A beginner’s guide to maintaining your bike

Riding a bike is great way to get outdoors and exercise. It’s also an activity you can do both by yourself or with your friends or family. If you’ve decided to take the plunge and invest in a bike, either for you or for your whole family, there are a few pointers it’s worth knowing about before you start to ride. Just like your car, your bikes need a bit of basic, regular maintenance to keep them ticking over. Here’s what you need to know.

Build a basic toolkit

There are a few tools and pieces of equipment that will make looking after your bike much easier. Some, for example a set of Allen keys and 8mm to 15mm spanners, you’ll need from the off. That’s because they’re useful for things like adjusting your saddle height or taking the wheel off if you have a puncture. You also need a couple of types of lubricant. Firstly, you need cycle oil for your chain – look out for wax-based as it’ll help keep your chain clean – but also a spray lube like GT85. This helps keep water out of the chain links and prevent rust – handy if you’re planning on riding in wet weather. It’s probably worth having a set of tyre levers and a spare inner tube for when you get a puncture, too (it will happen!). Finally, it’s worth investing in a multi-tool, which houses all the most useful Allen keys, plus a couple of screwdrivers on one pocket-sized device.

Make sure your tyre pressure is just right 

Tyre pressure is all about balance. You don’t want your tyre pressure to be too high, or it will make your ride uncomfortable. On the other hand, if your tyre pressure is too low, it makes it harder for you to pedal. So, try and pump your tyres up until they’re firm but not hard. If you want to be more precise, and you have a tyre pressure gauge on your pump, you can always pump them up to the recommended pressure. You’ll usually find this printed onto the tyre itself. It will give you a minimum and maximum pressure, so just aim for a figure in the middle range.  

Keep your chain clean the easy way

You might argue that the chain is the most important part of a bicycle. It’s certainly one of the hardest working components. So, if you don’t do anything else to maintain your bike, make sure you look after the chain. Keep it clean, lubricate it regularly and you should get hundreds, if not thousands, of miles out of it. This is especially important if you ride when it’s wet outside, or if you like to ride your bike off-road through muddy trails. Your chain become a magnet for debris that’s thrown up onto the chain while you ride and can cause it to deteriorate.

It's a good idea to invest in a chain cleaner. This is a small device which you fill with degreasing liquid and attach to the chain. As you turn the pedal backwards, the brushes inside the chain cleaning machine scrub away the debris in the chain and remove any residual oil too. Once, you’ve given your chain a good deep clean, you’re ready to re-lubricate it.

Lubricate the chain properly

If your chain is still wet after you’ve cleaned it, it’s worth starting the relubrication process by spraying it with a bit of GT-85 or similar. This is a spray lubricant which helps to force excess water out from between each chain link. Give it a good spray then wipe away any excess with some kitchen paper. Once that’s done, you’re ready to oil your chain.

When oiling your bike chain, the key thing to remember is that less is more. You need to apply one single drop of bike oil to each chain link. Once you’ve done that, turn the pedal backwards three of four times to help the oil settle. Then, again, wipe away any excess with a piece of kitchen towel.

Give the whole bike a regular wash and polish

If you’ve gone out on a particularly muddy ride, you want to wash your bike as soon as possible. You don’t want that dirt to bake on to the bike. The first step is to remove the mud. If it’s fresh, then a hose will do the job. Or, if it’s had a chance to dry on, then use a brush to brush it off. After that it’s a case of giving the whole bike a good wash.

You don’t need any specialist equipment, really. A bucket of warm, soapy water – use car shampoo or even washing up liquid – plus a sponge and a washing-up brush should do it. Pay close attention to the underside of the bike, as that’s where you’ll find most debris. If you’ve got mudguards then try to clean the underside of those, too.

Keep them stored securely

It’s a sad fact that bikes are a bit of a magnet for thieves, especially mountain bikes. So, it’s worth giving some thought to how you’re going to store your bikes at home. A good lock is essential, especially if your bikes cost you a lot of money. But also think about how your bikes will be stored. Investing in a bike rack isn’t a bad idea as it lets you stand up your bikes next to each other. The downside is it can take up a lot of floorspace.

One solution that’s really helpful here is a Thane Bike Nook. This simple device lets you store your bike in an upright position, giving you your lost floorspace back, and making it easy for you to store your bikes at the end of each ride. You basically roll your bike’s back wheel into the cradle, click it into place, then lift the front wheel up and push back to secure it. It’s so simple, even a child could do it, making it the ideal solution for your family, if you have multiple bikes.

You can explore more about the brilliant Thane Bike Nook here.