack or by holding the back wheel in the air, spin your pedals backwards and listen for clicking or unusual friction sounds. In most cases, you can clean them to solve the problem. If it doesn’t, it could mean they need adjusting or replacing.
An old or worn chain will stretch as the spacing between the pins increases. A worn-out chain will also wear down the cassette, so change it as soon as possible. If you can see daylight between the chain and teeth, it’s time to replace your chain. You can also use a chain checker to check the spacing.
If you need to replace the cassette and chain, you will need a chain tool and whip that matches your groupset.
How to clean a bike chain if they’re squeaking
To prevent dirt and mud from causing damage to your chain, you need to clean it regularly or after a particularly muddy ride.
Lubricate your chain
Wipe your chain after every ride and reapply bike lubricate. This prevents squeaking caused by friction and wear and prevents your chain from attracting dirt. Use wet lube in the winter and dry lube in the summer. You only need a small amount and wipe off any excess.
6. Check for loose components.
Regularly check for loose components to keep you safe and ensure your bike runs smoothly. Hold down the front and back breaks and bounce the bike up and down. Something will be loose if you hear anything rattling, like the connections, screws, nuts and bolts. Tighten these according to your bike’s torque specs, as overtightening can also lead to damage. Use a preset torque wrench to avoid damaging the carbon bike frame.
Use a pedal wrench to undo your pedals to check for dirt, and then use it to tighten them again.
Also, check your spokes. Check to see if they wobble, as they shouldn’t move.
7. Regularly clean your bike.
Regularly cleaning your bike can extend its life span and help maintain its original look. Use hot soapy water or a specialist bike cleaner to prevent dirt and grease build-up. Remove any mud or dirt from the bike frame, chain, chainrings, drivetrain, pedals, brakes, seat and anywhere else to prevent damage to the paint or components. Use an old toothbrush to get the dirt in hard-to-reach places. Be sure to dry your dry bike after washing to avoid rust.
8. Check your tyre pressure.
You should check your tyre pressure before every ride to ensure optimum efficiency and prevent damage. Pump your tyres to the recommended pressure with a hand pump with a PSI gauge.
If your tyres are losing pressure faster than usual and more frequently, you could have a puncture. Check for tyre punctures by taking out your inner tyre and submerging it under water. If there are bubbles when you squeeze the tyre, you need to either patch your tyre with a patch kit or replace the inner tube.
9. Index your gears
If your gears are mis-shifting or making excessive noise, this could be insufficient cable tension or friction caused by rust or dirt, meaning you may need to re-index your gears. Make adjustments to the cable tension using the barrel adjuster. If the chain is popping off the cassette or chainrings, you may need to adjust the limit screws.
Never rest your bike on the driverside to protect your derailleurs, cassette and cranks, as they can easily bend, which can cause inaccurate shifting gears.
10. Get your bike serviced.
If getting greasy isn’t your thing, we recommend servicing your bike by a professional once or twice a year to ensure complex components are working correctly, for example, the spokes, bearing surfaces, derailleurs and cables.
How to maintain your mountain bike
For maintaining most bikes, you can follow a similar process. Although, a mountain bike will need suspension maintenance, compared to a bike without suspension. For standard suspension maintenance, you can change the oil, clean the seals and stanchions, check the air pressure in the shocks and add more air if they are sagging or something doesn’t feel right.
Maintain your bike with the help of Swinnerton Cycles.
The point of regular maintenance is looking for issues and fixing them before they cause a problem or more expensive damage. Regular maintenance will keep your bike in working order for the best and safest riding experience.