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Four Quick Bike Maintenance Tips From the Pros

By Molly Hurford | May 23, 2018 | Rally Health

You can save a lot of time and money by taking proper care of your bike — and it takes only a few minutes a day. Not only will bike parts last longer when you pay attention to them, but you’ll save money on major maintenance at the bike shop. For Rally Cyclingsm pro racers, taking care of their bikes is part of the job, and they know that clean, well-maintained bikes get better results in training and in racing.

Want to make your bike ride smoother and last longer? Follow these ultra-easy tips from the pros at Rally Cycling — riders and team mechanic Erik Maresjo.

1. Check Your Tires

“Check your tire pressure before every ride,” says Maresjo. While this might be obvious to veteran cyclists, new riders often miss this critical step. Road tires should be inflated to 85-100PSI, but might still look full at a mere 50PSI. The lower the pressure, the harder your ride will feel — and the more likely you are to end up with a flat. So before you head out the door, take 60 seconds to grab a pump and top off your tires.

Maintenance-Tire.jpg#asset:66789

Rally Cycling mechanic Rick Barrow, getting the tire pressure just right.

Bonus tip: If you’re on the road and have a flat, racer Nigel Ellsay reminds cyclists to not use bare hands when checking the tire for glass. Keep a glove on, or grab something to buffer your skin from the glass that may be embedded in your tire. It’s important to find and get the glass out to prevent another flat, but not by risking tetanus to do it.

2. Wash Your Bike — But Be Gentle

You don’t need to be outside in freezing temperatures with a toothbrush meticulously cleaning every nook and cranny on your bike, but you should get it relatively cleaned off after each ride.

“After a rainy ride or muddy ride, just spray your bike and lube the chain,” says British Columbia-based racer Sara Bergen. (You can use a garden hose, or even an inexpensive weed sprayer filled with plain water if you don’t have hose access.) She deals with rainy weather on a regular basis and knows that the worst thing to do for your bike is to let it sit dirty after each ride.

A quick rinse goes a long way to keeping your bike (and your local shop mechanic) happy. And if you live in an area where roads are salt-covered in the winter and early spring, make sure you’re washing the bike with soap and water — as opposed to just water — to avoid corrosion on the frame and components.

Maintenance-wash.jpg#asset:66792Be gentle when you wash your bike.

But when rinsing, remember to be gentle with your bike: It’s not a car! Especially in cyclocross or mountain biking, it’s common to see apartment-dwellers drop into a car wash and spray their bikes down with a power washer. While it seems efficient, you might be doing more harm than good.

“A lot of people bring their bikes to the car wash, and then direct the pressure washer at the bearings in the wheels and in the bottom bracket, which strips out the grease and can also push bad stuff in,” says Maresjo. “Then, things like your shifting and steering will be impacted.”

If you don’t have access to a hose at home, take a two-part approach to cleaning: Have a bucket or a small hand-pump weed sprayer filled with water ready to go on your porch when you get home, and do a quick wipe down to get rid of major mud and grime before you go inside. Then, bring the bike in and use your shower to finish your cleaning, and avoid rust and corrosion by giving it a good wipe down with an old towel and re-lube your chain before hanging it up.  

3. Keep Your Chain and Drivetrain Clean

“If nothing else, just clean your chain!” says Bergen. She’s right: teammate Brad Huff says a simple five-minute clean and lube of his bike chain makes a huge difference to the longevity of his bike — and his ride, since a dirty chain wastes watts and can possibly break mid-ride.

But Maresjo says that his top tip is to keep your whole drivetrain clean — the chain, the rear cassette and derailleur, the cranks and your front derailleur. Basically, these are the pieces of the bike that make it go.

Maintenence-Drive-train-Maresjo.jpg#asset:66803Rally cycling mechanic Erik Maresjo, keeping the drivetrain clean.

“Keeping that clean saves you money and prolongs the life of your chain — and your bike as a whole,” says Maresjo. “It’ll also ride quieter so you don’t have to turn your headphones up so much!”

4. Check Your Bolts

“People don’t realize that bolts loosen up,” says racer Erica Allar. “When you get a new bike, get water bottle cages put in, or put new cleats on your shoes, you should go back after a ride or two and re-tighten them. I’ve been on a lot of rides with people who have loose bottle cages, and it’s never good.”

Mechanics-check-bolts.jpg#asset:66790Make sure your bolts are tight.

So, every few rides you should quickly check the bolts in your headset, seatpost, bottle cage and shoes to make sure they’re still tight. But don’t just start tightening your bolts with a standard multitool. Maresjo recommends using a torque wrench versus a standard wrench, since a torque wrench will allow you to snug the bolts, but stop before you over-tighten them. “Bolts need to be snug, but not so snug that the bolts break the carbon,” he says.

Molly Hurford
Rally Health