Whether you are riding around the latest and greatest the bike industry has to offer, an old school relic, or the die-hard four season commuter, admittedly as a cyclist, you care about the bike you are on. Keeping your bicycle running smoothly will only ensure the longevity of the bike, its performance, and the overall enjoyment you will get out of every ride.
While many tunes and services are best left for your friendly local bike shop, the first and foremost is something everyone who rides is capable of maintaining.
1. Cleanliness is Key
Keep your bike clean. Easier said than done after a long ride and you’re not overly motivated to spend the few minutes washing mud or road grit off, but the bike will thank you for the extra effort.
There are some important points to note while hosing your bike down. While water can be used to knock excess mud off the frame, avoid areas around bearings and suspension seals, as that can cause the mud you want off the bike to work its way into those areas, causing the infamous ‘creek’ or potential damage to the suspension. Those areas are best wiped down with a damp rag to remove dirt. This is all good preventative maintenance practices.
Keeping the drivetrain clean and properly lubricated will allow your drivetrain to operate smoother and quieter. If you are unfamiliar, the best method is to clean the chain with a dry rag, apply a bicycle chain lube (whether it be a dry, wet, or wax based lube) and finally, and an often overlooked step, is to then wipe off any excess. You should be able to touch the chain with a small amount of clean chain lube residue left on your finger. Keeping your bike and drivetrain clean is a simple and valuable at home bike maintenance anyone can do. And aside from keeping your pride and joy bicycle clean, surely your bike shop will appreciate it when you eventually bring it in for a more involved service.
2. Where the Rubber Meets the Road (or Trail)
Another way to get the most out of your bicycle is to keep an eye on the wheels and tires you are running. While there are countless tire combinations, brands, and opinions on what’s best, finding your personal preference is what matters most. This blog post isn’t meant to be an opinionative bit, that discussion can be saved for the bottom pages of a bike forum and comments section, it is worthy to note keeping up on the condition of your tires.
In a world where tubeless is taking over the road and mountain world, it is important to note that sealant will dry up inside the tires over time. There are many factors playing into how quickly this happens, but generally speaking it’s something you should check at least once a season, ideally in the spring time when you take the bike out of winter storage.
Wheels that are true and with smooth running hub bearings will dramatically improve performance. Not to mention can also help save money in the long run from replacing parts. Inspecting tires for potential tears or cracks from dry-rotting, to excessive wear is all a matter of safety; however will also improve ride quality, and potentially save you from an avoidable walk out of the woods or calling on a good friend to pick you up on the side of the road with a flat.
3. Getting Watts to the Wheels
Let’s face it, we all want to ride at our best, or at least be on a bike that can shift through its gears properly. This is a tall order for a drivetrain that isn’t tuned correctly or may be worn out. There is no set equation on how long a drivetrain should last, however regular upkeep will prolong every drivetrain’s life and will be more enjoyable throughout. Another note going back to keeping your bike clean. Not to mention, having a properly tuned setup will run more efficiently, allowing for longer rides, and to save your sanity by dealing with a drivetrain that is cooperating, rather than with gears which seem to be shifting with a mind of their own.
Here’s a plug for all the mountain bikers, and select few gravel bikers out there, who are running suspension. There is a lot at play in order to get the most out of your suspension.
First and foremost, having properly set up suspension to your rider weight and riding style is important. This is another area where personal preference is paramount, however there are good starting points to begin with depending on your discipline of riding. Setting the ‘sag’ for your suspension is vital to get the best possible ride quality. Owning a shock pump is a great tool to have around if you are running air sprung suspension, which a majority of bikes do.
The service side of suspension is often an overlooked endeavor, as it is more frequent than most realize. While each manufacturer has slightly different service intervals, it is important to abide by those as best you can. Again, with a wide array of variables, from riding styles, conditions, to how often you ride, it is important to keep a track record. While the bike gets put through some rugged conditions, your suspension has some fragile internal parts. Neglecting upkeep in service, may have you shelling out for expensive replacement parts. In many ways this falls under preventative maintenance, but at the forefront will greatly improve the on trail experience.
5. General Safety
A final key point for routine tune-ups is for general safety. Riding a bike that is pedaling smoothly will always be more enjoyable, and there’s peace of mind knowing your bike is safe. Having your bike looked over by a mechanic at your local bike shop will help ensure everything is functioning properly and worn parts are being replaced. Anything from brake pads, to chains, to bearings, inevitably components on your bike will need to be replaced. Even as far as unfortunate frame damage, all this goes back to keeping your bike clean as it is easier to see potential problems.
A clean bike brought in for a tune up is something every bike mechanic, in any shop, will appreciate. A routine tune up, regardless of how in-depth a service, will allow for a professional set of eyes to look over your bike and make sure everything is running correctly and will keep you out on the trail or road safely.
There are countless reasons to keep your bike tuned, whether you want your bike to be riding as best as possible, or at the very least to be safe and reliable. There is a sense of pride in the bike that you ride, and with that comes a sense of pride in your bike’s maintenance. Your bike isn’t an old beat up work truck, but takes a little more TLC to keep it going (yes that’s to all the rain or shine and winter commuters out there). With growing popularity in the cycling community, and a shortage in what is available, it is more important than ever to keep your current two-wheeled rig tuned up, safe, and fun to ride.
- Spencer Lewis,
Skirack Service Department