Basic Bike Maintenance and Prevention
So now that you have spent a small fortune on a bike, you should probably learn how to take care of it! It is a large investment in the sport to purchase a bike and the best way to get the most out of it is to keep it in good shape. All too often I see good riders DNF races because they are trying to ride a (nice) bike that is not anywhere near race ready, so below are some basic tips to help keep your new steed in shipshape condition.
Lube that Chain!
One of the most important things in keeping a bike running smoothly for a long period of time is proper lubrication. It is vital to make sure the chain is lubed at least every 100 miles, and even more frequently if the weather you are encountering is on the moist side. And making sure the chain is lubricated is more than just putting on lube and forgetting it. Ideally you should apply chain lube to every pin of the chain and then wait roughly two hours for the solvent to evaporate. After two hours you go back and wipe away all of the residual chain lube. All of these steps will help maximize chain life while also protecting your cassette, chainrings, and derailleur pulleys. A final tip regarding the chain is to make sure it has not stretched too far. The best way to check this is with a chain stretch gauge and to replace it once it has stretched beyond the acceptable limits.
Check Them Tires!
The tires are what keep your bike on the road and you on your desired line around corners. Due to their importance to your safety, it is necessary to check them every 100 miles. All you have to do is look at the tread as you slowly turn the wheel while it is still installed on the bike. Slices smaller than 5mm are generally acceptable, but should be checked regularly to make sure they are not growing. Anything larger should be taken more seriously, as large slices can let sand and rocks penetrate the tube easily, resulting in flat tires. Lastly, maintaining proper pressures while riding will maximize the lifespan of your rubber.
Rims, and Brake Pads, and Hubs! Oh My!
It is crucial to check the wear on your wheels! This is something that is often overlooked, but over time the braking resistance wears down the brake track and results in less effective brakes (which is decidedly bad). Most wheels have wear marks: small indented dots on the brake track, by the valve stem hole. If these are worn flush with the rim surface, then you may need to re-lace that hub to a new rim. Replacing your brake pads frequently and checking them for debris can help minimize rim wear while also guaranteeing you will stop when you really need to! And lastly, if you live in a climate with a great deal of precipitation, or aim for every puddle you see on your rides, then you need to check how your hubs spin. Roughly once a month it is important to take both wheels off your bike and spin each one, while holding the quick release. If you hear grinding or they aren’t spinning as easily as they used to, then you likely need to rebuild or replace the bearings in the hubs.
Carbon Frame Inspector!
If you spent your hard earned dough on a fancy carbon frame, then you need to check that thing out every now and again! Carbon is a great material that allows bikes to be made into very light and aerodynamic shapes, but once it fails it has a bad habit of failing spectacularly. So, it is important to double check all carbon parts every once in a while to make sure there are no cracks. Paint chips on carbon parts should be covered with a clear coat (like a clear nail polish) to stop water and road grime from interfering with the carbon fiber layers. And any, even tiny, cracks or chips should be committed to memory and checked back on frequently to make sure they are not spreading.
Basically the art of bike maintenance is more about knowing the bike, how recently parts have been changed, and its use, than it is anything mystical or super human. As the owner, these are all things you should be well aware of, so just check everything every now and again and you should be good to go for many more smiley-miles!