We all want our bikes to last us a lifetime, but we do have to give them a little love and attention to prolong their lifespan. Staring at your bike lovingly or tucking it into your bed at night may be tempting, but it won’t do much in making it last longer. Routine bike maintenance is the easiest way to ensure the financial and emotional investment you’ve put into your bike doesn’t go to waste.
Routine bike maintenance isn’t complicated, but it can take some dedication. When you’ve finished a long ride, you may want to just lean up your bike and go have a nap, but it’s better if you establish a post-ride routine that includes a little bit of TLC.
1. Keep it clean
It’s simple, but so important. Keeping your bike clean ensures your bike not only looks great, but also keeps all it’s part working flawlessly. Obviously you aren’t going to clean your bike meticulously after every ride, make sure you do whenever you ride in the rain or mud.
In addition to that, but put your bike on a regular cleaning schedule. At the very least clean it once per month. It obviously depends on how often you ride, but if you want to keep your bike in smooth working condition, once a month is a bare minimum. For some tips on how to clean your bike, check out “How To Clean Your Bike in 5 Minutes or Less.”
2. Lubrication and Grease
Make sure your bike is lubricated properly as it protects moving parts from excessive wear and tear (choose an appropriate lube for the riding conditions you’re in). On the other hand, make sure not to go nuts as too much lubrication will attract dirt and cause just as much damage. Allow the lube to soak in and then wipe any excess off with a clean rag.
Most importantly you want to lube the chain, but also all the other moving parts including brake and derailleur levers, and cables. You’ll also want to grease any threaded bolts such as the stem, derailleurs, and pedals. If you have any bearings apart, make they are all well greased.
3. Regularly Replace the Chain
Chains travel countless times over sharp gears, often under a heavy load. They wear out and stretch over time because of dirt, gunk and attrition. A little bit of chain stretch over time is ok and will always occur. The problem becomes when it stretches too far and the teeth on the cassette begin to wear out as well. Before long you will not only have to replace the chain but the cassette as well.
You’ll want to replace your chain every 1,000 – 2,000 miles, once a year, or whenever the chain is starting to show signs of wear. It’s a simple task that any cyclist can accomplish on their own with the right tools and know-how.
4. Inspect Your Bike
Inspect the frame for cracks or serious dents that are more than just cosmetic. Specific areas to look at are the joints particularly around the head tube and bottom bracket. If there are any cracks, even if it looks like it’s just paint, take the bike to your local bike shop to be looked at by an expert. For this reason (and a lot of others) it’s a good idea to take you bike in for a yearly tune up and checkover at your LBS.
5. Ride Clean Roads
Okay, that may not be possible, but riding in the rain and mud is going to wear out your bike and components more quickly. If you can be strategic with your route to avoid areas with a lot of mud and gravel it can go a long way. That being said, this is why many cyclists have a more budget friendly bike to ride in such conditions, and keep their more expensive bike out of the elements.
6. Cover it up or keep it inside.
Leaving your bike open to the elements will speed up the aging process. The sun, water and dirt will end up causing damage to your bike and cost you in repairs. If you’re in a humid climate, rust on certain metal components can also develop quicker. If possible, keep your bike inside. However, if you live in an apartment building or do not have adequate space, you will want to at least keep it covered.