The Essentials of Bike Maintenance - Pt. 2
- 10 Questions to Ask Your Mechanic -
by Liam Todd
In Part 1 of this 3-part series, we discussed how a clean bike is the precursor to all bicycle service and what we should all be doing to prepare for our rides. In this installment, we will go over some of the hardest working components of your bike: your tires and brakes.
- How do I change a flat?
Knowing how to change a flat tire is an essential skill for any cyclist. You are bound to encounter a flat (or many) during your time as a cyclist. First, deflate the tire completely. Before taking the wheel off, ensure that you are in the smallest/outermost cog. This will make taking the wheel off the easiest.
Once your wheel is off, wiggle your tire side to side to unseat the tire from the rim. This will make it much easier for you to remove the tire with nylon tire levers.
Insert 2-3 levers at different points along the rim and use your hands to remove the tire. Never slide tire levers along the bead of the tire! You only need to remove one side of the tire to get the faulty tube out. Make sure to inspect your tire for debris or tears to try to determine the cause of your flat and prevent another one. Give your new tube a couple pumps of air before putting it in the tire. This will make the process easier and help avoid pinching and puncturing the new tube. After your new tube is in place, start with getting a small section of tire on the inside of the rim and then use both your hands to slide and bend the tire over the rim. Work the tire over the rim in equal increments with both hands so you don't just go around in circles undoing your own work. Pump the tube up to a high pressure to ensure the tire seats to the rim before letting some air out to reach your desired pressure. Put your wheel back on your bike. The easiest way to ensure your axle is set properly is to close it when your bike is on its wheels and standing on its own weight. Remember to point your axle lever towards the center of the bike.
2. What should I know about my brakes?
Keep an eye on your brake pads so that you are aware when they are approaching the point of being worn beyond what is safe. Most manufacturers have helpful tips for gauging the wear on their pads. Don't be shy to stop by a bike shop for a professional evaluation of the remaining life in your brake pads.
To prevent your brake pad life from decreasing prematurely, never touch the brake pad or disc surface with your fingers. The oils on our skin contaminate the system and decrease braking performance. Never squeeze a brake without the wheel on, especially with disc brakes. The pads can stick together and are exceptionally difficult to pry apart. Use a spacer to keep your brake pads apart if you are storing or transporting your bike without a wheel on. This will prevent the pads from inadvertently sticking together.
3. What should I do if my headset feels loose?
A loose headset feels terrible and is quite dangerous. It often feels as if your whole bike is wobbling beneath you and your grip on the handlebars does not give you the control over your bike that you should expect. An easy way to check for a loose headset is to push the front wheel of your bike up against a wall. Rock your bike forward and backward by the handlebars. If your whole bike seems to wobble while your front wheel remain stationary, it is likely a loose headset. Before concluding that the problem is the headset, check that your axles are correctly set and that the movement is not due to suspension compression, as these can produce similar feelings. If the movement does seem to be coming from your headset, loosen your top cap and stem bolts. Retighten your top cap BEFORE the stem bolts to snug down your headset. Look for a manufacturer-reccomended torque ratings and if they are not there you want your top cap to be plenty snug but do not tighten it beyond extremes because it's possible to snap your top cap by over-tightening it.
Golden question: What should I do if I am uncomfortable or unsure of how to perform a task on my bike?
As a reminder, if you are ever unsure or uncomfortable with any bike maintenance, make sure to bring your bike to a professional mechanic for the job. It is much easier to address the original problem than to try to solve incorrect work. Studio Velo’s professional mechanics are experts at their craft and would love to help you get your bike back to optimal performance.
Stay tuned for Part 3 next week!
*Our service series was inspired by an article in Bicycling.