How do I look after my bike?
May 15, 2014 1:50 PM   Subscribe

I recently bought a new hybrid bike which I will be using regularly for leisure rides. What do I need to know about basic maintenance (cleaning, lube, degreasing etc) to keep it in best shape.

I will be keeping the bike indoors so it's not exposed to the elements. The riding I will be doing is 98% on roads but there is the occasional track so it can get quite muddy.

What products, techniques & resources can I use to keep my new baby in top shape and help me to get the best from her in the years to come?
posted by jontyjago to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
i like this chart from bicycle habitat - (bottom of page) it gives you an idea of what to check out each ride vs. monthly vs. six months vs. annually.

the park tools website is a good resource for how to fix/maintain things on your bike and what tools are required.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 2:08 PM on May 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

There's not much you need to do, to be honest.

Keep the chain clean. I clean and lube mine about once every 100 miles or once a week, whichever comes sooner. I ride a LOT, though, this is probably more than you'll need. I use a wax lube like this. It's a wax suspended in a solvent. You sort of dribble it on the chain, wipe it down real good and you're good to go. It takes maybe 2 minutes max.

Keep the bike generally clean but it's not a really big deal in general.

Get the tools you need to change a tire and learn how to do it. You really only need a pair of tire levers (I like pedros) and some spare tubes. I use CO2 cartridges and a little inflator tool because they're compact but there are small pumps you can carry around also. You usually get a little bag that attaches to your seat, you stuff your spare tube, co2, inflator and levers in there. I like the Topeak ones that have a quick disconnect

Aside from the above I suppose you'll need to replace or service the brake and derailleur cables once a year or so. Bike shops will take a look for not too much or you can learn to do it yourself.

Other than that it'll be a pretty long time until there's anything more complicated than this. When that time comes decide whether you're into buying a tool or two and watching some youtube videos, or having someone else work on it. There are VERY few things on modern bikes that your average noob can't take care of with some effort/time. I'm pretty big on self sufficiency.
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:14 PM on May 15, 2014

The chart that cristina*3 posted is pretty good. It reflects best practices, though; not everyone is so careful, and bikes can take a fair amount of abuse and still function, though perhaps not as efficiently as you'd like.

It's essential to do an ABC safety check before each ride:

Air: are tires sufficiently inflated? This does not necessarily mean rock-hard. See this useful article.

Brakes: do they grip solidly when you squeeze them? If you can bottom out the lever against the handlebar, they need adjustment. If you have rim brakes (as opposed to disk brakes), do the pads hit the rim, not the tire or the spokes?

Chain: is it clean and well lubricated? Run the pedals backwards a few times. Do any of the links stay straight instead of bending to follow the chainwheels and cogs? If so, use a chain tool to loosen them. Does the chain squeak? If so, add a bit of lube. Look for irregularities that might signal a broken link. It can be bad to have your chain snap while you're climbing a hill.

I would add that when you clean dirt or mud off your bike, use a spray bottle with water, or a low-pressure hose. Using a high-pressure hose/nozzle can force dirt into bearings.

I used to take my bike to the shop every year for routine maintenance. Now I do it myself. But I find it enjoyable (usually).
posted by brianogilvie at 2:22 PM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Things to buy:
Good floor pump
Comfortable Multi-tool or a 4/5/6 3way (if you don't already have a set of hex wrenches)
Tire levers
Spare tube
Frame Pump (optional, unless you plan on phoning a friend when you get a flat)
Seat Bag
Front/Rear lights
Chain lube
Bottle Cage(s)
Water Bottle(s)

Things to know:
Keep air in the tires. Riding on tires that are too low will lead to pinch flats. The recommended tire pressure is printed on the sidewall. It's probably going to be in the neighborhood of 60-80psi.
Learn how to fix a flat. Call bike shops and ask if they offer classes (or watch some YouTube videos). The time to practice this is at home, on the couch, with a beer. Your first time to remove a tire from a rim should not be on the side of the road.
Lube your chain every now and then. Once a month will do (unless you ride in wet conditions). Put lube on the chain and then run it through a clean rag. Do not use an aerosol lube. Buy a $10 bottle of bike-specific lube and it'll last you at least 3 years. If you're wondering which one is good for your area, just ask your LBS mechanic. They all work fine.
Try to keep the bike clean. A bucket with some mild soap and a soft rag is great. A water hose is OK, but don't use anything with serious pressure. Keep water away from the bottom bracket and hubs. It's not the end of the world if your bike gets dirty. You're already not leaving it outside, so it's got a leg up on 80% of the bikes out there.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:23 PM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh: know how to release your brakes, remove/install your wheel, and re-attach your brakes. Ask the shop to show you this when you pick it up.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:23 PM on May 15, 2014

When I bought my first bike I took a 3-hour "Intro to Bike Maintenance" class at a local bike shop. Super fun and really useful.
posted by amaire at 3:00 PM on May 15, 2014

I hate cleaning chains. If you ride a lot, it can become quite the chore. When I saw this tool It was like the heavens opened up. Pretty clean, takes a couple minutes, it's the Right Tool for the job and it's amaaaaazing.
posted by furnace.heart at 6:52 PM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yay bikes!

Wiggle is your go to for cheap mail-order bike gear.

Nthing the Park Tools website. It's awesome, and can teach you how to do all sorts of stuff.

Learn how to change an inner tube. Get a saddlebag, and carry a spare tube, a patch kit, tyre levers, a CO2 inflator and at (IMO) least two cartridges, and a hex multitool whenever you ride. Nothing is worse than being 20 kms from home with a flat or a loose bolt.

Check your tyre pressure before you ride - it only takes a second.

Learn how to check and adjust the tension on your brakes and brake cables. Being able to stop is important.

Keep your chain clean - wipe is down when it gets wet or muddy, lube it regularly (once a month is fine).

Probably not such a big deal on hybrids, but learning how to true your wheels can get you back on the road if you have a crash or hit a pothole.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:58 PM on May 15, 2014

Re: resources:
It's a bike. A tool. Not a baby, not jewelry. Take it easy.
That said, for general bike-knowledge nothing beats Sheldon Brown.
Other good sources for non-industry driven info are "off the beaten path" and Rivendell bicycles blog.
Be aware: most magazines are really "adverzines", publications designed to make you buy stuff.
Stupid, IMNSHO.
Welcome to the world of bikies :-)
posted by Thug at 1:48 PM on May 16, 2014

In addition to Thug's excellent advice, you might also enjoy

Surly's blog
MTBR forums
Bike Snob NYC
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 5:10 PM on May 16, 2014

Is there a bike co-op near you live? You might want to google it. There are a handful in my area, and the gist is that you show up and they will teach you the art of bike maintenance. And lots of them let you build a bike for free out of their spare parts if you volunteer X number of hours.
posted by mermily at 4:21 PM on May 20, 2014

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