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Some Tips for Keeping Your Bicycle in Top Working Order

Whether you are a bicycle aficionado or only ride on occasion, it is essential that you understand the essentials of bike maintenance. It is not an overstatement to say that the “health” of your bicycle is much like your own health: the better you care for it, the longer it will last and better condition it will be in. The following are some tips to help you keep your bike in optimal working order.

  1. Cleaning Your Bicycle: Cleaning off dirt, grit, and grime from the various components of your bike is an essential part of good maintenance. It is also important to understand what and how to clean your bike. Make sure to keep clean rags on hand, and use a soap that is formulated for this purpose. For those hard-to-reach areas, buy a few brushes of various sizes. Your old toothbrush can prove very useful. If you hose down your bike make sure that you don’t inadvertently wash away greases that are meant for lubrication.
  2. Only Use Proper Cleaning Agents: Many solvents can damage your bicycle. Only use cleaning agents specifically designed for bicycle cleaning. Avoid using WD-40 on your bike chain, for this will break down the oil necessary to keep the chain properly lubricated.
  3. Regular Inspections: How often you inspect your bike depends on your riding habits. However, before every ride you should check tire pressure. Spin the wheels to see if anything wobbles, and remove anything that is embedded in the tires. On occasion check the chain and re-lube it, if necessary. Make sure that the frame is free of dents or cracks. Check that the brakes on a regular basis to ensure that they are in good working order.
  4. Keep Everything Tight: Riding your bicycle naturally causes nuts and bolts to loosen over time. It is not enough simply to take a wrench and tighten everything down. You need to use a torque wrench and tighten bolts, screws, and other parts in accordance with your bicycle’s specifications.
  5. Inspecting the Chain: Make sure that your bike chain is connected properly and lubed. Use either a chain checker or ruler to determine whether it is time to replace the chain. A rule of thumb is that if 24 chain links measure longer than 12 1/16 inches rivet to rivet, you should replace it.
  6. Pay Attention to Wobbles and Squeaks: Unusual noises are a sign that something is not right. This is also true for any noticeable wobbles. If you cannot locate the source of the problem and fix it yourself, take your bike to a professional. The old adage “A stitch in time saves nine” is apropos here.
  7. Make Sure to Keep Components Properly Lubricated: It is especially important to keep the chain lubricated, but you also need to make sure that brake and derailleur levers, cables, and bearing assemblies are kept lubricated as well. Make sure to use oils designed for such purposes. This will depend upon weather and riding conditions. A rule of thumb is that in drier climates/conditions you should use a lighter oil.
  8. Have a Professional Check Your Bicycle: It is very important to take your bike into a shop for inspection on occasion, preferably two times per year. A bike pro can evaluate and service more complex components, such as spokes, bearing surfaces, and cable systems.
  9. Have the Right Tools on Hand: Keep a set of tools specifically for maintaining your bike. Having the right size wrenches, screwdrivers, and other tools in a specific box will make your job much easier.
  10. Use Proper Techniques for Working on Your Bike: Never turn your bike over to work on it. This can cause damage to cables, the saddle, and accessories. The proper way to work on your bike is to have it suspended, preferably on a bike stand.
  11. Keep Tires Properly Inflated: It is essential that you keep your bike’s tires inflated to specification at all times. An under-inflated or over-inflated tire can cause premature wear, and even make for unsafe riding. In order to avoid broken valve stems, when you add air to a tire make sure that the stem is facing downward and is between the 10 and 2 o’clock position.
  12. Store Your Bike Properly: It is very important that when you are storing your bicycle you don’t simply lay it on its side. This can throw your derailleurs out of adjustment. Make sure that you keep your bike vertical. This can be accomplished with hooks hung for this purpose. You also need to store your bike inside a garage or shed. Leaving it outside can break down lubricants and allow dirt and grit into delicate areas.
  13. Occasionally Check Your Spokes: Loose spokes might need replacing. One way to check your spokes is with a wrench. Make sure that all the connecting parts are tightened to specification and move smoothly. These parts include pedals, chain ring, seat and seat post bolts, crank arms, and handlebar bolts.
  14. Be Prepared for Flats When Riding: Keep a spare tube and/or patch kit with you at all times, as well as a bicycle pump.

Maintaining your bicycle properly is essential for extending its life. When you keep your bike adjusted and lubricated to specification you also reduce the chance of being stranded, or even getting into an accident. If you are injured in an accident while riding and someone else is at fault, make sure to consult with a bicycle injury attorney. Nadrich & Cohen, LLP has many years of experience successfully representing injured clients.

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