The weather was a little poor last month when the bike maintenance clinic happened, so I thought I could share some of the key points here for those that didn’t make it.
Checking for lose connections/joints
Before using your bike, you should check that each of the following is tight. You can do this by wiggling the joint, checking the alan key and listening for any unusual noises. Nothing should be more than hand tight.
-Rear Axel (wiggle your back wheel)
-Front Axel (wiggle your front wheel)
-Headset (Hold one hand over the top of your headset, where you handlebars connect to the frame. Hold the front brake with the other hand and then push firmly forward on the headset. If anything moves you should feel it)
You should also check your brake pads. On a disc-brake this is easiest if you remove the tire. The pads should have a metal backing and then an enamel or softer metal ‘pad’. The pad is typically a different color than the backing and will stick out several mm. If there is no height difference between the pad and the metal, or the pad is gone in any place, it is time to replace it. Warning signs that you need to replace your brake pads include
-Brake levers begin to pull farther back, potentially right to the bars (could also indicate air in the system, requiring a bleed)
-Noise or vibration when biking
-Scoring of the disc brakes (at this point you are a little too late and should stop biking immediately)
For good directions on how to check replace brake pads, check out this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gY3iDQdCz2E
To check if you need to replace your chain, you can purchase a chain-stretch measurement tool from MEC or you can visit any bike shop and they can quickly check for free. You should replace your chain when it is at the 75% mark and definitely no later than 100%. The percentages indicate how much stretch your chain has experienced, with 100% being the typical maximum that still allows your bike to function.
Replacing your chain regularly prevents your drive train (gears) from wearing irregularly and will save you a lot of money by extending the life of those components.
Make sure to clean and lube your chain after EVERY ride. This also extends the life of your drive train.
You should clean and lube your chain after every ride! I cannot stress this enough. Make sure to also clean the little cog wheels near your rear derailleur. Those tend to be where the most dirt and grease builds up. This dirt and grease gets transferred to your chain, where it slowly erodes your gears as you ride your bike.
If you have suspension, you should also wipe of the stanchions (exposed shiny metal bits that slide in an out of the seals) before every ride. Pay special attention to the bottom where it goes into the seals and into the body of the fork/rear suspension. If dirt or grease builds up on your suspension it will wear the seals faster, requiring expensive maintenance.
Believe it or not, it is actually recommended to change the oil in your suspension once a year if you ride frequently. This is less expensive than replacing seals or rebuilding a fork.
Having your bike setup correctly makes pedaling more efficient and avoids knee pain! Here are some quick tips.
Seat forward-back location: When sitting on your bike with your pedals flat and parallel to the ground, your front knee should be directly over top the center of your pedal/ball of your foot. Have someone hold your bike to help you check.
Seat up-down position: Your leg should not have to fully extend to a locked out position when pedaling. It should always remain slightly bent. To check this, put the heel of your foot on the pedal and complete a full rotation. You should be able to keep your foot on the pedal, but your knee should reach full extension at the bottom. That way when you move to having the ball of your foot on the pedal, your knee is slightly bent.
Brake levers: If your brake levers are too far out and you are reaching for them, you can move them in using the small set-screw that is typically located on the inside of the brake lever. If you are uncertain which screw this is, a quick Google of your brake make and model will get you this information. On the other hand, if your levers are too close in, you may pinch your fingers or hit your handle bars. Try moving the levers out!
Lastly, make sure to replace your helmet regularly. Most helmets have an expiry date listed inside, as UV and time will make the foam less capable of absorbing impact. Your brain is important, so protect it!