I received an email this week from Heidi in Dayton, and she says she recently sold her “breaking-down, money-hog Subaru” and bought a couple bikes. She is interested in doing some of her own maintenance and repairs, and asked if I could recommend any good books. She wants to learn how to keep her bikes running well.
This is a great question, and even a greater plan. A well maintained bicycle is a bicycle you’ll look forward to riding, one that will be less likely to leave you stranded, and one that is safe to ride. I don’t recall doing many (if any) posts on Bike Carson about maintenance and repairs, and thought this would make a great ongoing topic!
I bought Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance a couple years ago, and it has been a great book (I just noticed there is also one for Road Bikes too). It’s gotten me through many repairs that are within my skill and dexterity level. It even covers topics that are above my current skill level like wheel building. I think the most helpful section to me has been derailleur tuning and adjustment. It really took the mystery out of it!
For a person that is looking to use a bicycle as their primary mode of transportation, there are a few skills that I think are essential. Knowing how to fix a flat tire is a must. Additionally, having a nice pump with a pressure gauge is vital to keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. Keeping your chain clean and lubed, and making sure the bike shifts gears smoothly is important too. By learning a few basic skills, you can keep your bicycle going down the road for months! Many other maintenance items need to be attended to less frequently. (Note: If you own a mountain bike with suspension components, and it gets used off-road frequently, the scope of the maintenance will increase and service intervals will be more often.)
The basic repairs and maintenance I mentioned above shouldn’t be a large investment for the bicyclist, as you may already own some of the tools required. Screwdrivers and hex wrenches are pretty common in people’s tool boxes, and if not, are quite inexpensive. Some bicycle specific tools are affordable, but some can be pricey. You need to evaluate your repair before purchasing. How often will you need this tool, and what does the bike shop charge to do this service for you? You may find the bike shop repair a far better deal. And speaking of bike shops, it’s probably a good idea to drop your bike off at the shop once a year for a professional tune-up and inspection. A pro mechanic will get into areas of the bike you overlooked, and be able to spot potential problems before they become failures.
Other Resources: Searching the internet on a specific bicycle topic can be helpful too. Many people have already done a great job explaining things, and many sites have good pictures and video. During Bike to Work Week, the Bike Habitat did some wonderful Bicycle Clinics, covering flat tire repair, road side repairs, and home maintenance. As bicycle usage rises in Carson City, we may see more of these clinics. Let me know if you think this would be beneficial. If we get enough people, maybe we can get some more clinics going.
Does anyone else have any good recommendations for repair manuals or online resources? Make a note in the comments! I’ll follow this post up with more detailed instructions on how to do some of the more basic repairs and maintenance tasks. Maybe we can make it a weekly feature.