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Bike Maintenance: 10 Essential Tips

March 20, 2017

It’s the first day of Spring, and here at Skratch Labs we’ve teamed up with House of Spin to bring you 10 bike maintenance 'must do’s'! Whether you’ve been slaving away on the trainer all winter, or you’re pulling that bike out of the shed for the first time, these tips and tricks will get you back out there in no time.   

1. Degrease your drivetrain.
Start by degreasing your drivetrain. There are many commercial products available.
Pro tip: cut an old water bottle in half to hold degreaser and keep it in the bottle cage for easy access. Use a small brush to apply to all sides of the chain, chainrings, cassette and derailleurs. Rinse off degreaser.

Products used: Morgan Blue (degreaser solution), Shimano (crankset, cassette and derailleurs), Zipp (wheels), KMC (chain), Feedback Sports (workstand), Elite Cycling (bottle cages), Ritte Cycles (bike frameset)

2. Wash your frame & wheels.
Wash your frame and wheels. Put together a cleaning kit of a bucket, soap, and brushes. Nylon brushes work fine, but horsehair versions prevent grease and dirt from accumulating on the brush. Pro tip: use a nylon chainguide so you can wash the frame and wheels separately.

Products used: Morgan Blue (chain keeper), Park Tools (brush), Tampico (brushes), Ritte Cycles (bike frameset), Elite Cycling (bottle cages), Victory Circle Graphic (top tube sticker)

3. Inspect the frame for damage.
Inspect the frame for any cracks, dents or damage that may have occurred last season and gone unnoticed over the winter. Be sure to check often overlooked areas like underneath the downtube, bottom bracket and seatstays. Check cable rub at the headtube, and apply frame protector stickers as necessary.

Products used: Wheels Manufacturing (bottom bracket), Ritte Cycles (bike frameset), Elite Cycling (bottle cages)

4. Inspect wheels for roundness.
Inspect the wheels for trueness and roundness. This can done on the bike, eyeing the wheel relative to the brake pads, or by using a truing stand. Check spoke tension by hand, looking and listening for loose, under-tensioned spokes.

Products used: Park Tools (truing stand), Zipp (wheels), Hutchinson (tires)

5. Check tires for tread & sidewall damage.
Check your tires for tread and sidewall damage, and make sure there is no debris in the tread. This can be done with the tire on the rim, but removing the tire gives you peace of mind that nothing has penetrated the casing that could cause flats. Also check for tire wear, and squaring off of the rear tire. Most tires have wear indicators molded into the tread as a reference.

Pro tip: determine the correct pressure for your tires, body weight and riding style. Modern wider rims and tire combinations allow for lower pressures to handle a wider variety of terrain, grip better, be more comfortable and are actually faster than their higher psi predecessors. If your tires are set up tubeless, check sealant levels and add or replace sealant as necessary.

Products used: Lezyne (floor pump), Hutchinson (tires), Tic Tok Ink (T-shirts), Ritte Cycles (bike frameset), Zipp (wheels), Shimano (drivetrain parts), WTB - Wilderness Trail Bikes (rim and tire), Orange Seal (tire sealant)

6. Inspect & set your suspension.
Set the air pressure in your fork and shock, and check pre-load, compression and rebound settings, adjusting per manufacturer guidelines for your weight and riding style. Visually inspect seals for damage, and make sure no oil is leaking. If you’re running a dropper seatpost, check for nicks or crash damage that could compromise seals down the line.

Pro tip: rent a ShockWiz from your local bike shop that will you allow you to get feedback about your riding style. After the ride, your mechanic can use the data to get your suspension adjusted perfectly.

Products used: Rock Shox (suspension fork, rear shock and dropper deatpost), Salsa (MTB frame), WTB (tires and saddle), Quarq (ShockWiz suspension setting tool), SRAM (parent company of Quarq)

7. Replace handlebar tape or grips.
Spring is a great time to replace your handlebar tape or grips. Dirty tape may be an eyesore, but loose grips can downright dangerous. Nothing breathes life back into a wintered bike like fresh tape or grips, and the additional comfort and safety they offer make them a no-brainer.

Products used: Zipp (handlebar tape), Ritchey (handlebar), Enve (fork), Feedback Sports (workstand), Pivot Cycles (bike frame), Ergon (grips)

8. Check bolts for proper tightness.
Check all bolts for proper tightness, using a torque wrench and following the manufacturer’s specs. Pro tip: don’t forget the chainring bolts; for some reason, these are the most often overlooked in a pre-ride check. Check your seatpost and saddle clamps too!

Products used: Ritchey (stem and handlebar), Ritte Cycles (frame), Shimano (brakes), K-Edge (computer mount), Syntace (torque wrench), SRAM (crankset), SMP (saddle), Pearce Coaching & Fitting (Colby next door is SMP saddle distributor), FSA (headset), Victory Circle Graphic (top tube sticker)

9. Run through shifting and breaking.
Run through the shifting and braking, making sure gear shifts are crisp and accurate, and brakes are balanced and have the desired amount of lever feel. If the built-in or inline adjusters aren’t enough to fine tune shifting and braking, adjust the cables or visit your local bike shop to make sure chain and cassette wear aren’t a factor. If you have electronic shifting, make sure the battery is fully charged, and your software is up to date. If you’re running disc brakes and the lever feel has degraded, have your local shop replace brake pads and bleed with fresh hydraulic fluid.

Products used: Niner (bike frameset in background), Zipp (wheel), KMC (chain), Shimano (brake caliper and lever), Ritte Cycles (bike), Jagwire (inline cable adjuster), Niner (bike frameset), PRO (Shimano’s in-house stem brand), Shimano (battery charger), Shimano (disc brake caliper and pads, and hydraulic brake lever)

10. Lube your chain.
Lube your chain with a product ideal for your riding conditions. Pro tip: while pedaling backwards, drip lube on the rollers inside of the links, and avoid coating the outer plates of the chain as this will only attract dirt. After a few more backpedals, wipe off any excess lube with a clean rag.

Products used: Feedback Sports (workstand), Morgan Blue (chainlube), KMC (chain), Zipp (wheel), Hutchinson (tire)

You’re dialed! All that’s left to do it kit up, fuel up, get out there and ride.

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