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Basic Bike Maintenance

Basic bike maintenance will extend the life of your bike’s components, so with a little knowledge and experience, you’ll be able to ride confidently knowing your bike is ready to go.

Basic bike maintenance at a glance – the essential checks

  • Bolt Checks
  • Tyre Pressure Checks
  • Handlebar Angle
  • Chain Stretch
  • Saddle Angle Check
  • Cable Tension Check 
  • Top Up Tubeless Sealant
  • Check Brake Pad Wear
  • Brake Reach Adjustment & Travel

Why is it important to maintain your bike?

Regular maintenance check-ups are essential for riding safely and avoiding costly issues down the line, and will make a difference on every ride.

Safety: Doing regular check ups on your bike is a preventive measure against riding an unsafe bike. Don’t wait for something to break mid-ride which can lead to injuries. Servicing your bike yourself or getting a mechanic to do it will help to reduce the risk of injury.

Save Money: Regular maintenance, much like with a car, helps you prevent costly problems in the future. Instead of being slapped with a large bill, you may discover problems early and make bike repairs as needed.

Basic Bike Maintenance Tips

1/ Bolt Checks 

Before heading out on your ride it’s important to ensure all bolts are securely fastened. Checking key areas like stem, brake levers, bolts on your seat and even the bottle cage. This ensures nothing is rattling around or comes loose causing a ride ending mechanical. 

There are a lot of bolts on your bike, as you can probably tell just by looking at it, and you need to keep track of them. Working from the front of the bike to the back or starting from the back and working your way forward, experienced mechanics use a methodical approach to ensure none are missed. 

2/ Tyre Pressure Checks 

Checking your tyre pressure is a quick and easy way to help improve performance and comfort on your bike. It also helps you to easily find if you have a flat tyre which as we all know can quickly ruin any ride. 

If you are unsure as to what pressure you should be riding at, as an easy guide you should ensure your tyres are pumped to the recommended minimum and/or maximum level which is normally printed on the sidewall of your tyre. This is just a recommendation – you should be riding your tyres with enough pressure to ensure you are comfortable, help reduce rolling resistance and lower your chances of a punctures. 

Tyre Pressure Checks

3/ Handlebar Angle 

Handlebar angle is often set when you first purchase a bike and something that is never touched unless you get a bike fit or start to get pains in your neck and back. 

For your road bike if you find yourself struggling to reach the hoods or brakes and developing neck or back pain this could be to do with your handlebar angle. Changing the angle of them will allow you to reach the levers a bit easier and improve your posture on the bike. 

On MTB this is more down to personal preference, if you like a more flat bar or one with a bit of flex in it. Similar to road bikes simply undo the stem bolts and position as you wish. 

Handlebar Angle

4/ Chain Stretch 

Chain wear is commonly referred to as ‘chain stretch’, because the chain’s pitch grows in length as it wears. Chain wear will lead to poor shifting and lost efficiency. Additionally, a severely worn chain is weaker and there’s nothing fun about a snapped chain under power. It can also be very costly as a worn chain will also wear the cassette and chain ring quicker. 

Measuring for chain wear is done with a chain checking tool or ruler/tape measure. Using a ruler, a new chain should measure exactly 12 inches across 12 links, from middle of pin to middle of pin. For a more accurate measurement you can use a chain checking tool that gives an in more precise indication of when a chain stretches.  

Chain Stretch

5/ Saddle Angle Check 

Like we touched on previously over time bolts on your bike can wriggle loose and affect the position and efficiency of your bike; your saddle can become one of these components to suffer from this. When you get your bike, you may spend hours debating over the height and angle of the saddle to ensure you are comfortable and perhaps pushing out the power you want too.  

The bolts can come loose and the force of you sitting on it can result in it coming loose, therefore it is important to check to ensure your saddle is in the correct position to improve efficiency of your pedal stroke and comfort on your lower back especially. 

The angle of the saddle is adjusted via the saddle clamp on the seat post. Seat post clamps come in many designs, some of which make fine adjustments easier than others. 

Saddle Angle Check

6/ Cable Tension Check 

Cable stretch is when a cable wears slightly with use. Shifting to larger cogs and braking applies tension to the cable. Over time, performance suffers as the cables get longer. You may feel your gearing lag or skip when shifting so it’s vital you check this.  

To check it simply you can see if there is a visible slack in the gear cable, if there is then you can pull the tension via barrel adjusters on the rear derailleur however with something like this going to a local bike mechanic will ensure your gears are running smoothly. 

Cable Tension Check

7/ Top Up Tubeless Sealant 

Bike tyres often take a heavy beating when you are out on the trails and roads. This coupled with how thin and porous they are often result in sealant evaporating and drying out over time. Ultimately this will lead to you losing pressure in the tyre and resulting in more punctures.  

Topping up your sealant every two to three months is a simple and easy task and will lead to many happy bike rides, puncture free. 

Top Up Tubeless Sealant

8/ Check Brake Pad Wear 

Brakes are often our best friends at times, leaning heavy on them to ensure you stop just in time. But excessive pressure on them will inevitably lead to wear over time. An easy way to check them is by simply looking at them to see how much pad is actually left. 

Many braking systems allow you to view how much pad is remaining without having to remove any parts of the bike. You can usually visually check the pads by looking down the top of the caliper. It’s also worth checking from the other side, because pads don’t usually wear equally. 

Check Brake Pad Wear

9/ Brake Reach Adjustment & Travel  

Over time due to cable and brake pad wear, plus screws and bolts coming loose can cause your brake levers to become less efficient, in the wrong place which can lead to strain on your fingers. 

The lever reach can be modified with or without tools, depending on the model. To keep the lever within reach, make sure the initial joint of your index finger is on the lever. The adjustment screws are normally found on the brake lever’s front side. 

Checking the travel allows you to adjust at which point in the lever’s throw the brake begins to engage with the disc. This can be as short or as long a travel as possible and will depend varying on your personal opinion or the style of riding you like to do.  

Correct Tools?

Don’t have the correct tools?

For our top basic bike maintenance tips, you may need some tools! Check out our set of workshop buying guides to find what tools you need

Tom Adams

Tom is a bike enthusiast! Originally a mountain biker, Tom enjoys going fast on two wheels, whether it's on the road or on the gravel, mountain bike or commuting! Tom has been riding bikes for almost 18 years and loves nothing more than getting out on the roads or trails and testing out the newest and most innovative things on the Chain Reaction website!

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    1. Hey Mike, thanks for the question! This depends on the rider and their riding habits; things such as dirt, heavy braking and/or damage to the brake can cause the pads to wear down quicker or even wear them out completely!

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