Bike maintenance tips

Maintenance tips

Tips and advice on maintaining and repairing your bike

Maintenance courses

To get up to speed with maintenance, you could book one of our upcoming maintenance courses.

Mobile Repairs and Cycle Surgery

Bike Bristol also does mobile bike repairs. An experienced mechanic will come to your home or workplace. Your workplace may also consider booking a Bike Surgery event, where our mechanic can check and repair employees' bikes at work. Also known as a Dr Bike.

Packing and carrying kit on a bike

Top kit items:

  1. Helmet: Although it is not a legal requirement and there is much debate around thier use, for those who wear one, this is the first thing to grab for your bike ride.
  2. Water and Hydration:Carry a water bottle or a hydration pack to stay hydrated during your ride, especially in warm weather.
  3. Spare Tube and Patch Kit:A flat tire can happen, and being prepared with a spare tube and a patch kit can save you from being stranded. Ensure you have the right tube size for your bike.
  4. Tire Levers and Pump:Tire levers are essential for removing the tire, and a compact pump allows you to inflate the spare tube. Consider a mini-pump or CO2 inflator for space efficiency.
  5. Multi-Tool:A bike-specific multi-tool with various functions like wrenches, screwdrivers, and a chain breaker can help you make on-the-go adjustments and repairs.
  6. Identification and Emergency Information:Carry an ID, emergency contact information, and any necessary medical information in case of an accident. Consider using a road ID bracelet or carrying a card with this information.
  7. Snacks and Nutrition:Pack energy bars, gels, or other snacks to maintain your energy levels during the ride, especially for longer trips.
  8. Weather-Appropriate Clothing:Dress in layers, and bring a windproof or waterproof jacket if there's a chance of rain. Arm warmers, leg warmers, or a hat can provide comfort in changing weather conditions.
  9. Mobile Phone and Charger:Carry your mobile phone for communication and emergencies. Make sure it's fully charged, and consider bringing a portable charger or a battery pack.
  10. Bike Lights:If you plan to ride during low-light conditions or at night, ensure your bike is equipped with front and rear lights for visibility. Even daytime rides can benefit from daytime running lights for added safety.

How to change an innertube.

Changing an inner tube on a bike is a fundamental skill that every cyclist should master, as flat tires are a common occurrence. Follow these step-by-step instructions to successfully replace the inner tube and get back on the road:

  1. Gather Necessary Tools:Before starting the process, make sure you have the essential tools. You'll need a set of tire levers, a new inner tube, a pump, and possibly a wrench depending on your bike's tire retention system (quick release or bolt-on).
  2. Secure the Bike:Find a stable surface to place your bike upside down or use a bike stand to elevate it. Ensure it's secure and won't fall over during the process.
  3. Release the Air:Using a valve cap remover or your fingers, take off the valve cap from the flat tire and then press down on the valve stem to release any remaining air in the tube.
  4. Remove the Tire:Use tire levers to pry one side of the tire away from the rim. Insert the lever under the bead of the tire and hook it onto a spoke. Repeat this process at a second point, and then slide the lever around the rim to loosen one side of the tire. Once one side is free, use your hands to remove the rest of the tire.
  5. Take Out the Inner Tube:Carefully pull the inner tube out from inside the tire, being mindful not to damage the tire or rim. Note the orientation of the tube and the tire to help locate the cause of the flat, such as a puncture or pinch flat.
  6. Check the Tire:Inspect the inside and outside of the tire for any foreign objects or sharp debris that may have caused the flat. Remove any items and run your fingers along the inside of the tire to detect thorns, glass, or other potential hazards.
  7. Insert the New Tube:Inflate the new inner tube slightly to give it shape. Place the valve stem through the hole in the rim and tuck the rest of the tube inside the tire. Starting from the valve stem, work your way around the rim, tucking the tube inside the tire.
  8. Mount the Tire:With the tube inside the tire, use your hands to push the tire back onto the rim. Ensure that the tube is not pinched between the tire and the rim, which could cause another flat.
  9. Inflate the Tire:Use a pump to inflate the tire to the recommended pressure, which is usually imprinted on the sidewall of the tire. Check that the tire is seated evenly on the rim.
  10. Secure the Tire:Double-check that the tire is fully seated on the rim, and then secure it using the appropriate method for your bike's tire retention system. For quick-release systems, close the lever securely. If your bike has bolt-on wheels, use a wrench to tighten the nuts.
  11. Replace the Valve Cap:Screw the valve cap back onto the valve stem to protect it from dirt and debris.
  12. Test the Repair:Lift the bike, spin the wheels, and bounce it gently to ensure the tire is secure and properly inflated.

How to clean your bike

Cleaning your bicycle regularly not only enhances its appearance but also prolongs its lifespan and ensures smooth operation. Here are the top 5 tips for cleaning your bicycle effectively:

  1. Gather the Right Supplies:Before you start cleaning, gather the necessary supplies. You'll need a bucket of soapy water (mild detergent or bike-specific cleaner), a sponge or soft brush, a chain cleaning device, a set of rags or microfiber towels, and a bike lubricant. Make sure all the cleaning products are bike-friendly to avoid damaging components.
  2. Pre-Rinse and Degrease:Begin by pre-rinsing your bike with water to remove loose dirt and debris. Pay special attention to the drivetrain (chain, cassette, and chainrings). Use a degreaser to break down built-up grease and grime on the chain and other drivetrain components. Apply the degreaser and let it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing with a brush or sponge. Rinse thoroughly to remove the degreaser.
  3. Clean Frame and Components:Dip a sponge or soft brush into the soapy water and gently scrub the frame, fork, handlebars, and other components. Take care around sensitive areas such as the brake calipers and shifters. Use a toothbrush or smaller brush to reach into tight spaces and corners. Wipe down the frame and components with a clean, damp rag to remove soap residue.
  4. Focus on Wheels and Tires:Clean the wheels using the soapy water and a brush. Pay attention to the spokes, rims, and hub areas. For brake tracks on rim brakes, you can use a specific rim brake cleaner to remove any residue. Scrub the tire sidewalls to remove accumulated dirt. Inspect the tires for cuts, embedded debris, or wear. Use a rag to dry the wheels and tires thoroughly.
  5. Lubricate and Protect:After cleaning, it's crucial to lubricate the bike's moving parts to ensure smooth operation and prevent corrosion. Apply a bike-specific lubricant to the chain, derailleurs, and other pivot points. Wipe off any excess lubricant with a clean rag. Additionally, consider applying a protective polish or silicone spray to the frame to maintain its finish and protect it from the elements.

Bonus Tip: Check for Wear and Tear:While cleaning, take the opportunity to inspect your bike for any signs of wear and tear. Look for loose bolts, frayed cables, or damaged components. Address any issues promptly to avoid potential safety hazards and keep your bike in optimal condition.

Adjusting brake pads

Adjusting bicycle brake pads is an essential part of bike maintenance to ensure efficient and safe braking. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to adjust both rim brakes and disc brakes:

Rim Brakes Adjustment:

  1. Inspect Brake Pads:Begin by checking the condition of your brake pads. Ensure they are not excessively worn or contaminated. If the brake pads are worn down or contaminated with oil or debris, they may need replacement.
  2. Loosen Brake Pad Retention Bolt:Most rim brakes have a retention bolt that holds the brake pads in place. Loosen this bolt using an Allen wrench to adjust the position of the pads.
  3. Align Brake Pads:Position the brake pads so that they make even contact with the rim braking surface. Ensure that the entire pad contacts the rim without extending onto the tire or falling short of the rim. Align them parallel to the rim's braking surface.
  4. Center the Brake Caliper:If your brake caliper is off-center, causing uneven pad contact, adjust it. Loosen the bolt securing the caliper to the frame or fork, center the caliper over the rim, and then retighten the bolt.
  5. Toe-In Adjustment:Optionally, you can set the brake pads with a slight "toe-in." This means the front of the brake pad contacts the rim slightly before the rear. This can help reduce brake squeal. Adjust the angle by toeing the front of the pads inwards, ensuring they still make full contact with the rim.
  6. Tighten Retention Bolt:Once the brake pads are aligned, tighten the retention bolt securely. Check the brake lever feel and adjust the cable tension if necessary using the barrel adjuster on the brake lever or the one on the brake caliper.

Disc Brakes Adjustment:

  1. Check Brake Pad Wear:Inspect the brake pads for wear. If they are excessively worn, replace them.
  2. Adjusting Pad Alignment:Many disc brake systems have an adjustment mechanism for aligning the brake pads. Use the adjustment knobs or washers provided with your brake system to align the pads evenly on both sides of the rotor.
  3. Center the Caliper:If the caliper appears off-center, loosen the bolts securing it to the frame or fork. Center the caliper over the rotor and then tighten the bolts. Be sure not to overtighten, as this may affect the brake performance.
  4. Check Rotor Trueness:Ensure the brake rotor is true and not bent. A bent rotor can cause brake rub and affect braking performance. If necessary, use a rotor truing tool to straighten the rotor.
  5. Test Brakes:After making adjustments, test the brakes by squeezing the brake lever. Ensure the pads engage smoothly and that there is no excessive noise or rubbing. Make any additional adjustments as needed.