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Bike Maintenance E-Guide


Bikes. We love them Bikes thrive on attention. By taking a little time to learn the basics of bike maintenance and regularly looking after your bike, your days in the saddle will be even more enjoyable. This Wheelies E-Guide will help you care for your bike. We will explain the key bike components that need looking after; how to service them yourself; and what items of kit you will need to do the job. Our advice has been split into easy to read sections, from the anatomy of a bike, to the 5 most common maintenance tasks. The contents page opposite will show you where to go. We hope you find this guide useful and practical. If we can be of any further help call us on 01792 583000. We know your bike will love you for it too‌.


Bike Maintenance - Content Section 1 Anatomy of a Bike 2 Basic maintenance kit 3 Before you ride 4 Maintenance Tasks - Task 1: Repairing a puncture - Task 2: Removing and fitting a wheel - Task 3: Looking after your chain - Task 4: Cleaning and lubricating - Task 5: Tightening brake and gear cables 5 The Do’s and Don’ts of Bike Maintenance 6 Bike Maintenance Schedule



Anatomy of a Bike

Bike technology and engineering continue to evolve, but the basic shape of a bike has stood the test of time. The bicycle frame is the main component of any bike, onto which wheels and other components are fitted. For strength and safety, the modern and most common frame design consists of two triangles - a main triangle and a paired rear triangle. This is known as the diamond frame. Throughout this guide we will refer to specific parts of your bike, and to help you locate them, as an example, we have marked up the image of a standard road bike below.

Seat Stays


Saddle Seat pillar/post

Top tube

Pannier rack

(Handlebar) Stem

Brake levers Gear shifters

Headset / Aheadset

Gear cables

Seat clamp

Sprocket cluster (Cassette)

Brake cables Head tube Front brake

Down tube Seat tube

Brake blocks Front forks Dropouts

Crank Pedal Chainwheel Barrell adjuster

Jockey Wheels

Rear derailleur (gear changer) 4

Front derailleur Chain Stays

Quick release / Wheel nut Front hub

Rim Spokes


Basic maintenance kit

Properly look after your bike by investing in the following maintenance kit:• Bicycle pump • Spare inner tube • Puncture repair kit (to include patches, adhesive, crayon/pen for marking up punctures, sand paper) • A set of tyre levers • Light oil and grease • A set of allen keys • A flat head and a Phillips screwdriver • An adjustable spanner • Protective gloves For repairs on the go, many of these items can be bought in portable size and taken with you in a saddle bag. Additionally, for bike cleaning, keep a set of rags, sponges and brushes to use with bike cleaning detergents. Bike maintenance kit can be bought at the maintenance section on our website;



Before you ride

Whether your bike is brand new or high mileage, it is vital to keep checking it for damage, wear and safety. National Standards for Cycle Training recommend that a bike is always checked thoroughly before riding. They have devised a handy method for checking each area of your bike. By following an ‘M’ shape, and starting at the front wheel, moving up to the handlebars, down to the chainset, back up to the saddle, and then down to the rear wheels and gears, you will not miss a thing. Starting at the bottom of the ‘M’, check the front wheel first….


3.1 Front wheel & brakes

Lift the front of the bike up by the handlebars and look for damage or wear as you slowly turn then spin the front wheel. The rubber of the front tyre should feel hard. While it spins, check to see if the wheel runs true by looking out for any wobble or misalignment between the front forks. While you have the wheel off the ground, thump down hard on the top of it when stationery, to check it doesn’t fall out of the forks. Make sure the axle nuts or quick release lever are tight, then pull the rim side to side to test for loose hub bearings. While looking at the rim, check the brake blocks (if fitted) don’t miss when squeezing the brake lever, and that the metal brake cable is not frayed.


3.2 Handlebars

Moving on up the frame of the bike, squeeze the front brake lever hard and look inside the front forks to check the brake cable. Push your bike forward – the back wheel should lift off the ground. Rock the bike back and forth to check some more. Any free movement in the handlebars could mean a loose headset – this is best dealt with by a professional repairer to avoid serious accidents. Now check the rear brake lever – squeeze, cable check and push the bike – the back wheel should lock and slide. When you squeeze them, neither of the brake levers should ever touch the handlebars. Ensure that both brake levers are secure and that the handlebar ends are covered by grips or plugs. Next, face the bike, gripping the front wheel between your knees and check the handlebars don’t twist sideways or rotate in the handlebar stem. Check that the stem has not been raised above its height limit mark.


3.3 Frame

Moving back down to the frame, pay particular attention to the area just behind the head tube. Wrinkled paint or bent tubes could indicate that the frame has been irreparably damaged and it may be necessary to replace your bike. If your bike has suspension, check that it is correctly adjusted to your weight and that there is no excess play between moving parts.


3.4 Transmission

Down at the middle of the ‘M’ of the bike, hold onto the crank arms and check for any sideways looseness. Make sure your pedals are secure in the cranks and they are not bent or damaged – if they are then it is best to consult a professional repairer. If your bike has gears, lift the back wheel off the ground so you can turn the pedals. Whilst the bike is lifted, shift the gears all the way up and down a couple of times to check they work. Check that every click delivers the next gear and the chain doesn’t overshoot at either end.


3.5 Saddle

Ensure the saddle is not loose by twisting and rocking it. The saddle top should be near horizontal and the seat post must never be raised above the limit mark.

3.6 Rear Wheel and Brake

Lift the bike by the saddle to check the rear wheel, by spinning it, just like the front. Put it down and check the rear wheel rim, hub and brake the same way too. As you check the bike, ensure that any accessories such as mudguards, locks, bottles, pumps, carriers, and luggage etc. are all securely fitted. In the case of lights and reflectors, make sure they are working and clean. 11


Maintenance Tasks

In this section we will look at the top 5 maintenance tasks for any bike. In addition to looking after your bike, it is recommended to get your bike serviced by a professional bike repairer at least once a year. Task 1: Repairing a puncture Task 2: Removing and fitting a wheel Task 3: Looking after your chain Task 4: Cleaning and lubricating Task 5: Tightening brake and gear cables


4.1 Repairing a puncture There’s nothing more deflating, but a puncture can be repaired, swiftly and thoroughly by following these steps. In this example, we explain how to replace an inner tube, but it is also possible to repair a punctured tube with patches, if you do not have a spare inner tube What you will need: spare innertube, tyre levers, patches, pump, and a mini tool

Step 1 - Find the cause of the puncture Never fix a puncture without first finding and removing whatever made it. Be quick and inspect the outside of the tyre for thorns or glass, hissing if not completely flat, or bubbles if wet. If you find anything, count how many spokes it is from the valve, forwards or backwards - repeated punctures could mean something is still stuck in the tyre, or the rim has exposed spoke heads.

Step 2 - Remove the inner tube

Unscrew the inner tube valve cap. Then completely deflate the tube and unscrew any valve locking ring before pushing the valve up through the rim into the tyre to free it. Insert a tyre lever under the tyre bead (its edging), pull up and over the rim edge then hook this lever behind a spoke. Insert another lever about 15 cm (6in) away and slide it around the rim, lifting the tyre bead completely off one side. Pull the inner tube out and lay it down as it came out of the tyre. Pump up the tube until you hear hissing – do not over inflate it. 13

Step 3 - Locate the hole If repairing a puncture at home, fill a bowl or bucket with water and dip and rotate the inflated tube in the water to locate the escaping air bubbles. On the puncture draw a big cross with a ball point pen or crayon. If you are away from home, or if you do not have access to water, hold the tube near your lips, feel for the escaping air and dab the hole(s) with your tongue. Deflate, and align the tube with the tyre, valve by hole in rim. Closely examine the tyre adjacent to that mark, feeling for sharp things inside (e.g. protruding spokes) and looking for cuts or embedded objects outside. If the hole appears to be on the rim-facing surface of the tube: ensure the rim tape is central in the rim and able to prevent punctures from spoke heads and holes.

Step 4 - Fitting a new innertube If you took the tyre off, fit one side back onto the rim. Inflate the tube just enough to give it shape, then remove the pump, push the valve back through the rim and push the tube completely inside the tyre.


Step 5 - Fitting the tyre

Starting opposite the valve, use your fingers and/or thumbs to fit the second tyre bead (to prevent the risk of inner tube damage - do not use bike levers to fit a tyre back on). When you reach the final tight part, stop, and go back over the length already fitted, pushing it deeper into the middle of the rim and if necessary deflating the tube, to make some slack. Check that the tube and valve base are not caught under the tyre bead; inflate a little and free if necessary. Inflate the tube slightly and spin the wheel. If the tyre wobbles, push and pull it straight. Carry on inflating to the recommended pressure and check the bead again. Replace the valve cap.


Fixing a puncture with a patch It is best to replace a punctured inner tube with a new onw. As an alternate, you can repair the puncture with patches. Puncture repair patches come in different shapes and sizes. The smaller patches are fine for thorn and pin holes, bigger for glass and flint cuts. Cuts longer than about 3mm (1/8 inch) will grow under the patch, so if you must mend them, try and replace with a new innertube as soon as possible afterwards. Self-adhesive (glueless) patches are a temporary solution.

Apply adhesive

The repair patch adhesive will bond far better on a roughened/textured surface. With the tube inflated or stretched over something (e.g. saddle nose) thoroughly sand it to remove any moulding marks and make the tube a darker matt black over an area twice the size of the patch. Keep the cross of your pen/crayon mark visible on the hole. Make sure all of the air has been released from the inner tube. Spread one thin film of adhesive over the target area with a clean, dry finger in one or two quick movements. Be patient and let the adhesive become tacky in the air to ensure maximum stickiness for the patch to bond. 16

Apply patch When the adhesive has become tacky, peel off the backing of the patch and centre the patch on the marked up hole. Press it down firmly, working from the centre outwards. If the repair is good, the patch will stretch with the tube, if not repeat the process again. When firmly bonded to the inner tube, scatter dust or chalk around the patch (many puncture repair kits come with chalk which can be ground in, or use any available dust), this will prevent any adhesive sticking to the inside of the tyre. Re-fit the inner tube as per Step 5 and pump the tube up to full pressure.


4.2 Removing and fitting a wheel Knowing how to remove and fit the wheels on your bike is an essential skill. Regular cycling can require you to remove wheels to repair punctures, replace worn tyres, and take them off wheels for packaging or transit. Before you start, open up the brake’s quick release to avoid the tyre snagging against the brake blocks (if fitted).

Rear Wheel Removal

Shift the chain to the smallest front and rear sprockets. Pull the hub’s quick release lever back 180 degrees to open fully, alternatively loosen the axle nuts if fitted. If lifting the bike, pull the chain and rear derailleur back, and let the wheel drop out. A small thump on the tyre may be necessary to make the wheel fall.


Front Wheel Removal

First, you will need to open the front wheel quick-release fully. Then loosen off the knurled nut on the opposite side a few turns to clear the safety lips. If your bike has axle nuts securing your front wheel, fully loosen them in the same way, using an adjustable spanner.

Wheel fitting To fit a wheel, first fully open the quick release lever (if fitted). Usually, both front and rear levers are on the left side of the bike.


Rear Wheel Fitting

Pull back the rear derailleur fully so that you can lift the top part of the chain over the smallest cog and let the bottom part hang below. With the derailleur pulled back, pull the wheel fully into the dropouts. If the wheel does not centre automatically in the frame, seek further advice from a professional repairer. Keeping the wheel there, close the quick-release fully. This should feel firm but not require excessive force. If you need to adjust the amount of turning force, open the lever, then tighten or loosen the knurled nut on the opposite side to increase or decrease it.

Front wheel fitting Re-fitting the front wheel is the same as the rear, without the complication of the chain or the gears. If the knurled nut has been unscrewed to allow the wheel past the ‘safety’ lips, tighten it again before closing the quick release lever. Axle nuts, if fitted, will need to be tightened fully.


4.3 Looking after your chain Chains are often the single most neglected part of a bicycle. Don’t make them the weakest link. Unlubricated chains squeak, making pedalling much harder. They can destroy chainwheels and cogs. Rust and other particles can get in between the bolts and sleeves of the unlubricated chain and wear them down too, so that the chain gets loose and hence very slightly longer. This can mean that the distance between two chain links no longer matches the distance between the chainwheel and cog teeth. When this happens only one link connects with a tooth, while all others are loose because of the slack. This one tooth takes the entire force and can get worn into a classic “shark fin” shape. If this shape is pronounced enough, the chain won’t roll smoothly off the cog or chainwheel; instead the chain will be grabbed by the shark fin. It is sometimes necessary to replace a chain. Do this by pushing a pin out of the old chain and measure the new chain against the old to make sure it has the same number of links (you need a special chain tool for pushing bolts). If you have to remove links, remove them at the end without the bolt sticking out. If you have to break a chain with the intent to reinstall it, push one pin towards the outer side of the bicycle until the link just barely holds together. Bend the chain to disengage the broken link. It’s impossible to re-insert a pin pushed out all the way. To install a chain, join the chain and push the pin in until it is flush with the link plate, then push it back from the other side until it’s as flush with the plate on that side as all the other links. Then, bend the chain sideways until it moves freely. A stiff link makes the chain skip when riding.


4.4 Cleaning and lubricating There’s more to a clean shiny bike than meets the eye – it will allow you to clearly see any potential problems. Cleaning a bike also unclogs vital moving parts, prevents corrosion and keeps it running smooth. What you will need • Bucket • Detergent/cleaner • Sponges • Soft and hard brushes • Dry cloths • Water dispersant • Lubricant • Polish • Workstand (optional) Don’t ever turn a bike upside down when cleaning it – water may enter the headset and other bearings rendering them useless. Powerful car jet washes can also blast water into bike bearings, so it’s best to avoid them. It is possible to safely clean a bike with a bucket of warm water and car shampoo, but the following method is better still. Spray the cycle with a biodegradable cleaner, loosening hardened mud with the brushes. Use a water soluble degreaser on stubborn oily grime, including the chain. Special brushes and scrapers are available to get between sprockets, and there are devices to contain the mess whilst cleaning the chain, but screwdrivers and strips of cloth will do.


Always rinse down your bike with cold water once finished cleaning to clear off any remaining detergent. Allow the bike to dry, but avoid drying in strong sunlight to prevent streaking Applying polish on your bike frame will help dispel water and give your bike a bright finish, making it easier to clean next time. Lubrication

After cleaning, your bike may have had some of its lubricants washed off, particularly the chain. Spray the chain with a water dispersant then relubricate when dry. Take care not to spray dispersant or lubricant on tyres, rims and discs. Clean PTFE (Teflon) lubricants are good for fair weather cycling, but only a ‘clingy’ oil will stand the wet or mountain biking. Turn the pedals backwards whilst spraying or dribbling lubricant on onto the middle (rollers) of the chain as it leaves the rear mech. Lubricate the gear and brake pivot points, and where cables enter housings.


4.5 Tightening brake and gear cables A bikes brakes and gears are vital components and are critical areas to maintain to ensure safe cycling. Both are operated by cables, which often require tightening. Do this by unscrewing an adjuster (pictured), or else you must loosen the cable clamp, pull some cable through and re-clamp it.

Brake adjustments

When working on a rim brake or removing a wheel it is often useful to release it so that the brake blocks open out wider. Racing brakes often have a release lever where the cable attaches, or the brake lever may have catch that lets it open further. On V-brakes the ‘noodle’ tube can be pulled out of its yoke and on cantilever brakes it’s usually possible to unhook the straddle cable from one brake arm. Check brake block alignment with the rim. They should hit the rim squarely with no part of the block missing the rim or touching the tyre. Some brake shoes have an open end for block replacement, which must face backwards. Brakes often work better if the front of each block touches the rim 0.5-1mm before its rear. Pull hard on the brake lever several times to bed the cable and if necessary use an adjuster (on lever, brake, or elsewhere) to bring the brake blocks closer to the rim. If the adjuster is at its maximum, screw it back in and tighten the cable at its clamp. Test the brake again. Some brakes have balancing screws at the sides: screw inwards to stop that side rubbing. 24

Derailleur Gear Adjustments When an indexed gear cable stretches, shifts become sluggish in the direction pulled by the cable. So tighten it with the adjuster(s) on the mechanism, frame or shifter. If shifting then becomes reluctant in the other (return spring) direction, screw the adjuster back in a bit. Gears may even become one whole click out of synch. Starting with the shifter (lever, twistgrip etc.) in top or bottom gear, whichever produces a slack cable, give it one click and make sure that this delivers the next gear. If instead it takes another click before anything useful happens, you need to tighten the cable quite a lot: probably at the clamp, after screwing in the adjusters as described above for brakes. If prompt shifts in one direction can’t be had without sluggish shifts the other way, you have sticky cables. Lubricate them or replace the cables, including outers. If the chain overshoots or simply will not engage the top or bottom gear, front or rear, you need to tighten (overshoots) or loosen (won’t go) the High or Low limit screw on the relevant gear mechanism.



The Do’s and Don’ts of bike maintenance

Tried and tested advice.

Do’s • Do check your tyre pressures regularly and keep your pump close at hand to inflate them. • Do check tyres regularly for any cracks or splits and if present, replace them. • Do take care when tightening or loosening any type of firm thread – be aware of where you have positioned your hands and what your knuckles might strike if the tool or thread were to suddenly break loose. • Do take your time when maintaining your bike, hurrying a job could cause more problems than you started with. • Do lubricate your bikes moving parts regularly, wiping off any dripping oils. Follow a regular routine - much like you would check your tyre pressures.

Don’ts • Don’t over tighten fragile bolts – they can break and you will incur expense for their replacement.

• Don’t over inflate tyres. Tyres will have a minimum/maximum pressure stamped on their side wall. • Don’t wash your bike in hot sunshine. The water will dry off too quickly leaving you with dull paint and a lot of streaks. • Don’t ignore wear limits if you’re using rim brakes. The consequences could literally be lethal. • Don’t leave your seatpost in the bike forever – forever means three to six months. A seized post will make it impossible to change saddle height or to sell your bike without getting it repaired at considerable cost. • Don’t attempt a maintenance task if you think it’s outside of your ability – have it done by a professional. 26


Bike Maintenance Schedule


Each time you use your bike give it the once-over… Brakes: check they work, tighten if necessary. Lights: check they work, and are clean. Tyres: check their condition for inflation, wear and tear.


On the weekend give it a little more attention… Chain: Clean it, oil it and wipe it down. Gear mechanisms: Lubricate and avoid getting any on wheel rims. Tyres: Check tyre pressures and pump up. Wheel rims: Clean off dirt and grease with a cloth.


12 times a year give it a good going over… Wheels: Check tyre pressure and condition. Make sure wheels are properly fastened and in line with the frame. Brakes: Check the brake blocks (if fitted) for wear and ensure they contact squarely with the rim, not the tyre. Replace worn or frayed brake cables and adjust brakes so that the brake levers don’t come into contact with the handlebars when braking hard. Gears: Check gears work correctly and cables move freely (though it’s best to leave gear repairs to a bicycle mechanic). Clean the chain with a rag soaked in degreaser then re-oil. Steering: Check for looseness in the handlebar and stem and tighten where necessary. Pedals: Pedals should spin freely so check the pedal axles for looseness and tighten. Frame: Regularly inspect the frame for any damage. Ensure the seat height is correct and that the seat post bolt is tight.


Get your bike seen by a professional bike technician.

In Conclusion Bike maintenance is only one aspect of safe and healthy cycling - we also offer a wide range of bike products for transportation, storage and security. We hope this guide has been useful. Wheelies stock all of the products you need to look after your bike. Please visit our new website and in particular the maintenance section. Have fun. Be safe.



Bike Maintenance Guide  

Bike maintenance guide created for cyclists.