An Ounce of Preventive Maintenance

In This Chapter

^ Performing a safety inspection of your bike before you ride ^ Assembling a tool kit for daily rides and extended trips ^ Minimizing wear and tear and preventing accidents ^ Cleaning and lubricating your bike after a ride ^ Stowing away your bike for winter (or until your next ride!)


Я f you’re like us, you once had a bike that you never took care of — probably when you were a kid. Dennis had a BMX-style bike in his teens that he almost killed himself on, pushing it to the limits on dirt trails and bike jumps that he and his friends engineered after school. Despite all the punishment Dennis dished out on that bike, it valiantly held up to give him several pleasurable years of riding.

Modern-day bikes are designed with durable components that can take a lot of wear and tear, but this doesn’t mean that you should neglect your bike the way you did when you didn’t know any better. The old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is especially true when it comes to your bike. If you follow the guidelines in this chapter for preventive maintenance, not only will you extend the life of your bike, but you’ll have fewer repairs to make, you’ll be safer, and you’ll get more enjoyment out of riding.

In this chapter, we explain some simple steps you can take before, during, and after riding to care for your bike and extend its life. Cleaning and lubricat­ing your bike is at the top of the list, but don’t stop there. You can do a quick inspection before you ride, follow some basic rules while riding to minimize wear and tear on your bike, and properly store your bike when your ride is over. We cover all these steps in this chapter.

Before You Ride

If you’re like a lot of bikers, when you finally have some time for a ride, the last thing you want to be thinking about is repair and maintenance. You grab your helmet and gloves and you’re out the door, ready to roll.

But you can improve your bike’s performance, prevent major headaches, and improve your own safety by doing a few simple things before you ride. In this section, we fill you in.

Assembling an emergency tool kit

Assembling an emergency tool kit is essential if you plan on doing anything more than taking a trip around the block. You’ll want to bring along a basic set of tools so that when the inevitable breakdown happens, you won’t be stranded on the side of the road.

An Ounce of Preventive Maintenance

When you’re shopping for tools, look for ones that are light, so that they won’t weigh you down, especially on longer trips. Size is also a consideration especially because you’ll want to stow away your tools in a pouch under your seat or tucked away in a bike bag. You don’t want to try biking if you have a large crescent wrench sticking out from under your seat. Your best bet is to visit your local bike shop to find small, lightweight tools to take with you when you bike.

Look at multipurpose tools — they provide a lot of functionality in one small, convenient package. Also, some bike shops offer kits with everything you need already assembled.

Putting together a basic tool kit

For starters, we recommend that you include the following tools in your emergency tool kit. (After you have some biking experience, you may decide to change or add to it.)

✓ Small frame-mounted tire pump: If you’ve been doing any biking already, you probably already have a tire pump — but you may not have a small one that you can mount on your frame. If you don’t already have one of these small, frame-mounted pumps, put this at the top of your list.

✓ Tire patch kit: Patching a flat tire is an unavoidable part of biking, and a tire patch kit is essential. A patch kit includes patches, glue, and a tool to rough up the surface of the tube to improve adhesion.

✓ Spare inner tube: If your tube explodes, you’ll have to replace it with a new one, so carrying a spare inner tube with you is important.

✓ Tire levers: Unless you have an a racing bike that uses tubular tires, you’ll need tire levers to remove and install a tire.

✓ Allen wrenches: You’ll need these for adjusting various parts of your bike. Most Allen wrenches come in a kit or as a part of a multipurpose tool with the most popular sizes found on a bike.

✓ Screwdrivers: You’ll need both a flathead screwdriver and a Phillips screwdriver for adjusting derailleurs and other parts of your bike. You may need a regular-size screwdriver and a smaller one depending on your bike.

✓ Spoke wrench: You need a spoke wrench that fits the spoke nipples on your bike. To determine what size spoke wrench you need, visit your local bike shop and ask for help.

✓ Pliers: You’ll need pliers for pulling cables.

✓ Multipurpose tool: Many bike shops offer a multipurpose tool, which includes screwdrivers, Allen wrenches, a chain tool, and other types of tools.

✓ Rag: You’ll use clean rags to wipe your hands after some messy repair jobs. You can also use a rag when you’re checking tires for flats, han­dling chains, and so on.

✓ Small light: If you have to stay out later than expected, it’s good to have a light that you can clip to your bike when it gets dark. You may want to have an LED light permanently mounted or clipped to your bike. A rear blinking light is a good idea, too. Lights are inexpensive, and the front light at least is a legal requirement.

Adding tools for an extended trip

As biking becomes more popular, many riders are discovering the enjoyment in taking extended trips on their bikes. If you’re planning a bike trip that will last for more than a day or two, you need to add some additional tools and parts to your emergency tool kit (see the preceding section).

Which tools you should take depends on where you’re biking and for how long. If you’ll be passing through a lot of small towns, chances are pretty good that you can find a local bike shop to help you in a jam. Dennis has taken extended trips through Europe where he’s been able to pack very few tools because of the popularity of biking and the large number of local bike shops along the way. Once, on the outskirts of Limerick, Ireland, he had a minor accident and ruined some spokes. A passerby stopped to help and eventually took Dennis and his bike to a bike shop in town. After Dennis’s bike was repaired, the friendly passerby invited him back to his house where his family gave Dennis a warm bed and a traditional Irish breakfast the next morning. Although we don’t recommend having an accident to meet people, this was one of the highlights of Dennis’s time in Ireland.

Although, in many cases, you’ll be able to find help if you break down on the side of the road, you’re better off being ready to handle the repair on your own. For extended trips, we recommend having everything from the preced­ing section, as well as the following additional tools:

An Ounce of Preventive Maintenance

✓ Spare tire: A number of companies make tires that can be folded and packed away. Surprisingly enough, folding tires are often actually better — quality tires, just with a foldable Kevlar bead instead of a stiff wire bead.

✓ Extra tubes: If you ride across something on the road that blows out

a tube, there is always a chance that you’ll hit it with your back tire as well, so keep two, just in case.

✓ Chain tool: A longer trip increases your chances of having issues with your chain, and you’ll need this tool to take it apart and reconnect it.

✓ Chain links and rivets: If you have issues with your chain, you may need to replace links. Have extra rivets or connecting links available for when you reconnect the chain.

✓ Spare spokes: In our experience, spoke problems are one of the top three or four issues that you’ll encounter on an extended trip. Keep at least two spare spokes on hand. Be sure to confirm what sizes you need.

On some bikes, the size of the spokes can differ on the front and rear wheels and even within the same wheel.

✓ Spare cables: If you’re on an extended trip, your bike will likely be packed down with extra weight, which puts additional strain on your cables.

Pack a replacement cable for the brakes and one for the derailleur.

✓ Lubrication: You’ll want to keep the parts of your bike — especially the chain — properly lubricated during your trip.

✓ Duct tape: This is the all-purpose MacGyver tool. If you have to hold something together on your bike until you get to the next town, duct tape may do the job.