The world of bike mechanics can be a minefield for some riders and can be very expensive if you aren’t sure how to fix certain things. As a general rule of thumb, if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s best leaving it to a professional to fix as they will both have the tools and the know-how.
There are some jobs though that are quite easy with a bit of practice, the tools and a bit of common sense. Some bike shops can charge a fortune for what is often 10 minutes work and can be performed relatively inexpensively. I’ve outlined below some of the ‘easy’ jobs a rider can do without masses of practice. Again, if unsure, pay a professional, though the Park Tool books are an excellent reference guide with pictures, explanations, suggested tools and is relatively easy to follow (http://www.ribblecycles.co.uk/pp/road-track-bike/books/book).
- Adjust your gears
Adjusting your own gears is a skill that can take a while to master but is very simple in real life when key assumptions are made; for example, if your bike is correctly assembled, clean and lubed up, your components aren’t worn out or damaged. If this is the case, gears are adjusted based on a pair of ‘stop screws’ on each derailleur and the cable tension to the shifter. Firstly the ‘stops’ don’t really need adjusting very often, they ONLY affect how far the derailleur moves and limit the derailleur from going through the spokes or derailing the chain onto the frame. 9 times out of 10, if these are set correctly you can adjust your gears using the barrel adjuster on the derailleur, frame or sometimes inline on the outer cable itself. Too much tension and your gears won’t drop down properly, too little and they won’t shift up properly; it’s all about finding the balance between the two.
- Attach pedals
Attaching pedals is another easy job that can be done with basic tool. Most decent pedals fit to the cranks with either a 15mm spanner fitting or a large Allen key, usually either a 6mm or 8mm. Though you don’t need masses of force, you don’t want them to come undone riding, this is why pedal spanners are so long. Simply remember to use a grease that isn’t designed for bearings and that the left-hand pedal has a left-hand thread and the right-hand pedal has a right-hand thread to tighten. Why do I need to take my own pedals off you ask? Because if you’ve ever had an annoying creak when pedalling, it’s usually dry pedal threads on cranks. Here is a video with our General Manager, Jim, showing you how to attach your pedals.
- Swap cassette and chain
More and more riders are buying ‘best’ wheels for their bikes for either racing, sportives or just for use on a nice summer’s day. Instead of relying on someone else to change the cassette for you all the time, why not get the remover and a chain whip? Though most chain whips will work on all cassettes, be sure to buy either the Shimano/SRAM-fit splined remover or a Campag-fit splined remover depending on your groupset. Though they look the same and priced similarly, slight differences can damage your cassette which is more expensive than buying the right tool.
- Change tyres and tubes
Learn to change your tyres and inner tubes, even if it’s just for in case you get a puncture whilst out and about. Be sure to have a good quality track pump that can do the pressures required to inflate your tyre fully. Most road tyres need to be inflated between 100psi and 130psi, so there isn’t much point to owning a pump that only does 90psi. Tyres will naturally lose air and pick up damage so you need to keep on top of them, I check mine before every ride. If you struggle to fit your tubes, then use plastic tyre levers to help you, unless your wheel instructions specifically tell you not to. Most tyres can be rolled on by hand. http://www.ribblecycles.co.uk/sp/road-track-bike/lezyne-lezyne-pumps-floor-lezyne-classic-floor-drive-pump/lezypumf220
- Clean your bike
Finally the most important thing you should be able to do is keep your bike clean and maintained. It doesn’t take long to clean your bike after a ride, and it will prolong the life of your equipment and frame, but also reduce the problems you have. Never use a pressure washer as this can damage the seals on bearings and suspension systems, though convenient at events and trail centres, try not to be lured into using them. A good brush and cleaning solution works just as well, just make sure you re-lube your chain, cables and everything else that needs doing after wiping the bike down. If unsure where to start, the Muc-Off and Green Oil sets are great value for money and have all the stuff you need and make a great birthday or Christmas present. http://www.ribblecycles.co.uk/sp/road-track-bike/muc-off-muc-off-lubes-oils-degreasers-muc-off-bike-care-essentials-kit/mucolube228000000000
For all of the above jobs, a workstand such as this one: http://www.ribblecycles.co.uk/sp/road-track-bike/workstands-bike-tool-aluminium-workstand/bikework200000000000 would made the work much cleaner and easier but it isn’t essential.
So there you have it, a little insight into basic bicycle maintenance from Matt, a member of our customer service team. We will follow up soon with some more intermediate and advanced maintenance and bike care topics!