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Five simple bike maintenance checks

10 Oct 2018

Get your bike running smoothly and enjoy hassle-free cycling

This tutorial was produced with the help of Matt Dawson, Workshop Director of Mike’s Bikes in Portishead, one of 40 Shimano Service Centres in the UK.

Recommended Shimano tools and products

TL-BT03S Disc Brake Bleed Kit £24.99
TL-CT12 Cable Cutter £49.99
TL-CN10 Quick Link Pliers £39.99
PTFE Dry Lube (100ml) £6.99
Wet lube (100ml) £6.99
Bike polish (200ml) £9.99
Degreaser (200ml) £9.99

Five bike maintenance checks 

1. Adjust your gears

Matt says: ‘Make sure parts are all compatible – for example, a Shimano chain on a Shimano cassette with a Shimano derailleur.

‘Secondly, are they worn? If so, it’s time to replace them because you can’t expect worn parts to work properly! As for gear set-up, the most essential thing is a straight derailleur hanger – the whole system fundamentally relies on this.

‘Most home mechanics won’t have a derailleur alignment gauge but you can get this checked at your local Shimano Service Centre. Cable condition is very important too – you should change your cables, both inners and outers, once a year, or every six months for high-end polymer-coated cables like Shimano Dura-Ace.

‘Always use stainless steel cables, which perform more consistently. When changing cables, always use good-quality cutters to ensure smooth cuts with no crushing of outers or fraying of inners.’

2. Keep it clean

Matt says: ‘We have some pretty cool cleaning equipment in the workshop. For the home mechanic, I’d go for a decent degreaser on the chain and use an old towel to dry it thoroughly, then re-lube.

‘Generally, I use dry lube because wet lube tends to attract more dirt, but it’s partly down to personal preference.

‘The most important thing is to wipe off all of the excess to make sure it doesn’t splatter onto your braking surfaces. Give your frame a polish after cleaning to keep it in showroom condition.’

3. Bleed disc brakes

Matt says: ‘If your hydraulic disc brakes feel in any way “spongy” when you pump the lever, it’s a sign that there’s air in the system and you should get them fully bled.

‘It’s also a good idea to change the fluid at a regular service interval because you can get a build-up of contaminants which can reduce the brakes’ performance.

‘Once a year is fine for Shimano brakes, which use mineral oil, but if your brakes use DOT fluid, this attracts moisture so it will need more frequent replacing.’

4. Check your chain

Matt says: ‘Check your chain for wear every three months, or every 1,000 miles. The Shimano TL-CN42 measures wear on the pins in the chain in percentage points – 25%-50% is fine.

‘At 75% you should replace the chain. If it reaches 100% you should also replace the cassette because the chain wears in sync with the cassette, so especially with the smaller sprockets, you can end up with slipping.

‘With a Shimano Quick Link, it’s easy to break and join a chain using the TL-CN10 Quick Link Pliers.’

5. Check your tyres

Matt says: ‘Some tyre manufacturers will have a wear indication mark – for example, Continental tyres have two small dimples.

‘Otherwise, look for a flat “squared off” shape rather than a nice round profile to your tyre, especially on the rear, which gets more wear.

‘Also look out for wear to the sidewalls, where the brake may have rubbed if not set up correctly, or any large cuts through to the casing, or cracking of the rubber where it has perished over time.

‘These are all signs that your tyres need replacing.’

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