Bike Tips eZine
Written by: Barry Page
© copyright 2003-2008
In this issue we will cover simple
bike maintenance. A little preparation and maintenance goes
a long way when caring for your bike. Some of this may sound
a little elementary, but everyone should have a good
understanding of the basics. In future issues we will cover
specifics and more technical issues.
When working on your bike it is
important to use the right tools. DO NOT attempt to
work on your bike with ordinary house tools like pliers and
vice-grips. Expert riders generally have a full suite of
professional tools in their garage and tune their bikes
regularly. You can purchase professional tools at your
local bike shop. If you can't find what you need there, try
these online superstores
Most bikes now days use metric size
wrenches. It should be a given that the FIRST thing
you purchase with your bike along with safety equipment is a
good pump. Go ahead and get a nicer one with a built in
guage and an adapter for presta or schraeder. Some of the
most common other tools you will need are:
- 8mm, 9mm, 10mm,
13mm, 15mm and 17mm open/closed in box wrenches.
- 4mm, 5mm, 6mm,
8mm and 10mm allen wrenches. Small combo sets are
- Tire tools, You
can pick these up for a few bucks at most shops or even
- Headset or
spanner wrenches. Get the proper size for your bike at
- Bottom bracket
tools. Again, get the proper type and size for your bike
at better shops.
Some popular tools that work well
PARK BK-2 ROLL UP WORKSHOP
PARK HHP-2 HEADSET PRESS
PEDRO'S PRO T/L HANDLE HEX SET - 9 PIECE
Most of the time when we ride we just
jump on our bike and go, but to keep our bikes riding at
peak performance we should take the time to properly tune
our bike each time we ride. Here are a few simple steps you
can take before riding that will keep you riding smoothly.
Regular Bike Maintenance
- Air up your
tires to the desired pressure, check this each time you
ride. Tires list their correct pressure on the sidewall.
Often overlooked, this is the single most important
thing you can do. Low tires can cause added stress
to other parts on your bike as well as pinched tubes and
- Check your
handlebars and stem to make sure everything is snug and
tight. Loose bars can cause accidents and lead to
slippage. Check your headset while you’re at it, this
often comes loose first and can cause major damage to
your bike if ridden while loose.
- Check your
brakes and adjust them properly. If you are uncertain
how to do this, visit your local bike shop. Some brakes
are harder to adjust than others, so learn about your
particular brakes. At a minimum, clean your discs and/or
rims from any dust or debris.
- Clean and
adjust your chain. Your chain should have a slight
coating of lube, but not too much. If it is dry, add
some lube. Most lubes today are Teflon based, just be
sure not to use household or motor oil. Wipe off any
excess and make sure it turns freely.
- Tighten and
adjust any shifting cables. Derailleurs usually don’t
need a whole lot of maintenance unless they get bent or
knocked out of whack in a fall. Again, consult your
local shop if you are unsure how to do this.
These 5 steps should take you no
longer than 10 minutes and will add countless hours to your
bike’s life. Not to mention the time it will save you from
breaking down while riding.
Make working on your bike a breeze with a
PARK PCS-4 DELUXE HOME STAND
One of the most common bike repairs is
the flat. Here we will cover this basic repair in detail.
Flats can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time, no matter
how new or old your bike. And, they can happen in the most
unlikely of places in the most inconvenient circumstances. A
flat is something that everyone should know how to
fix and/or change.
Depending on what type of tires you
are running, your tires may have tubes. If so, most people
today just replace their tubes when they have a flat. But,
if you are on a budget or you have some time, you can patch
your tube. You also will want to be aware of the type of
valve you have, presta or schraeder. Presta is the skinny
one and schraeder is the fatter one found on most pneumatic
tires including cars. Most mountain bikes use presta valves
and most bmx bikes use schraeder. Schrader valves are
generally seen as tougher and are easier to locate a pump
for if you are stranded. So, if you run presta be sure to
keep an adapter with you. Here are the basics:
Changing a Flat on a Bike
- If you run
gears, shift into the smallest cog. Some bikes also have
a special tab for hanging your chain so it’s out of the
- Pull and
release any quick releases on your brakes if you run
calipers. This will allow the wheel to slide out easily.
- Remove the
wheel by loosening the axle nuts or quick release. Nuts
are usually a 15mm, although some bmx bikes now use a
17mm, and turn counter-clockwise. Quick-releases should
pull away from the bike and release the wheel.
- Release any air
that may be in the tire or tube. Press or unscrew the
valve stem to do this. Presta stems require that you
press and release air first and that you retighten
- Plastic tire
tools work best for removing the tire from the rim. Use
a tire tool to pry the tire from the rim and hold it in
place with the spokes. Repeat this step as you use
another tire tool to work your way around the wheel.
Once you have a few you should be able to just slide the
tool around the rim and pull one side of the tire off.
- Once one side
of the tire is off, pull the tube out if you have one.
Tubeless tires can be patched as well if the hole is not
too bad. Special tire patching kits are available. Stans
(No Tubes) and Slime (Slime
Tubeless Tire Puncture Sealant)
make products designed specifically for tubeless tires.
- Use a rag to
run your hand all the way around the inside of the tire.
This will help you locate and clean out any thorns,
nails or debris. If something is lodged in the tire like
a nail or screw, use pliers to pull it out and fill the
hole with glue, a plug or a patch if possible.
- Put a small
amount of air in your tube before inserting it into the
tire. Put the valve stem through the rim hole and work
the tube into the tire. The tire should then be rolled
onto the rim with your hands. DO NOT use a
screwdriver, this could pinch the tube.
- Once the tire
is on the rim, add air to it until it seats on to the
rim evenly. If you have caliper brakes you may want to
wait until the wheel is on the bike before airing it up
- Place the wheel
back on the bike making sure the tire tread is pointed
in the proper direction. Tighten the wheel securely and
air it up to the desired pressure. Be sure to close any
quick releases securely on your brakes and wheels.
A little preparation before you ride
will ensure your bike remains in good shape. The more you
ride the more you will have to work on your bike. And, the
better you become at working on your bike the more likely
you will be able to fix any problems that may arise.
Below are links to some of my favorite and
popular tools that work well:
Park Tool Basic Tool Kit/Race Kit BK-2
Park Tool® Home Mechanic Floor Pump
Park® CT-5 Mini Chain Brute Chain Tool
Now that your bike is dialed, go out
Barry Page has been riding and racing
bikes competitively for over 25 years. He has also worked as
a mechanic, owned his own bike shop and worked in the
bicycle industry for 15 years plus.