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6 Tips on Caring for Your Bike Like a Pro

By Ian Dille | May 6, 2016 | Rally Health

A mechanic’s hands, they’re working hands – there’s dirt, scars, blisters filled with blood. A mechanic’s hands require the precision of a surgeon and the strength of a fighter. These hands must be trustworthy, for on a professional cycling team, a mechanic’s hands hold the fate of a team. If a bike breaks, the race may be lost, or a rider injured.

A mechanic’s hands know things, like just how tight to turn a bolt, or where to find hidden dirt when washing a bike. These are the hands of Zane Freebairn, a professional mechanic for the Rally® Cycling women’s team. These are some of the things he knows — things that pro racers and amateur riders alike can learn.  

Maintenance wheel

1. The best way to install a wheel

A mechanic’s hands hold the bicycle wheel’s skewer on either side. The right hand slowly turns the skewer’s nut until it rubs against the bicycle’s frame. The left hand closes the lever. When the left hand feels pressure three-quarters of the way closed, the skewer is tight, and the wheel won’t come loose.

Maintenance bike wash

2. How to wash the bike

A mechanic’s hands never use a power washer to clean a bike, because the high pressure spray can wear down and damage the bike's paint. The hands caress the frame with a soapy sponge, they dig into the bike’s small and tight spaces, and they check for loose bolts or other signs of needed maintenance.

Maintenance Seat Height
3. Adjusting the seat height properly

A mechanic’s hands measure a bike’s seat height exactly the same way every time, holding the tape measure just so — from the top of the saddle, down the back edge of the seat post, to the middle of the crank bolt.

Maintenance Safe 2

Maintenance Safe 4Maintenance Safe 1

Maintenance Safe 3

4. Making sure the bike is safe to ride

A mechanic’s hands test the bike’s worthiness before it hits the road. They push down on the brake hoods, squeeze the front wheel while twisting the handlebars, hold the stem and push down on the front wheel, and make sure the brakes are centered on the rim and won’t rub. If nothing moves, if everything is tight, the bike is handed off to the racer, ready to go.

Maintenance Little Things 3

5. It’s the little things that count

A mechanic’s hands know where to find the tiny screws that make incremental adjustments. On the SRAM brake levers the Rally Cycling team uses, Zane adjusts the reach of the brake and shifter levers to the handlebars. For female riders, who often have small hands, it’s a critical adjustment.


Maintenance pump

6. Inflating tires

A mechanic’s hands never over-inflate a bicycle tire. Hard tires, anything pumped much over 100 psi, bounce over rough roads and slide through turns. Each tire is set at a particular pressure depending on the weight of the racer, and their personal preference, for instance, maybe a little more pressure in the rear tire, or a little less up front.



Ian Dille is a freelance journalist based in Austin, Texas. He has written for Outside magazine, Bicycling, and Texas Monthly, and is the author of the The Cyclist's Bucket List (Rodale, 2015).
Ian Dille
Rally Health

Articles on Rally Health’s website are provided for informational purposes only, as a free resource for the public. They are not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Rally Health does not accept solicitations or compensation from any parties mentioned in the articles, and the articles are not an endorsement of any providers, experts, websites, tools, or financial consultants, services, and organizations.