Rubber Side Down: 7 Essential Tips for Proper Bike Maintenance

I guarantee that every mechanic’s heart drops when they see a customer rolling in on a rusted, neglected, abused bicycle. Especially because these customers usually expect a miracle. Your local mechanic will of course gladly take your money and do their best but they can’t raise the dead—most of the time. They would much rather work on a bike that has been properly maintained, even if it means seeing you a little less often.

7 Easy Ways to Keep You, Your Bike and Your Mechanic Happy

1. Store your bike in a safe and dry location. Chances are that you paid a pretty penny for your bicycle so make sure to store it in a safe place, either inside your home or in your garage. This not only protects the bike from would be thieves but it keeps it guarded from the elements. Bicycle + heavy rain = sad owner.

2. Properly inflate your tires. Over and under-inflated tires result in the same problem whether you’re on the road or on the trail. Flats. There is no perfect tire pressure for road or mountain and, for many riders, the proper PSI changes depending on the terrain or road conditions. For a great starting point, consult this handy chart and don’t forget to get an accurate floor pump to monitor your ideal pressure.

3. Clean your bike at least once a month, or more during the winter or when riding in wet weather. Never use a pressure washer to avoid forcing water into the headset and bottom bracket or your pivot bearings on your mountain bike.

5 Steps to a Clean Bike
Step 1 Wash off excess mud or road grime with a hose.
Step 2 Degrease your drivetrain with an appropriate degreaser.
Step 3 Use bike wash found at your local bike shop or online to clean the frame and fork. Car wash soap and water is not ideal but it gets the job done.
Step 4 Rinse and dry.
Step 5 Finish up with a nice bike polish if you care about your bike looking its best. And we know you do.

4. Lubricate your chain once every 100 miles, or more if you are riding in wet conditions. If you’ve never done it before, check out our instructional video on how to lube a bicycle chain in Art’s Learning Center.

5. Tighten your bolts. Don’t just make sure the bolts on your bike are tight, but that they are tightened correctly to the appropriate torque specification (usually found online, in the instruction booklet, or printed on the component itself). This task is not hard and it’s not time consuming but it does take one very important tool: the torque wrench! Use it, love it, repeat.

6. Check your chain and your brake pads. 

  • A worn out chain can decrease the life of your entire drivetrain. 2500 miles is the recommended service interval for a road chain but there is some variation between brands and models. For a mountain chain you are looking at closer to 500 miles before it is time to think about replacing it. A chain checker is an indispensable tool for both road and mountain bikes that can tell you right away if its time to replace your chain.
  • Road brake pads have wear indicators built right in, it is just a matter of checking them occasionally. When the braking surface becomes so worn that it is even with the bottom of the indicator grooves, you know it is time to swap out your pads. Mountain brake pads should be replaced when worn to between 1/16 to 1/32 of an inch.

7. Check and dial-in your shifting. Art’s Cyclery has you covered on this one. Check out the videos below for tuning your rear derailleur and more in our learning center.

How to Adjust Shimano Rear Derailleurs

How to Adjust SRAM Rear Derailleurs