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Buyer's guide: bike maintenance essentials

BikesEtc
20 Apr 2018

A round-up of all the essentials you need to keep your bike road-ready

Keeping on riding through the grim weather of the winter months may be good for you and your fitness, but your bike tends to take a bit of a battering. When you ride over roads covered in salt, and through muddy puddles, your tyres kick up muck, spraying it all over your components and frame.

If, on the other hand, you're more of a fair weather cyclist and your bike lays dormant through the winter, it'll invariably still be carrying some of  last year’s gunk when you decide to pull it from its hibernation come the springtime.

Either way, with the prospect of warmer months ahead, it’s time to give your bike a bit of TLC to ensure you get the most from it during the season ahead.

Regular cleaning is the best way of ensuring it runs smoothly, and while a weekly hose off and wipe down will do wonders, it’s no substitute for stripping the bike down and giving every part a thorough tidy up.

Which is also a great way to get to know your bike and build your mechanical knowledge into the bargain. Over time, your maintenance kit will grow alongside your know how, until it looks, well, a bit like our roundup here. 

Cleaning

Investing in a cleaning kit can be a cost-effective way of ensuring you have everything you need to de-gunk your bike.

Muc-Off’s Dirt Bucket Kit, for example, comes with a selection of cleaning products – including a litre of the superb Nano Tech general cleaner – plus brushes, a sponge and a bucket that features a Filth Filter.

This cleverly traps dirt to prevent it being reintroduced to sponges or brushes during cleaning.

When cleaning, pay special attention to your brake pads. Ensure that they are completely clear of grit and grime, especially if you are riding regularly in cold conditions.

Muck will wear through both your brake pads and wheel rims very quickly, affecting braking performance. Also, ensure they are hitting your wheel rims squarely and centrally on the braking surface, and check the wear indicator to make sure there is plenty of material left on the pads – if not, replace them.

Your chain lube can pick up dirt from the road which tends to accumulate around the jockey wheels in your rear derailleur, causing friction and wear.

If you have time, it’s worth removing them occasionally for a thorough clean using a degreaser – for which you’ll need an Allen key or multitool. Be careful not to lose any bushings and washers from their internal workings.

Finally, invest in some gloves. These will protect your hands from any chemicals in your cleaning products and stop them getting covered in grease.

 

Black Mamba gloves

SKS Tom 18 Multitool

 

Muc-Off Bio Degreaser

Muc-Off Dirt Bucket Kit with filth filter

 

Lubing

Keeping your bike clean is the first step but making sure the moving parts are lubed is equally important.

With hydraulic brakes or the latest generation of PTFE-coated cables, it’s not half the chore it used to be, but all the same it’s useful to keep an eye on the points where inner cables enter or exit the outer cable.

It’s these break points that allow muck to get in, so a squirt of lube containing PTFE such as GT85 is a good idea.

If they’re feeling heavy to pull, you can take them apart and spray lube through the outers to flush out built up grime. but more often than not it’s a case of the coated inner cable starting to break down and add friction, at which point it’s best to replace them.

Bearings in the bottom bracket, wheel hubs and headset also need to be kept clean and well greased, but most modern bikes use sealed cartridge-style bearings which can’t easily be serviced.

If they develop play and feel loose, they may need replacing – any bike shop can order these for you. Bottom bracket bearings are integrated into cups, which are either threaded into the shell externally (such as Shimano Hollowtech II) and require a special wrench to replace, or pressfit, which are pressed into the shell. Wheel bearings are best replaced by a shop to ensure they are fitted correctly.

When it comes to your chain, wiping off the muck with a cloth and applying fresh lube after every ride is sufficient for regular maintenance, but for a deep clean, use a chain-scrubbing device and degreaser.

After applying fresh lube, wipe any excess off the outside otherwise it will attract dirt. Sticking with one brand and formula of lube also gets our vote as they don’t all work the same and aren’t necessarily compatible.

If your chain is wearing out, it won’t shift efficiently and may skip off the chainring. Measure it with a chain wear indicator, and replace if necessary.

 

Park Tool Cyclone CM-5.2 Chain Scrubber

 

Park Tool BBT-22 Bottom Bracket Tool


 

Birzman Chain Wear Indicator

Shimano Wet Lube

 

GT85 Spray with PTFE

Long-term maintenance

Depending on how much and where you ride plus how well you look after your bike, you may find you need to replace your tyres, saddle and bar tape.

All three are certainly straightforward enough jobs for the home mechanic, with tyres the easiest and least intimidating, given that most of us have had to fix a puncture or two – all you need is a set of tyre levers.

Keeping your tyres properly inflated will increase their longevity, so also invest in a good floor-standing pump for your workshop.

Fitting a new saddle or bar tape are great ways to freshen up your bike. Both take a beating during the winter so sticking on new ones brings an instant visual benefit.

No one likes tatty, ripped or unravelling bar tape so get it cleaned up and make your bike feel loved. Take your time fitting new tape to get a good, even tension and neat finish.

As for the saddle, the base can crack or sag over time, and rails can bend. When replacing a saddle, measure the height, angle and setback of your old one before removing it, as each model has subtly different dimensions.

If ignored, this can make a significant change to your position on the bike – something that, over time, could leave you in need of a bit of maintenance!

Fabric Cell Elite Radius Saddle

 

Tacx Tyre Levers

 

Blackburn Piston 1 Floor Pump


Fabric Hex Duo Bar Tape

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