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Sheila Ascroft’s Bicycle Maintenance Check List

bicycle repairA bike only has a few basic parts and a finite number of problem areas. If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, you can do some bicycle maintenance yourself. Here is a checklist to get you started:

Are there any strange noises when riding? Check all bolts and tighten where needed.

Is your frame dinged or rusted anywhere? Does the frame creak? Any obvious cracks? See your local bike store (LBS).

Is there noise at the headset? (squeeze your front brake and try to push your bar forward) Does the headset seem loose? Does it clunk? Maybe it needs tightening or the bearings need lubing. See your LBS for that.

Can you move your seatpost up and down (put a little Phil Woods grease on it anyway to keep it from seizing).

Are your brakes stopping you fine or are you squeezing too far? Adjust the cable tension — there’s a little knob where the brake calipers and cable meet) or tighten the actual cable itself.

Are the brake pads worn down? You can replace them yourself, but the LBS will get the proper toe-in angle so they won’t squeak.

Are your gear shifts crisp or feeling a little sticky or slow (on each derailleur cable change the chain position to create slack in the cable, then move the housing down a bit and put a little lube directly on to the bare cable; put some lube on the cables that don’t have housing too).

If your cable end is very frayed, it is worth having that cable replaced.

Are your pedals clinking each turn? They may need just tightening or a little lube. If that doesn’t help, they may need to have the bearings repacked or you need new pedals. See your LBS.

If your bottom bracket and wheel hubs don’t have sealed cartridge bearings, then they will need periodic lubing (see your LBS). Your cranks and wheel hubs should spin smoothly like a knife going through butter. If they feel gritty or stick a bit, they may need repacking or replacing. Another LBS job.

If your handlebar tape is ripped or just plain worn out or you’re tired of the colour, buy some new tape. The cork-based tape offers both comfort and looks good. You can replace the tape yourself — it just takes a little patience and a lot of re-wrapping — or you can pay to have your LBS do it efficiently. I like doing my own as it makes me feel  connected to my bike.

Carefully inspect each tire for cuts, bare spots and nasty sharp bits like glass. If the tire looks worn out, it probably is. The tread will be just about gone, there may be more than several tiny slits or cuts in the tire or sidewall, or the sidewalls are dry and cracked.
When buying new tires, remember the higher the threads per inch (TPI), the more comfortable the ride. Of course, the higher the TPI, the higher the price!  Even using 66 TPI instead of 33 will make a huge difference under your butt. Also, buy the right width of tire. Unless you are doing time trials or racing, you don’t need super skinny 18 or 19c tires. Go for 25 or even 28. Again you will notice more comfort. Just make sure that the tire width will pass through your brake calipers.

This is also a good time to check your seat-bag and ensure you have the right tools and accessories: a spare inner tube, tube patches (Slime patches are already pre-glued and save time and mess); a working air pump (by working I mean one that will adequately fill up your tire so that you can actually ride on the tire), two tire levers, a valve adaptor, in case you have to use an ordinary Shrader valve pump with your Presta valve, identity card, spare change, and a small tube of sun block.

To learn about the different parts of a bicycle check out BIKE ANATOMY — a free download from bicycling.com

© Sheila Ascroft


I’ve been cycling for 20-some years and writing about it for the last 10. My articles have been published in newspapers and magazines — and now on the women’s cycling website! I’m a member of the Ottawa Bicycle Club and the Canadian Kilometer Achiever Program. www.sheilaascroft.com

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