Spring is just around the corner and both trails and roads are slowly becoming usable again. So, it’s time to get your bike out of the garage and get fit again. After all, it has been standing around almost all of winter and now needs some maintenance.
With a few easy tricks, your bike will be ready to go again in no time and you can swing into the saddle. Where do you start? How about here:
1. Basic cleaning
Depending on how dirty your bike is, you can first use a sponge and brush and clean the frame, fork and rims with water or special bicycle cleaner . You should not use any aggressive cleaning agents, such as chain cleaner, as these can corrode rubber seals – washing-up liquid is absolutely fine. Cracks, deformations or other suspicious areas are best checked by a mechanic.
2. The chain
If the chain is particularly dirty, you can clean it with a special brush or toothbrush. Chain cleaners, like this one from Finish Line, also remove old oil residues. If the chain is not very dirty, a wipe with a cloth should be sufficient. Then you should treat the chain with chain oil or grease. Simply hold it against the inner link plate of the chain and turn the crank. Excess oil or grease will be removed because they attract dirt. Make sure that no oil gets onto the brakes, especially when using spray oil!
But even with the best care, the chain will wear out at some point. When this happens, it must be replaced (often in combination with the chainrings and sprockets). It is not only important to find the right chain for your respective system (9-speed, 10-speed, 11-speed…), but also the correct chain length. You can find out everything about changing the chain and how to calculate the correct length with our chain length calculator.
First, you should check the gear cables. These should not be kinked and should be easy to operate. If the latter is not the case, you can treat the cables as well as the front derailleur and the gears with some thin oil. If this doesn’t help, you should take a closer look at the gears.
You should first check the brake pads. If they are worn out, they need to be replaced. On classic V-brakes, this can be seen by the fact that the transverse grooves are no longer visible. To replace them, simply open the fixing screw for the pads with a suitable Allen key and take out the pad together with its holder and put a new one in. It is best to adjust the brake so that there is a maximum distance of 2 to 4 mm between the brake pad and the rim, and the front part of the pad (in the direction of travel) touches the rim first. This prevents any annoying squeaking.
Maintaining disc brakes is harder, but should still be carried out regularly. You should also check the pads for wear and replace them if necessary. Usually you have to carefully turn the piston and the brake calliper with a screwdriver. You can tell whether the brake needs to be bled or not when the distance between the brake lever and the handle is less than a finger’s width. With this matter, it is best to consult a specialist.
Spokes and rims also wear out over time and must be checked. You can check whether the tension of the spokes is correct by pressing two adjacent ones against each other. If these can be pressed against each other easily, this may be an indication that the tension is too low.
The rim can easily be checked in two ways. First, grab a flat screwdriver and hold it against the rim with a two millimetre gap. To make sure it is tight, simply lean it against the frame or luggage rack and fix it with your fingers. Then turn the wheel. If it touches the screwdriver or is not missing it by much, then the wheel could have a lateral runout and must be centred.
Finally, you should try to move it back and forth while it is still mounted. If there is lateral movement, you should adjust the hubs or check the quick release or the wheel bolts to make sure they are properly tightened.
6. Tyres and inner tube
First, check whether your tyres have enough air. A poorly inflated tyre will ride worse and wear out faster. You can usually read the maximum pressure on the tyre flank. As the maximum pressure is not always the optimum pressure, it makes sense to get more specific. Depending on the type of bike, tour length, load and terrain, this value can vary widely. We have collected all the important information on tyre pressure for you in our calculation tools. You can use these to quickly and easily calculate the ideal air pressure for your wheel: mountain bike, road bike, touring bike.
If larger cracks are visible in the tyre or if it is very worn, it is better to replace it completely, as foreign substances can collect inside it, causing even more damage.
If the inner tube is punctured, you can patch it up with a simple set, such as the Tip Top bike repair kit – as long as the hole is not too big – or simply replace it completely. If you are unsure, pump up the tyre in the evening and leave it overnight.
If the handlebars jerk or wobble when braking, the headset may have come lose. To tighten it again, you must loosen the screws on the stem and tighten the vertical headset screw with short turns. But be careful: if you tighten them too much, your steering can be impaired. Don’t forget to tighten all the screws again. A tip: lift the wheel and tap the handlebars. If it turns to one side by itself, everything is fine.
Last but not least, you should check the quick release, seat clamp and other bolts. It is best to always work by hand and not with an electronic screwdriver. This prevents you from overtightening any of the bolts.
Bike care: professional maintenance is essential
Even if you regularly maintain your road or mountain bike at home, it can’t hurt to take it to a mechanic once or twice a year – preferably before and after the bike season. A professional can check the bike much more reliably for any defects and also adjust the gears and brakes to their optimum settings.