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Bike Maintenance Made Simple

 

Bicycles need regular cleaning and maintenance to keep it running at its best. Ignoring these basic chores can result in costly repairs and potentially reduce the lifespan of your bike.

At Go Outdoors, we’ve got plenty of products to take to make bike maintenance quick, easy and affordable. This guide will outline all of the essentials.

 

Why is bike maintenance important?

If you do a good job looking after your bike, it will run smoothly, last longer and keep you safe. A solid maintenance regime is key to achieving this.

Neglecting any part of your bike can result in excess wear and tear, or even complete failure. If this happens while you’re in the saddle, you could become stranded, or worse, involved in a serious accident.

 

Keeping it clean

Mud, gravel and other dirt can make for an abrasive mix, and when it begins to clog the moving components of a bike, friction occurs.

This friction can have two primary effects:

Firstly, it will slow you down, as it makes it harder for moving parts to operate effectively.

Secondly, it will start to wear down various components and cause lasting damage. Squeaks and scraping sounds are usually a warning sign that something is up.

Keeping your bike clean will help it run smoothly, quietly and efficiently as well as preventing friction damage.

 

A well-oiled machine

Lubrication is also important; regular oiling of the chain, brakes, gears and derailleurs will not only reduce friction, but can prevent rust and corrosion too.

 

Nice and tight

Another important part of the maintenance routine is component adjustment. Brake and gear cables will stretch as they are used, so regularly tightening is required to keep them functioning at their best.

Brake pads wear down over time too, so the callipers need to be brought closer to the wheel surface every now and then to compensate for pad erosion and preserve stopping power.

It’s worth checking (and tightening) all bolts and screws around your bike as they can become loose from the bumps and vibrations caused by day-to-day riding. Some of them may not look important, but they all have a purpose!

Of course, if you’re not confident in your bike maintenance abilities, you can book your bike in for a service and have a technician carry out tweaks and repairs on your behalf.

 

Cleaning

It doesn't matter if you're on or off-road, your bike is likely to get dirty, regardless of what the weather is like.

In hot, dry conditions, dust can rise up from the road or trail and infiltrate hard-to-reach nooks and crannies, as well as getting stuck in chain grease. In the wet, mud will splatter everywhere and bake on to surfaces if it’s allowed to dry.

The best time to clean your bike is right after a ride, before any new dirt has a chance to dry. It may seem time-consuming to wash off muck at the end of every ride, but it’s still far more convenient than scrubbing off several weeks’ worth of dirt! Filth can accumulate quickly too, particularly if mud mixes with oil and grease, so it’s important to keep on top of it.

The Go Outdoors bike cleaning range includes a number of great products to make the process quick and easy.

 

Bike Cleaner:

Bike cleaners are specifically-formulated detergents that are safe to use on precision components. They’re usually non-abrasive and supplied in easy-to-use spray bottles. Grime and dirt is broken down by creating surface tension, making it easy to wipe clean.

 

Degreaser:

The chain is one part of your bike that should have grease on it, but it often ends up elsewhere too. Lubricant can flick off the chain during wet weather and tyres pick up all sorts of muck from the road.

Dirt sticks to oil and other lubricants, making it difficult to clean off. Degreasers are designed to break down the grease and loosen up the dirt clogged within it. This is particularly useful when dealing with drivetrain components such as chains and cassettes.

 

Brushes:

Brushes help dislodge muck, and there’s a range of cycling-specific ones on the market that will reach all the awkward nooks and crannies that dust and dirt call home.

Various brush types are available, including full chain cleaner systems that clamp in place for quick and easy cleaning.

You simply fill the device with hot water and degreaser before clamping it over your chain. Holding it in place, you can pedal backwards with your free hand, pulling the chain through the chain cleaner. As you do so, the chain is immersed in degreaser mix, dragged through the spinning circular brushes and over the sponge. It does three jobs in one motion, making it a quick, easy and mess-free way to keep your chain nice and shiny.

Bike Cleaning Brushes
Chain Cleaner

 

Pressure Washers:

Pressure washers (sometimes known as power or jet washers) can help speed up bike cleaning by effortlessly blasting off stubborn muck, but some care is required when using them. It’s a good idea to use a low power setting if possible, as too much pressure can result in dirty water being blasted into areas such as the wheel hubs, resulting in increased wear and corrosion.

 

Lubricating

Depending on the conditions, chain lube can dry out or wash off over time, so it needs topping up on a fairly regular basis. Even sparkling clean bike chains require some sort of lubrication to keep them moving smoothly and prevent corrosion.

If you’re not sure when it needs doing, squeaks and rattles are normally a good indication of when a chain needs oil.

Since chain lube loses its effectiveness differently in different conditions, there are two main types of lube for you to choose from.

 

Dry Lube:

‘Dry’ doesn’t refer to the consistency of the lube itself, it instead relates to the conditions for which it’s designed for. It’s lighter than wet lube so it’s easier to clean off your chain, although this also means that it is more likely to wash off when riding in wet conditions.

That said, it does offer superior performance than thicker lubricants when it comes to reducing drivetrain friction.

 

Wet Lube:

Thicker and heavier, wet lube lasts longer in wet conditions, but is harder to clean off as a result.

Dry Lube
Wet Lube

Neither type is ideal for all conditions, so it’s best to choose in accordance with the expected weather conditions. As a general rule, it’s worth opting for dry lube during summer months and switching to wet lube when autumn arrives.

 

Tools

Some people prefer to leave bike maintenance to the professionals, but there are certainly some must-have tools for carrying out minor repairs and adjustments, particularly if you’re out on a ride.

 

Multi-tool:

Almost every bike maintenance job can be performed with a humble multi-tool; whether it’s installing new parts, adjusting brakes or simply tightening loose bolts. The best part is, they're small enough to take with you on the bike and kept handy for any problems that you may encounter along the way.

 

Chain Tool:

If your chain breaks while riding, a chain tool is all you need to put it back together and get going again. It’s also an essential piece of kit for replacing a chain that has become rusty or worn.

 

Tyre Lever:

This simple tool is used to remove tyres from the wheel when replacing tyres or inner tubes. It’s certainly worth keeping one with you every time you head out on your bike.

 

Tyre Pump:

Whether you’ve suffered a puncture or just need a quick top-up, a basic pump is essential for re-inflating bike tyres. Most cycling pumps are small enough to keep with you at all times and many of them can also be mounted to your bike frame using brackets and screws.

Alternatively, you can opt for an electric pump or CO2 inflator for effortless inflation.

 

Puncture Repair Kit:

A puncture doesn’t have to be a death sentence for your inner tube. Sometimes it’s easy enough to carry out a basic repair without replacing the whole thing. This is especially useful if you don’t have a spare one with you!

Puncture repair kits are cheap to buy and small enough to keep in your bag for emergency use.

 

Servicing

While a spot of DIY bike maintenance should ward off the majority of mechanical issues, it’s also recommended that you get your bike checked over by a professional at least once a year to make sure everything is as it should be.

Bike check-up services are available in the majority of Go Outdoors stores, take a look at our bike servicing guide or ask in store for more information.