Bike maintenance

I spent a very satisfying hour this afternoon putting a new piece of equipment on my bike.  It’s a new cyclocomputer, wireless, with cadence and lots of other data that I didn’t have on the last computer.  I’ll post on it after I’ve ridden with it a few times.  (I installed it after today’s ride.  Yes, after yesterday’s colonic calamity, everything calmed down, and I was able to get in a nice 30-miler.)

After removing the old unit, I could see just how much grit and grime had gotten on my bike under the thing, with all its zip ties.  I did the first really thorough hand cleaning of the bike that I’ve done in a long time, making sure to get into all the little nooks and crannies that are easily missed in a casual wipe down.

I’ve gotta confess, I’m not the most diligent guy in the world when it comes to maintaining my bike.  I’m better than I used to be, when I’d leave it go for weeks on end without even the most routine attention, but I think I could be a lot more conscientious about it than I am.  It gets a quick wipe down once a week, when I also do a cursory check of the tires for cuts or debris.  I clean the chain about every two weeks.  I do the ABC Quick Check before every ride, so at least I’m certain that the bike will roll for me.  But I think I need a more regular maintenance system.

A friend of mine goes over his bike carefully every week, checking for seat height and level, bolts, cables, spokes, handlebars, lights.  Except for the seat, which I do monthly, I don’t do any of the other stuff.

So, what do you recommend?  Should I be doing a lot more than I’m doing? and what about more involved maintenance chores?  

For example, last week, I took my bike in to the LBS, to have them install a new cassette.  The young woman behind the service counter was surprised when I said I was leaving the bike overnight — that I had an appointment to get the work done the next day.

“It only takes five minutes to replace a cassette,” she said.  “If you can stick around that long, I’ll do it now.”

I watched as she took off the rear wheel, laid it on a workbench, and deftly removed the cassette.  The new one dropped easily into place.  Her labor added only five dollars to the total cost, but I thought that was something I could learn to do.  Heck, there are online tutorials about that kind of thing, and more.

I’d really be interested in hearing your thoughts about bike maintenance.  What do you think should be done regularly?  What kind of a routine do you follow?  And what should we rely on the LBS to do?


  1. Chris says

    I can do most things if I have the tools. I worked in the bike shop at my university before I graduated, they maintained a yellow bike program, and had access to all sorts of great tools. I cant ever seem to get my derailers right though, Im always clanking and squeeking, I keep my chain good and greasy, I clean the cassette and everything, but never can get it to work out the way I want. I let the LBS do it after I replace a cable myself.

  2. says

    I’m proficient enough to change my cassette, just requires the necessary tools (chainwhip and a cassette lock-ring tool). If it has to deal with the drivetrain I opt to take it to the LBS to have it wrenched on.

  3. says

    I do all my own maintenance with the exception of building wheels and straightening REALLY out of true wheels. I also enjoy it quite a bit. However, recently I haven’t had much time to do any real maintenance. I used to clean the drive train weekly and now it’s like once every 2 months, or only when it needs it. For a little while I was very obsessive about stuff, but I’ve relaxed quite a bit now! I still need to get her checked out for the MS150. I’ll do that this week but before that I need to give her a through once over.

  4. says

    Great post. I don’t do nearly as much cleaning/maintenance as I should. I am pretty good about cleaning/lubing my chain, and I can make some basic adjustments, but that’s about it. I’ve tried to do more and I usually break something, or at the very least, make things worse. Then, I end up paying someone to fix it AND replacing whatever I broke.

    Also, try as I might, I never enjoy working on bikes. I wish I did.

    So, I end up having the LBS take care of most things. It’s better for everyone that way.

  5. says

    So, after my chain got bent in a group ride that ended up with me getting SAG’d in, I decided I need to be more comfortable with maintaining my own ride.

    I think there’s something to be said for a good bikeshop wrenchjunkie going over your bike every so often. But finding a *good* wrenchjunkie seems to be a little hard.

    So far, I’m comfortable screwing with the chain, the tires and the brakes. I find that I like to keep my brakes adjusted just right, which ends up requiring me to adjust the barrels every few weeks. In fact, most of the time, I adjust the brakes mid-ride when they are not quite feeling right.

    I paid more than you did for a cassette swap at a cheap shop… and after watching the guy, I think I’ll be doing that myself next time.

    I pretty much took a “why bother?” point of view over the wintertime. I got a clean bike back from the bike shop and got it all grimy just riding it home. Now the summer is here, I might spend more time keeping the bike clean. I also need to remember to clean the chain more often as well.

    Mostly, I just look at how much all of the tools and spares cost and I know if I buy ’em online before I *need* them to have a working bike, it’ll be easier. It still adds up and bugs me to see such a large number in an online shopping cart…

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