Ask the Expert: How do I Keep My Bike in Good Condition All Year?

Good old fashioned TLC to ensure your machine keeps running smoothly...

After a rainy or muddy ride, or any ride, sometimes the last thing we want to do is clean down the bike.

We put a lot of miles on our faithful steeds. Riding them down trails, through cities and eating up as many tarmac miles as we can. But it’s important to take care of your loyal companion, so they can take care of you.

We chatted with the Founder of the London Bike Kitchen, Jenni Gwiazdowski, about how best we can keep our bikes going strong with routine maintenance, and riding awareness.

Bike Checks and Riding Awareness

Before you venture out on any ride, you should always carry out a quick bike check to ensure things are in good working order.

Jenni tells us that the essential tick boxes are the “ABC’s. Air, Brakes, Chain”. Make sure both tyres are pumped to an optimum pressure. This will vary between road and off-road bikes and bike models, but on a road bike this pressure is usually numbered on the side wall of your tyre.

Run through your gears to make sure your chain is on the sprocket, and the chain shifts between the cassette smoothly when changing gears.

Perhaps the most important check to perform is the brake assessment. Make sure your brake pads are within a safe limit, and that they haven’t suffered too much wear. Check that your brake levers are in a suitable position, whilst being responsive to your touch.

Avoid puddles as you don’t know what lurks beneath

Lastly, ride aware and ride with care. Your bike may be in perfect running condition, but it doesn’t take much from an outside source to do some damage and cause an accident. Jenni advises road cyclists to “avoid glass and potholes, and don’t hop off curbs” and to also stay clear of “puddles as you don’t know what lurks beneath”.

Bike Love and Maintenance

To ensure you get happy rides and many miles from your bike, you need to use some good cleaning products and carry out routine maintenance.

It’s the little things that are easily forgotten which can cause the most damage, so remember to wipe down your rims after a ride. Use a damp clothing to remove any build up of dirt, grit or grease that that cause wear and rubbing over time.

How to Clean your Bike

Jenni says, “clean your chain with the seasons (4 times a year), and be sure to check if your chain’s worn out with a chain wear indicator tool. The basic rule is that at .75% wear change your chain, and at 1% wear change your chain and cassette.”

If you don’t have a wear indicator tool, you can ask a mechanic at your local bike shop to test the wear on your chain – but do politely ask to have a look at the reading, if only so you get used to the process for when you buy your own tool.

How to Clean your Chain

Eco-friendly bike cleaners such as Rozone, Green Oil and Muc-Off are bio-degradable, and great to cleaning off any grease, dirt and build-up without being too harsh on the frame or components.

Common Problems

Jenni works with bikes all day, every day at the London Bike Kitchen, so we asked her what the most common problems are that she encounters.

“People oiling their chain, and then not wiping it down afterwards. All that extra oil on the outside of the chain attracts more dirt, grit and grime which makes a greasy sand-paper-like paste that eats away at your components in no time at all.”

So after oiling your chain thoroughly, loosely hold a piece of kitchen roll on the chain and run through all your gears so that the chain and lubricate the cassette, and surplus oil will catch on the kitchen paper rather than clogging up on the chain.

“Another problem is letting rim brake pads wear down to past their wear-line. This is dangerous because if you go past the wear-line, you could be exposing the metal post that’s in the brake pad, and this will start scraping away at your rims, causing irreparable damage as well as weakening your rim.”

Remember your ABC’s with your routine bike check to ensure your brakes aren’t too worn, and if you see they are getting close to their limit, it’s time to invest and replace.

So spruce up your bike with some essential cleaning and regular maintenance in order to keep it running smooth, and riding great.
And if you really fancy treating your best bike friend, then you can always upgrade to carbon components.

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