Colin, manager at Bristol Bicycles, talks you through some hot tips to keep your bike running smoothly throughout the year.
A clean bike is a happy bike, and cleaning regularly makes it easier to maintain, prolonging the life of your components. This is especially important in the winter when the roads are far from friendly, often covered in salt and grit. All you need is a bucket of hot water, biodegradable soap, a large sponge and if you really want to commit to it, some old toothbrushes, to help get into those smaller spaces.
A concentrated biodegradable degreaser can be very helpful if you want to really get the chain and cogs sparkling.
Good quality tyres are your best pal in winter. Ensure they are in good condition and are not overly worn, keeping an eye out for any cuts, or debris embedded in the tyre that could cause a puncture. The last thing you want is to spend time on the side of the road fixing a puncture with cold hands.
Keeping your tyres pumped up will make cycling easier. Tyre pressures can be found on the tyre sidewall: too hard and it’ll be very uncomfortable; too soft and it’ll feel like you are riding through treacle (and that’s not as dreamy as it sounds).
If you’re constantly getting punctures it may be time to invest in some more puncture-resistant tyres.
Good brakes are pretty important! Whatever type of brakes you have, your bike brake pads will wear down over time, so inspecting for pad wear is essential. If the brake blocks/pads are worn out you’ll be braking metal onto metal, causing damage to the braking surface which could lead to having to replace your wheels!
Squeaky chain? Oiling your chain will not only stop the squeaking, it will also reduce wear to the drivetrain components. Beware too much oil though, as it will attract more dirt, creating a gritty paste that will impact gear shifting and will cause premature wear to the drivetrain. It’s a fine line between too little oil and too much! Eek eek. Little and often is best.
A clean and lubricated chain is easier to pedal, less noisy, and will wear out less quickly
Pay close attention to your gears in the winter months. Heavy use over summer mixed with the grit and water of winter is never a nice mix. Chains begin to slip and teeth start to wear out. Catching this early can prevent a hefty bill further down the line. So if the gears start to feel slow to change, or the chain is slipping, make sure you get the bike into your local bike shop and get them to give it a once over.
Making sure that your saddle is correctly positioned is important to enhance the comfort of your ride and, most importantly, help to avoid long-term injuries. The height and also the angle of a saddle can be adjusted to get the perfect fit.
The easiest way for new cyclists to find their saddle height is the heel-to-pedal method: sit on the saddle, place your heel on the pedal (when the pedal is at its lowers position), and your leg should be straight, with no bend at the knee. If necessary, adjust the saddle until your leg is straight. This doesn’t take into account all of the elements that can affect saddle height but it’ll get you in the right ballpark.
Do your wheels need attention? Wheels are fundamental to your bike, without them you’re not going anywhere! Keep an eye out for broken or slack spokes. If your bike has rim brakes the wheel rim also acts as the braking surface; over time this metal surface will wear and eventually cave in on itself. Not something you want to happen whilst you’re riding!
Rattle & hum
Well before U2’s seminal album, the bike has has been producing its own rattle and hum. Our lives can feel too busy to worry about every mild annoyance, and as long as the bike runs fine then it’s all good, right? … Well maybe not, that small rattle could lead to something much bigger down the line. A quick inspection is always recommended, and if you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, we recommend going to your local bike shop.