Your Spring DIY Bicycle Maintenance

Your Spring DIY Bicycle Maintenance

Every spring it’s time to give your bike some love and basic maintenance. Keep it trail-worthy and tuned up so you can depend on it for another season. These are simple suggestions all bicycle riders should do as preventive measures. And so you can be aware of any issues that may prompt a visit to your bike shop. 

Just 30 minutes of your time will enable you to continue riding farther and faster, safely, for months to come. Bikes have a lot of moving parts that can rust, bend, break, come loose, or fall off – oh dear!…None of this is good and can create friction, wear out, slow you down, and even shorten the life of your two-wheeled friend.

Consider your bike an extension of you on the winding trails. An enjoyable, functional, mechanical aid to get you around. You need to trust in its operation and depend on it to perform, sometimes in precarious circumstances. You need to have faith and confidence that it will get you back home. 

Get to know your bike so you can notice any changes in performance or odd noises and act on them quickly. I have had pedals fall off, chainrings come loose, derailleurs bend, and brake pads failall not so rare occurrences, if you ride long enough.

By being in tune with the proper operation of your bike and any possible issues, you can avoid delays and hardships on the trail.

And isn’t that the goal? Trouble-free cycling, to keep movin’ and smilin’.

testing her bike

Get your bicycle ready for the spring season by doing this quick tune-up and checkup. Let me talk to you about a few simple maintenance ideas you can do for your bicycle.

If anything is beyond your fix-it comfort zone then, either learn about it from tons of videos (a few below) and articles online, ask a friend, or take it in to get it done asap. (Remember spring is the busiest time at a bike store, so there may be delays.)

Bicycles are truly not that complicated.

1 Clean –

First, let’s get that winter storage dust off. Use a sponge with a bucket of warm water and dish soap. If you didn’t clean off last year’s mud and grit before the snow came, (which would have been wise) scrub the frame and rims down. To be more thorough remove the wheels to get at everything.

Next, give your chain, gears, and derailleur some attention. Use an old toothbrush or a similar bristled implement to work out any accumulated crud, grit, leaves, and grasses. I like using a chain cleaner device and a thin brush tool to get in between the gearing. 

For years of tough hardened gunk or just a thorough season-opening clean, a degreaser solution can be a helpful ally, whether you use a bike-specific product or even paint thinner. But keep these fluids away from seals to your hubs and crank’s bottom bracket. To reduce the mess, lay down old newspapers and wear gloves.

Rise off your bike with a hose. Use a gentle stream of water and avoid aiming high-pressure water near bearings or greased pivot points. (You do not want to rust joints by pushing water into them.) Wipe down and dry off the bike with an old rag/towel and let it air dry.

bike parts call outs

2 Adjust –

Look your bike over for any misalignment of your handlebars, saddle, wheel rims, or derailleur hanger. If necessary, adjust your seat setup, bar height, or gear changer. If your bike is making unusual noises, try to find out why. Check for play with wheel spokes, brake levers, and chains. Use the proper tools to straighten and tighten anything, and replace worn components.

Both brake cables and derailleur have set screws and nuts so you can do minor adjustments. Know what you are doing, be methodical in your method, and do a test spin to check all is good.

The chain is a key component on your bike and can wear out faster than you think. Once stretched from all that stress climbing/shifting, it starts to wear out your cassette (rear gears), chainrings (front gears), and derailleur parts.

An inexpensive chain checker tool will tell you when to replace your chain. Follow its advice and you’ll certainly prolong the lifespan of your bike.

Are your brake pads getting thin or wearing unevenly? Beware of potential brake failure and lack of braking power. Everyone needs brakes they can depend on, so make sure yours are in top shape. 

A bicycle endures a lot of vibrations that can make parts work themselves loose. Adjust all screws with an Allen key set, and use wrenches to tighten nuts that seem suspect.  

MTB shocks eventually wear out on well-used rigs, and need special care to rebuild. Look into this if you are one of those avid riders. And would adjusting your sag and travel improve your ride this year?

boy pumping air

3 Inflate –

Tires will naturally lose some pressure over the winter. Top up with a tire pump the PSI (pounds per inch) pressure in your tubes (or tubeless tires) to around 50 psi for MTB tires and higher for thinner treads, typically 60 to 120 psi. The tire sidewall will list the range. A firm tire creates less friction but yields a stiffer ride, so you decide.

Check the condition of your tires. Look for cracks, tears, and bulges forming. Eventually, you will need a new set of tires.

If one of the tires is completely flat, the culprit is likely a small pinhole leak. Fix it or keep an eye on it, and pack a pump and spare tube. (Which everyone should do regardless.)

Some mountain bike shock pistons operate with high-pressure air. Check this PSI and top up if needed with a shock pump.

man fixing derailer

4 Lube –

By now your set of wheels should be dry and ready for another round of lubrication. This keeps you moving with less energy output and prolongs the life of your beloved bike.

I recommend applying lube on the inner length of the chain. As you turn the crank backwards lube the chain adequately. Add a moderate amount at first and more every third ride as required. 

The goal is to coat the area that makes contact with the gears, not the outside of the chain. More lube attracts more dust and grit. Dirt paths and gravel routes can stir up plenty of that, so a Teflon wax-based dry lube is best. If you only ride paved trails and paved roads, an oil-based wet lube will last longer and stops rust from forming.

Next, add lube to your rear shock pivot points and brake and shifting cables. Again, small amounts. Do not add any to the wheel hubs, crank, or headset bearing. They use grease, so leave them alone. And keep that lube away from brake pads and rims, or you will have surprises in store.

That is enough said to get you scheduling your own bike maintenance moment. More of a summary of what needs to be considered, than a written step-by-step process. I will elaborate on each of these points more so in the future.

Avoid trail delays and disasters by staying on top of the health of your trusty steed. Don’t be that guy who never maintains his bike and keeps stopping to adjust/fix something on the trail during a group ride. Or that gal who pulls her bike out from the car and makes her friends wait while she pumps up her soft tires, and lubes her chain.

So now you are ready for another season zipping along with the wind in your hair, singing “The Sound of Music.” Okay, maybe not. Still, do these quick tasks days before you wish to get out and

“let the good times roll”!


Dan Roitner

bench with tools
April 6, 2023No comments,

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