ABC of bike maintenance

It's easy as air, brakes and chains

Giving your bike a little TLC goes a long way towards ensuring you both share a long and happy life together.

As you start riding more regularly, you should get your bike serviced every few months at your local bike shop.

For basic DIY bike maintenance, however, you don't need special knowledge or tools. The ABC of bike maintenance—air, brakes and chain—a good place to start.

Air

Make sure your tyres are inflated to the pressure (psi) marked on the sidewall of the tyre. This can be achieved by using a pump with a gauge. Running a tyre at the optimal pressure not only reduces the occurrence of punctures, but also it makes pedalling easier and protects your wheel rims from damage. Regularly checking your tyres for wear and tear is also a good habit to get into.

Brakes

Your brakes are the rubber things that clamp down on your wheels. Check that they are hitting the rims evenly and not rubbing the tyres when you squeeze the brake levers. Brakes work by creating friction against the rim, so they will wear over time. Many pads have indentations which act as wear markers; once they have disappeared it’s time to buy new ones. You can do this yourself or you can get your bike shop to do it for you.

It's also important that your brake pads are kept clean—road grime mixed with brake pad dust can leave a grey, hard to remove residue on the rim that decreases braking efficiency. Never get oil on the pads or on braking surfaces under any circumstance.

Chain

Your chain should be clean, lubricated and quiet - not chattering, squeaking or squealing. If you can hear more than a smooth clicking noise, it's time for some maintenance.

Depending on the amount of riding you do, you should lubricate your chain once a week or so. Be careful not to get any on your wheel rims as it will cause your brakes to slip. Chains can be easily cleaned with a rag or a chain cleaning kit. Also check that the chain isn't sagging or rusting.

How long should a chain last? Many people will change their chain once a year during a service, but it varies enormously, depending on conditions, distance travelled, type of chain, and the type of riding you do.

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