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Basic Bicycle Maintenance

by Lee Doppelt


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"Treat your bike well and it will return the favor," states the website of Champaign Cycle. Whether you ride year-round or seasonally, you are a leisurely rider taking an occasional short trip, ride for pleasure on longer journeys, or use your bicycle instead of a car for commuting to and from your job and for errands, if you take good care of it, a bicycle can last you for a very long time. Simple routine maintenance is the key to longevity for your bike. There are a few simple functions that you can assess and fix, as needed, for your bicycle, whatever its age or dollar value. And even if you are not a do-it-yourselfer, a local bike shop can also help you for a reasonable price.

Be sure to store your bicycle in the best place.

Store your bike inside a garage or shed and keep it dry and locked up for security. Be sure any removable parts like a quick release front tire are locked up so they can't be stolen, leaving your bike essentially unusable. And keep your bicycle clean, especially if you ride in inclement weather or in muddy or dusty areas. Wipe the frame clean as needed.

Perform quick checks before each ride to minimize unexpected problems during the ride.

Routinely, check the pressure in the tires and keep them filled to the recommended pressure. If you own an inexpensive tire gauge and tire pump, this is a very simple task. As an alternative, any bike shop can check the pressure for you and fill the tires as needed. If there appears to be a tire leak, you will need to replace the tire tube or possibly the valve.

Make sure that the wheels are not wobbly. Inspect the bike by holding it in front of you, spinning each wheel and making sure it is not wiggly. A bike shop can help you fix this by "truing the wheel."

The bicycle chain should be kept lubricated using a lubricant specific for bike chains and not WD-40®. Keep some handy in your garage for easy use as needed. And don't over-lubricate your chain or it will function like a magnet for dirt and dust. Periodically, it is not a bad idea to remove the chain, soak it clean, and re-lubricate it to have a more efficiently functioning bike chain.

Brake pads should be well-adjusted to hit the wheel evenly when stopping. Bike cables should not be frayed. None of the connections should be loose or wobbly. And when riding, the bike should be able to change gears freely.

Basic Bicycle Maintenance

Remember yearly maintenance for every bike.

Bicycle experts recommend a yearly tune-up for all bikes. A tune-up typically involves adjusting the brakes and derailleurs, truing the wheels, and lubricating the chain, cables, and derailleurs. You can easily do it yourself or have the bike shop do it for about $70 each spring. If you bring it in just before their busy season, they can perform the tune up quicker. Call them to schedule an appointment.

And, don't forget your bicycle helmet.

You're proud of yourself because you never hop onto your bike without a helmet, even for a short trip down the block. You position it on your head correctly and it seems to fit you well. You've never fallen off your bike and the helmet looks to be in mint condition. So you have no worries about the helmet, right? Wrong!

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Bicycle shops are not trying to stir up more business when they recommend that you replace your seemingly good helmet every five years or so. Even for infrequent cyclists, the foam inside the helmet flattens out over time, not unlike your mattress on your bed at home. For about $40 or more, you can buy a bike helmet that can help save you from a head injury if you should unexpectedly get knocked off of your bike. Trust that this is money very well spent in the name of prevention of your own safety and well-being.

A bicycle is a great vehicle for everyone to have whether it is used for leisure or as an alternative mode of transportation. Take good care of your bike in the same way you treat your car or minivan and you will have years of use and pleasure. Give the same attention to the bicycles that your children ride and they will enjoy riding well into adulthood.


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