Bicycle Maintenance – An Introduction

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!

Zinn & The ARt of MTB Maintenance
Zinn and the Art of MTB Maintenance

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.

19 thoughts on “Bicycle Maintenance – An Introduction

  1. Park Tools has a ton of how-to information on their website. Undoubtedly provided to show that you can do it with their tools.

    You can also email manufacturers directly for clarification or help where the books or websites are not specific enough for what you are working on.

  2. “I’ll follow this post up with more detailed instructions on how to do some of the more basic repairs and maintenance tasks.”

    Rather ‘Smug’ of you isn’t that?

  3. No, not really, because you two wise apples will be writing the posts!

    Lester is just still pissed because I only showed up with 2 beers for 3 people…

  4. my other concern, besides lester knowing better, was what kind of fuzzy math was used to calculate 2 beers for 1-2 people? i can’t get those numbers to crunch at all.

  5. “I’ll follow this post up with more detailed instructions on how to do some of the more basic repairs and maintenance tasks.”

    Jeff, this doesn’t seem smug at all… actually quite helpful. I’m looking forward to your future tips!

  6. Wow, thanks Jeff for posting my question! I’ve always had bikes but really never knew how to work on them. I can change a flat and I do check everything to make sure it’s tight – but things like funny-sounding gears, etc. have me at a loss. So, I’m game for learning.

  7. Lester Trouble maker 🙂
    Jeff I need help with my front derailer it is not going up to my middle gear and my chain is getting stuck between the two sprockets.
    I am not Liken it

  8. Well… my bike is in desperate need of TLC. I’m almost embarrassed to take it to one of the shops in its state. I got it for free only a couple of weeks ago, and it’s had the best care of its life in these few short weeks. Once I can get it to a point where it isn’t an eyesore and earsore, I will feel more confident in having a shop overhaul it and/or buy some upgrades, if it is at all possible. I haven’t even been able to find a review/picture of it online whatsoever. It very well could be a cheapo department store bike. Someone on MTBR told me it sounded like a low-end KHS made bike. “Montana Pro F/S” Anyone, anyone?

  9. Considering the educational beer lecture I heard Wednesday night I really don’t think Jeff even brought 2 beers for 3 people. Sounded to me like ‘Charles’* brought 2 beers for himself and some big smug twit stole em and shared with his two slacker friends that brought none.

    *Names changed to keep moms in the dark.

  10. Rog there is nothing wrong with your front derailure!

    Sorry to say it but the big ring was not meant to double as a bash guard. Anyone need a rock shaved down? Have Rog ride it a few times. All clean now.

  11. Anyone going to the farmers market tomorrow AM? Charles* and I will be down there from 9:00 to 1:00 parking bikes and hanging out for the Muscle Powered bicycle valet.

    Sick’s Dogs can’t find the raffle tickets! That was my idea to match the bike to the owner. Guess I’ll just take names on a clip board and make up little tags to put on the bikes. Improv…

    Is 4 hours of pan flute healthy? If not, what’s the antidote? Pantera?

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