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Bicycle Maintenance: Basics

Bicycles are very durable little machines. However, like any mechanical thing, they do need some maintenance sometimes.

If you ride a lot of kilometers per year, maintaining your bicycle is even more important. Even more so in long distance riding. You wouldn't want something to break when you're 300 kilometers from home.


How do I maintain my bicycles?


I ride two bicycles, a fixed gear bike for work commuting  (32km per day) and for running errands. Another bicycle I own is for long distance riding, I tend to ride three to four long distance trips every month.

For the every day bicycle, maintenance is very minimal and easy. Fixed gear bikes are very durable as they don't have much that can go wrong very easily. I keep the chain lubricated and clean. I keep the bike reasonably clean overall. Periodically I check that the chain is not streched too much and that chainring and sprocket are not worn too much. They are easy and cheap to replace. On my fixed gear bicycle I have a front brake (caliber rim brake) which has brake pads. As I don't use the brake often, the brake pads last around six to nine months. I tend to change them at least once a year or more often if needed.

My long distance bicycle is a geared road bike of which I will make a separate blog post in the near future. However, I do similar maintenance things for it as for the fixed gear bike. Keep chain lubed, check for brake pads, make sure that gears are shifting smoothly and keep the bike clean. Sometimes gear cables can stretch or even break so they need maintance. Either tightening or simply replacing the cables. Brake cables are very strong and most of the time they do not need any maintenance.

Tyres. They are interesting topic which should really have their own blog post. Tubeless or with tubes and why? That's a question for a different time. However, I use tubes. I don't usually patch them, if I get a puncture, I simply change the tube. I try to buy durable tyres with reasonably good puncture protection and reasonably low rolling resistance. Durability and speed are always a compromise but you just need to find what's the best for your style of riding. At the moment my favorite tyres are Vittoria Rubino Pro and Pirelli P Zero Velo 4 season. Both of them are fairly expensive tyres, but they last for a long time and have characterics that I like.

More advanced maintenance


Once a year I open and service front and rear hubs of my wheels. I clean them and change the bearings. That way they will last for a very long time and are nice to ride. There are two types of bearings in hubs, either cartridge ones or cup and cone ones. Cup and cone bearings are easier to maintain without special tools, but they also tend to need more maintenance. Cartridge bearings are harder to change (basically you'll need special tools) but they need less maintenance. I have used both and I don't really have a preference.

Sometimes I'll just randomly check that if bottom bracket or headset bearings have any play in them. If yes, it needs to be fixed. Headset bearings might become loose and can be usually fixed easily by tightening them. Same thing with bottom bracket, althought I haven't had any issues ever. Bottom brackets are pretty bulletproof nowadays. Sometimes, although rarely, you might need to change the headset to a new one. Same goes with bottom brackets.

Wheel truing is something that needs to be done sometimes, fairly rarely depending on rims, spokes, rider weight (and possible bike bags weight) etc. I do it when needed.

Most of the people want to take the bicycle to a local bike shop for these advanced maintenance tasks as they can be complicated and take time. I do them myself simply because I enjoy it. It took me many times of trial and error before I learned how to do these things correctly. Especially wheel truing.

These are the most common things I do for my bicycles, of course there are more little details but this blog post is meant to give you some guidelines and a general idea what is needed to keep your bicycles safe and sound.

Cheers,
Niko

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