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Bike Maintenance Tips for Beginners
Congrats on getting a new bike: now is a great time to learn how to maintain your bike to keep it running smoothly for years to come. All bicycles require some setup to ensure you’ll be comfortable and safe so you can focus on having fun while riding. Basic bike maintenance will also help the components of your bike last longer. If you’re new to cycling, learning how to set up and maintain your bike is a fun and empowering part of learning a new skill, and we are here to help you feel confident knowing your bike is ready to roll for each ride.
Check out some of our favorite DIY beginner bike maintenance tips below!
Bike Service Tools & Supplies
You don’t need a ton of stuff to get into biking, but it’s good to know where you can access these items if you need them. Some cities, trailheads, and greenways have public bike repair stations with a complete set of handy tools, a bike pump, and a repair stand. If there is a bike shop on your normal route, you may also be able to stop in and borrow a pump or tools for quick fixes. If you are looking to get your own tools and supplies, these items are nice to have:
On-the-bike repair kit (small multi-tool, spare tube, tire levers, CO2 cartridges and valve and/or hand pump)
Making some basic fit adjustments on your bike before you head out to ride is important for your safety, comfort, and enjoyment! Let’s be honest; if you’re not comfortable on your bike then you won’t have fun, and if you’re not having fun you probably won’t want to ride your bike very much.
First up, check your saddle height. When your saddle is too low, you won’t be as efficient when you pedal. You might also experience knee pain because you’re not getting full leg extension. As a general rule, you want only a slight bend in your knee at the bottom of your pedal stroke. Make small adjustments until your saddle height feels right.
Next, make sure you can easily reach your brake levers and shifters for safety and comfort while riding. On most bikes, you can adjust where your brakes and shifters are on the handlebar and dial in your levers, so you aren’t straining to reach them.
2. Know your ABCs (Air, Brakes, Chain), and check them before every ride
Doing a quick safety check on your bike before every ride is essential. Over time, your tires will lose air, bolts can become loose, and your parts will eventually wear out and need to be replaced. The ABC safety check (or Air, Brakes, Chain) is a simple way to remember what you need to look out for. Click here for everything you need to know about tire pressure, checking your brakes, and keeping your gears in tip-top shape.
3. Keep your bike clean
Cleaning your bike's frame and components is an important part of basic maintenance – taking good care of your bike will save you money in the long run! Even if you’re only riding on the road in dry conditions, your drivetrain (consisting of your chain, gears, and derailleur) attracts dirt and grime. A dirty drivetrain will wear out more quickly than a clean, well-lubricated drivetrain and it isn’t cheap to replace! It’s a good idea to degrease and re-lube your drivetrain every couple of weeks.
Pro Tip: Always dry your bike thoroughly, whether you’ve just washed it, or you got caught in the rain. If your bike stays wet, it can cause rust which leads to noises, shifting problems, seized bolts, and other issues.
4. If you have disc brakes, avoid contaminating the rotors or pads
Many bikes now come with disc brakes instead of rim brakes. Disc brakes are great because they provide more stopping power and work better in all terrain and weather conditions. How do you know if you have disc brakes? You will see a metal rotor in the middle of your wheel attached to your hub and the brake caliper will be attached to the bottom of your fork. The brake pads are housed inside the caliper. (Check out the parts of a bike guide here.)
Sometimes your brake pads can become contaminated, which causes them to not work as well and make a horrible noise! Substances that can cause contamination are: lubes and grease, some cleaning products (it’s fine to use dish soap on your brakes), road grime (it’s a good idea to rinse your brakes after traveling on the highway if your bike’s on a rack behind your car), even your fingers contain oils which can contaminate your pads!
Whether you ride on roads, bike paths, or trails, for commuting, fitness, or fun – at some point, you’re bound to get a flat tire. We’ve all been that person who either hasn’t had the tools or the knowledge to fix a flat, resorting to pushing our bikes out of the woods or calling a friend or cab to pick us up on the side of the road. But that doesn’t have to be you! All you need is some simple bike service gear (a multi-tool to remove your wheel if you don’t have a quick release, some tire levers, a tube, and a pump or CO2) and a little know-how.
Find out if your tires have tubes or if you have a tubeless system. Not sure? Take your wheel off and give it a shake. Do you hear any sloshing? That’s probably sealant inside your tire – you’re tubeless!
If you're running tubes, grab some fix-a-flat supplies at your local bike shop. You’ll need to know what size tires you have to get the right size tube (it’s written on the side of your tire).
Just like anything, bike maintenance takes practice and is a constant learning process - especially as bike technology changes and you try new kinds of riding. Under normal circumstances, many bike shops will occasionally offer bike maintenance classes. This is a great opportunity to learn more about your bike, get your bike maintenance questions answered from qualified professionals, and meet other cyclists in your area! If no in-person classes are available, keep an eye out on social media for live events like this one from Liv athlete Ayesha McGowan. You can also find our full catalog of bike maintenance videos and articles HERE.