Wednesday Wisdom - Bicycle Maintenance

Wednesday Wisdom

Basic Bicycle Maintenance and
When to Bring your Bike to the Pros
By Michael Raynor, Service Department Manager, Cary

Bicycles can be a rather large investment. We, along with most people that enjoy riding bikes, would argue that it’s a very worthwhile investment in your health and happiness. However, as with any investment, you want to take care of it so that your bicycle brings you years and years of reliable fun (and if you’re racing,  you likely also want the best performance it can deliver). Let’s dive into the regular maintenance you can do at home to keep your bike running in tip-top shape, as well as how often (and under what circumstances) you should bring it in to us for work.

In a previous Wednesday Wisdom article, we covered the importance of regular cleaning and lubrication of your chain (if you missed that article, you can check it out Here). Regular cleaning of the rest of your bike is also important to prevent corrosion, rust, and damage that can occur from sports drinks, sweat, and road grime sitting on the frame and working their way into the working areas of your bike (like bearings). Using a cleaner designed specifically for bikes will cut through grit, grime, and grease, while not damaging the paint and coating on your bike. Additionally, a number of great protectant products have come on the market to create a barrier to prevent rust and corrosion and to protect the paint and surface of your bike (which also make them easier to clean in the future). We really like Muc-Off’s Bike Protect spray for this purpose. 

Cleaning and wiping down your bike also provides a great opportunity to check for damage, cracks, and things that seem out of place. If you do see anything in this realm, it may be time for a quick trip to your shop to make sure there’s not a bigger problem. While you’re checking over things, cleaning provides a great opportunity to check your tires and make sure they’re in good shape. 

With electronic groupsets, it’s a good idea to charge your battery, or batteries, regularly so that you don’t end up in the middle of the ride without being able to shift. Work this into your regular frame cleaning to create a routine and habit, which makes it easier to do repeatedly and regularly.

 One of the most often overlooked pieces of bike maintenance is regularly replacing your bartape. If you’re someone who sweats a lot and has particularly high electrolyte concentration in  your sweat, you may need to replace your bartape as often as every 2-3 months to prevent corrosion to your handlebar and shifters. For most people outside of this group, we typically recommend replacing your bartape at least every 6 months. Fresh bartape really changes the way the bike feels and in the grand scheme of bike parts it’s a very inexpensive thing you can do to keep your bike in good shape and keep it feeling like new. 

What about when to bring your bike in to our service department for more work? To start off, we always recommend bringing your bike in for a safety inspection anytime you’ve had a wreck or notice anything out of place. It’s always best to catch any potential issues before they’ve had a chance to become major problems--for example, just a slight impact to the derailleur can bend your rear derailleur hanger and allow your derailleur to shift into your wheel which can create a much larger problem. In addition, we recommend bringing your bike in anytime you hear an out of place noise like creaking, popping, clicking, squealing, etc. New noises (and certainly ones like the examples above) usually indicate that attention of some level is needed. Often it’s a minor service or adjustment to get rid of noises, but if the noise is caused by a larger issue, it’s always better to address it sooner rather than later. 

Outside of these times, we also recommend routine, preventative maintenance. At a minimum, we recommend our annual service which involves a thorough cleaning, inspection, and rebuild (and adjustment) of most systems on the bike be completed yearly. Ideally, though, you’d also have our semi-annual service done between your annual services (for example, a semi-annual service now, an annual service in 6 months, a semi-annual service 6 months after that). This routine, preventative maintenance schedule allows for us to catch problems early, but also to perform preventative maintenance that can prolong the life of your drivetrain, bearings, brakes, etc.