Bike Maintenance

Road Bike Suggested Maintenance Schedule

Everyone understands the importance of regular preventative maintenance on an automobile, but many folks ignore this concept when it comes to their bicycle. A bicycle is a big investment and it's important to keep it in sound working order not only for top performance, but also for the safety of the rider and those riding around him/her. You might say you should get into the habit of caring for your bike like your life depended on does!


    • Lubricate the chain and the moving parts of your brakes and derailleur’s.

    • Your bike has quite a few moving metal parts that are vulnerable to dirt and moisture. To keep your bike happy and functioning well, these parts should be lubricated regularly.

    • In wet weather this needs to be done at least once a week

    • Pivot points on the brakes and derailleurs are good examples of the types of places you should target because they are vulnerable to attracting dirt and grit due to their placement on your bike. But you can spot many of these places just by watching your bike in action and seeing where metal parts move against and around each other.

    • For instance, think about your brakes. On most road bikes, they are mounted on a bolt on the frame above your wheel. When you squeeze the lever, the brake pivots around this bolt as it contracts. It's these places where you want to apply a couple drops of oil.

Tip: Use lightweight oil specially designed for bikes. Stay away from motor oil as it is too heavy and will quickly attract dirt and crud. Want a big greasy chain ring mark on your leg? Using too much oil or the wrong kind is a guaranteed way to get one. Light lubrication is the key, and wipe off excess at the end.

Do not use WD40 on any moving part of a bike. It will only remove oil and it will loosen nuts, bolts, wheel nipples etc.

    • Rotate wheels to check that they are in true. Replace any broken spokes - other spokes will break and the wheel will be permanently bent if ridden in this condition.


    • Clean, Lubricate, and inspect drivetrain

      • (cassette, chain [replace every 2000 to 2500 miles], chainrings, and derailleurs)

    • Check wheel bearing adjustment

      • (while wheel is on bike, try to move wheel from side to side…if you feel play, adjustment is necessary)

    • Check headset adjustment

      • (Pick up front of bike and steer the handlebars from side to side…movement should be smooth and easy…adjust if tight or “indexed.” Then with the front wheel on the ground, move bike forward and backward while you squeeze the front brake lever…if you feel play in the headset, it needs adjustment. If you are unsure, visit your bike shop.

    • Check bottom bracket adjustment

    • try to move crankarms from side to side…if you feel play or “creaking” noises when you ride, bottom bracket adjustment cup or fixed cup may be loose…also check crankarm bolts for proper tightness.) Another source of loud creaking when you stand is sometimes the front skewer…lube and check tightness.

    • Check for loose nuts and bolts (headset, seatpost, waterbottle cages, handlebar, crankarm, chainring, stem bolts, pedals, any mounting screws)

    • Clean frame and working components and check for wear and breakage

    • Lubricate brake, shifter, and pedal pivot points

    • Inspect tires for wear and replace if necessary (don’t forget to check rim tape to insure all spoke holes are completely covered and tape is not deteriorating)

    • Check that your bar ends (plugs at the ends of your handlebars) are in place – replace them if not.

    • Spin your pedals and check they are in good condition

    • Inspect shoe cleats for wear (tighten or replace if necessary)


    • Check the brakes to ensure they are correctly adjusted, and that the pads are not worn. A quick check of your brake pads will often reveal potential problems that are easy to fix. You want to check:

    • Are your brake pads properly aligned?

    • Brake pads are the little rubber things that clamp down on your rims to slow you when you squeeze the brake levers. Make sure they are hitting the rims evenly, and aren't either rubbing the tire or missing your rim partially or completely.

    • Are the brake pads toed-in?

    • The bike brake pads should also be "toed-in," which means the leading edge of the pads should touch the bike rim first when you lightly apply the brakes. The pads squish a little, and when you squeeze down hard, you should get full contact to the rim. This helps prevent squeaking.

    • Check for junk embedded in the brake pads

    • Inspect the surface of the brake pads where they meet the rims, and using a pointy sharp instrument like a knife, pick out any bits of sand or metal that may have become embedded in the pad. Removing this grit prevents the pads from wearing and scratching your rims and helps them provide more even and consistent stopping power.

    • Check derailleur adjustment. See section on derailleur adjustment.

    • Check screws or bolts holding attachments such as mudguards, racks, bottles etc are tight.

    • Check brake and gear cables for fraying or rusting, and lubricate. See section on cablesCheck the chain for wear.

*TIP* If the "teeth" on front or rear sprockets look sharp and pointy, Replace.

At least every Two Years:

    • Replace the chain and front or rear sprockets

    • Complete disassembly, cleaning, and lubricate all moving parts.

    • Check bottom bracket and wheel hubs for excessive play and replace if worn.

    • Check derailleur jockey wheels for wear, replace them if worn. *TIP* If the "teeth" of the jockey wheels or front or rear sprockets look sharp and pointy, Replace. (if rear cassette is worn, you will need to replace chain at the same time)

    • Grease metal-to-metal contact points. Check saddle for splitting, and handlebar grips or tape for perishing or fraying

    • Check headset; tighten or replace bearings as necessary.


Testing your brakes

It is vital that your brakes work well. To test them, stand over your bike, put the front brakes on and try pushing forward. The bike shouldn't move at all. Then do the same for the back brakes. You should be able to put the brakes on without squeezing the levers too hard. The levers should not touch the handlebars. If the bike moves forward at all, or you have to pull hard on the levers then you will need to make adjustments.

There are a number of different brake systems, including cantilever, V-brakes, and side-pull (all of which use the friction of brake blocks against the wheel rim in order to stop the bike), hub or disc brakes (both of which use friction at the hub of the wheel) and hydraulic disc brakes (which works in the same way as motor vehicle brakes). The following is a general guide to simple adjustments for the

commonest types: cantilever, V-brakes, and side-pull brakes. If you have hub, disc or hydraulic brakes, or if you don't feel confident doing these adjustments but are at all concerned then do take your bike for a check up at your bike shop.

Tightening the brakes

You can make small adjustments with the adjusting screw, which will either be where the cable comes out of your brake lever or at a cable-stop. On side-pull brakes it may be where the cable meets the brakes. You will need to loosen the locking.

Replacing your Brake Blocks

If your brake pads have worn down then you will need to adjust or replace them. NEVER let your brake pads wear down so that the metal scrapes the rims! Note: Some brake pads also have a feature that lets you know when they need replacing. If replacing the brake pads, pay attention to how they fit and the order of any spacers or washers for fitting the new set.

a) Whether you are adjusting or changing your break pads you need to make sure they are aligned correctly, so that when in use they are fully touching the rim and do not touch the tyre.

b) They should be square so that the entire brake pad will touch the rim. Place them so that they are no more than 3mm from the rim when not in use (though if they rub in places you may need the wheel trued).

c) If your brakes squeal, 'toe in' the brake blocks - the front of the block should hit the rim fractionally before the back.

Replacing the Cable

Over time cables will stretch and need replacing. If your cables are damaged, frayed or sticking you should replace them. You can remove the cable by undoing the cable bolt (see tightening brakes), cutting off the cable cap end and sliding the cable through the casing and out of the levers. Pay attention to how the cable is threaded and fits through the lever for when you put in the new cable; there should be slots in the lever to allow the cable to fit in and out easily. This is a good time to lubricate the cable casing with some light oil.

You fit a new cable from the lever, back through the outer and down to the brake. There are two types of cable end: pear shaped for drop handlebars and barrel shaped for flat handlebars. Make sure you tighten the cable clamp fully once you have set up the correct tension (see 'Tightening the brakes',

above). If your brake levers have a slot for easy cable installation, make sure the corresponding slot in the adjusting nut is positioned so that the cable won't come out by accident.

Puncture Repair

This section explains how to repair punctures in bicycle inner tubes, and gives some advice as to the most likely causes. In addition, there are notes peculiar to the use of tube sealants.


The basic parts of interest are these:

    • Tyres are the rubber outer parts that contact the road's surface. The rubber part is called cladding, and it covers the internal structure of the tyre. The cladding has a tread, smooth or patterned, depending on its use. The edges that fit into the wheel rims have wires within the cladding called beading or beads, and various fibres run between the beads to give strength within the cladding. Although tubeless bicycle tyres exist, they are still quite rare on pushbikes, so this page deals only with tires having inner-tubes.

    • Inner-tubes are the inflatable parts between the tyre and the metal parts of the wheel. They are invisible apart from their valves that protrude through the wheel-rims. There are two valve types in use; Schrader valves, Presta valves. Refer to the above images for examples.

    • Rim-linings protect the bottom of the inner-tube. The ends of the spokes enter the rims, and this lining in the rim-well covers them so that the tube is not damaged.

    • Self-sealing tubes. These are tubes with a clotting fluid inside, (Slime). They automatically seal punctures as and when they develop. They can be bought with the fluid in them or the fluid can be added to ordinary tubes. To allow filling, and because valves sometimes need to be unclogged, inner tubes with removable valve cores are preferred.

The Causes of Punctures

A flat tyre or puncture is most often caused by glass, thorns, flints or nails when they cut through the outer rubber tread of the tire and damage the inner tube. These deflations are usually quick, at least when the object is removed. Although this is the most obvious way to get a flat tire there are other ways too. Consider these:

    • Internal abrasion on metal parts. If the spoke ends are not covered by the rim-tape properly, then this might happen. Other possibilities include a rubbing valve stem, or a bare edge wire in the rubber parts. Inspect the inside of the tire for these and for old inclusions that are sometimes missed. Also, make sure that the valve stem is straight in the inflated tire.

    • Rough edges from tube liners or worn internal surfaces in tyres. Tube liners have been reported to cause punctures, and this author has experienced a slow puncture at the free end of a liner in a two month old tube. When a tire's cladding is frayed or holed, it can rub on the tube and cause damage. Tires can sometimes be made good with an internal patch or boot; this is a specially made patch or one improvised by adding a loosely fitted section of old inner tube over the inflated one.

    • Recurrent movement of the tube. This happens mostly when tires are soft. The tires flatten or bottom-out on encountering bumps and form double faults or snake-bites in the tire. Tyres inflated to near their maximum have fewest of these.

    • Incorrect seating of the tube. If the tube is not seated well before inflating the tyre, it is exposed to unusual stresses that lead to single faults called pinches. When inflating tires, first add a little air to the tube then press both sides of the tire around the whole perimeter to check that no tube rubber will be trapped.

    • Rough handling of the tube. Some outer tires leak fluid when they are punctured, as do tubes with built-in puncture repair fluids. These cause the tube to become glued to the tyre. If the user does not know this and pulls the tube when removing it, a crescent shaped weakness in the rubber results. These areas usually become punctures, often after only a few days. Expect binding of these items when removing a tube.

    • A series of recurrent punctures, where there seems to one every other day suggests that either the user is at fault in not properly clearing the cause of punctures, or that a long series of pinches and snakebites are just starting to break through. Replace the tube, check the state of the inside tyre, or perhaps install a tube sealant.

    • Valve leakage: Some valve cores can develop slow leaks when the fibres of tube sealants settle within them, and not all valve cores can be removed for cleaning

The Basic Tools

This section lists the basic requirements for tube repair. The primary items are these:

    • A pump that fits your valves. Adaptors too for some pumps.

    • A spare tube ( with no puncture)

    • Puncture repair kit (Patches, Rubber vulcanising solution, sandpaper)

    • Tyre levers You need at least two of these; plastic or metal. Try to avoid using sharp screwdrivers

Also useful are...

    • Wrenches . If the bike has nutted axles instead of quick-release skewers, you'll need some tools to remove the nuts so you can take the wheel off, e.g. "ring spanner" or some other type of wrench. Some bicycles require two wrenches. Try out your tools before riding to be sure that they are the right ones to carry.

    • Hex wrenches You might need to release the brakes to get the wheel off.

Bicycle Wheel Removal

Disengaging the brake to remove the wheel

For V-brakes, pull the brakes together so that the cable can be lifted free of the moveable arm attached to one brake lever.

On side-pull brakes there may be a button on the side of the brake lever (Campagnolo), or a quick release lever on the brake (Shimano) used to disengage the brakes. If not, you may have to deflate the tyre or remove one brake block in order to get the wheel off.

On cantilever brakes pull the cable out of one arm of the brake through the slot. Whatever you do don't forget to reengage your brakes before you ride your bike again!

Front Bicycle Wheel Removal

Let out any remaining air in the bicycle's tire. Remove the axle nuts. They unscrew counter-clockwise, like the lid of a pickle jar. Many bicycle's also have some safety devices or plates under the axle nuts, which you should remove. Remove the wheel, being careful not to damage the front brake pads.

If You Have A Quick-Release (Skewer) Wheel

Loosen the lever that holds the wheel on. This lever does not unscrew, it is cam action. Just flip it to the open position and the wheel will slip out. If the wheel does not slip out, then you can unscrew the lever a bit after it is flipped to the release position. If your bicycle has safety washers to keep the wheel from falling off in case the lever is accidentally opened, then unscrew and remove the lever and the safety washers.

Secure position shown on left, ready to fall off on right.

Removing The Rear Wheel From A Derailleur-Equipped Bicycle

Shift the rear derailleur into high gear, the smallest sprocket.

Loosen the axle nuts / Loosen the lever that holds the wheel on to remove the wheel.

Be careful not to damage the brake pads.

You may need to hold the derailleur back (it pivots) in order to get the chain clear of the mechanism. Take your time to see how the chain comes clear as the wheel slides out of the bicycle.

Bicycle Tyres And Tubes

Bicycle Tyre And Tube Removal From The Wheel

    • Remove the locking screw on the rim if the valve is of the Presta type

    • Bicycle Tire And Tube Removal From The Wheel

    • • Remove the locking screw on the rim if the valve is of the Presta type

    • • If the tire is not fully deflated, open the valve and let the rest of the air out, as any residual air will make it difficult to get the tire off and the tube out. If you have Schrader valves then remove the plastic cap and press the center-pin in the middle of the valve. If you have Presta valves, remove the plastic cap, undo the metal locking screw all the way to its end, then press the end of the valve to release the air.

    • • With the tire deflated, insert the smooth end of a tire lever under the bead of the tire at a position far from the valve. While doing this be certain that the inner tube is not trapped by the tire lever. It is very easy to poke a hole into the bicycles inner tube. The tire lever is used with the bent end facing inward so that it can be hooked onto the spoke to keep it positioned. With it so positioned, insert another tire lever about four inches or so from the first, in the same way. Continue moving and inserting the tire levers until one bead of the tire is free of the rim. In the case of wide tires this task is fairly easy but for slim tires another tire lever may be useful.

    • • Remove the inner tube very gently, whether it is just a local section or the whole tube. Always anticipate that the tube is sticking to the inside of the tire, and that wrenching it will cause a stretch-weakness. If the tube seems stuck, then use extra care in separating it from the tire, perhaps softening any glued-up tube sealant with some water before easing the two apart.

    • If necessary, carefully insert the tire levers at several locations.

    • Three Ways To Fix A Bicycle Flat

    • There are three ways to fix a bicycle flat tire.

    • 1. You can replace the whole inner tube, which is more reliable than another way, patching it.

    • 2. Patching is cheaper, the patch kit is easier to carry than a whole tube and you will have more than one patch, in case you have another flat.

    • 3. The third way is the easiest. There are various liquids and foams that you can squirt into the inner tube through the valve. They seal leaks by clogging them up. Sealants can be put into your tires before you have a puncture, as a preventive measure. But they have less than a fifty percent success rate. Sealants are at their best in cases of numerous small punctures, such as running over areas where thorn bushes grow. They seldom work with large holes.

    • Installing a replacement Tube

    • Before the replacement of the inner tube, make sure that the causes of the puncture have been removed.

    • It is good practice to re-inflate the old tube and find the location of the puncture. Match this location to a location on the tyre and examine this place very closely

    • Check the outside of the tyre for small fragments of glass, stone splinters or thorns. Remove any penetrating objects, and carefully inspect the inside of the tire, visually and by hand contact to make sure that there are no remaining causes of punctures.

    • Check the rimstrip, the rubber, cloth or plastic covering over the spoke nipples to be sure it is in good condition and in proper position.

    • If the tire has a large hole, you may be able to shore it up temporarily. Just lay a square of cloth between the tire and the tube. The air pressure will hold it in place.

    • Pump just enough air into the tube for it to take its doughnut-like shape.

    • Push the valve about half way into the valve hole on the rim. If you have trouble getting it in, lift up the rimstrip first, push the valve through the rimstrip, then into the rim. Put the inner tube fully into the tire.

    • Make sure also that the valve is straight at the end of this stage, and if it is not then gently straighten it by shifting the tube's position on the rim; not by pulling on the valve. .

    • Starting at the section with the valve, work around the wheel, pushing one bead of the tire onto the rim. Be careful not to trap the tube.

    • The last little bit may be difficult to slip over the edge of the rim. Ideally tyre levers should not be used to pry it on as this may damage the tire edge, or you may slip and put a hole in the tube.

    • It is almost always possible to get the tire on entirely by hand if you force just an inch or two at a time over the rim using your thumbs. Practice helps more than strength. Except with a few thin tires, almost no strength is needed.

    • If you must use the tyre levers be careful not to pinch the inner tube between the rim and the tire or you will put a hole in the tube.

    • Getting the last portion of the tire over the rim.

    • When the tire is installed, gently push the valve back up into the rim to ensure that the tube is not trapped under the tyre rim.

    • Work around the tire, pressing both sides toward the centre of the rim. If this is easily done then it is clear that the tube is not trapped at any point.

    • Put just a little air into the bicycle's tire, about ten pounds per square inch. Look at the tire, all the way around and on both sides, to be sure it is seated properly. If there is a section of tire that is trying to bulge off the rim, let the air out and fix this area by pushing it into position. After you are satisfied with the tire installation, inflate the tire to full pressure. Do this slowly, periodically checking that the seating is still OK. The proper pressure is written (vulcanized) on the tire side.

    • Patching The Bicycle Tube

    • Put lots of air into the tube until it is twice its regular size. The hole should be noticeable by now, but if not, you can put the whole tube under water and look for bubbles coming out. If the hole is small, you can mark it by poking through the hole with a screwdriver to make it larger.

    • Unless you have glueless patches, follow this procedure exactly:

    • 1. Deflate and make sure the outside of the tube is dry.

    • 2. Using sandpaper, or the metal scraper that comes with some patch kits, buff the tube around the area of the hole to remove the outer surface of the rubber revealing fresh rubber underneath. Make sure to buff at least as large an area as the whole patch will cover. If you use a metal scraper, be careful not to cut deep enough to create new holes.

    • 3. Put glue over the buffed area. Work only in a well-ventilated area.

    • 4. Let the glue dry fully. Really! This kind of glue, also called contact cement, must dry completely before applying the patch. Many people are confused about this and do strange things including setting the glue on fire!

    • 5. Peel the foil or the plastic backing off the patch and press it firmly on the glued area. Do not touch the side of the patch which sticks to the glue because even the microscopic amount of material on your fingers deactivates its stickiness.

    • Installing The Front Wheel

    • If your bike has a front brake, be careful not to damage the brake pads with the tire when installing the front wheel. If your bike has a brake quick release mechanism, you should release it to open the brake further. If the front brake has a straddle wire (short cable) that can be removed without tools, remove it. Don't forget to reset the brake when done!.

    • Wheel with axle nuts

    • Tighten the two axle nuts, a little at a time to firmly hold the wheel in place. Note: there should be a washer on each side between the axle nut and the outside of the fork. Make sure the wheel is centered between the forks. You can test to see if the wheel is tight by hitting the side of the tire with the palm of your hand. The wheel should not slip sideways.

    • Order of Assembly

    • Safety washer & screw not found on all bikes. There are several variations of these.

    • Installing A Quick-Release Front Wheel

    • Position the wheel in the fork and try to close the lever. It will likely be too easy or too stiff to fold over. Turn the knob on the other side to adjust the cam action. Turning the knob clockwise while holding the lever in the open position will make the lever harder to close. If it closes too hard already, loosen the knob. The proper adjustment is such that the lever is quite firm, but not so hard to close that it hurts your hand. Test the wheel to be sure it is secure by hitting the side of the tire near the top of the fork with