Mechanical Advice for You and Your Bike(s)

We asked our master mechanics to come up with a top five list of basic skills that every cyclist should be able to learn that would help keep them rolling through the summer.

1. Got a Puncture? Learn to refit the tyre without using a tyre lever. Often cyclists will unwittingly pinch a new inner tube with their tyre lever causing another flat or increasing the chance of one a further down the road. It is possible to fit a tyre back on by hand:- Start at the valve with one side of the tyre already seated onto the rim. Work your way around the rim, manipulating the tyre using both hands to push the tyre onto the rim and then working it back and forth to ensure it’s firmly in place. When you get to the last part, where often the tyre lever is used, the tyre should slot into place relatively easily.

2. What is that noise? Squeaking brakes can be caused by many things but all of them are easy to fix if you know what to look for. Check your rims are smooth and clean, but do not apply any lube to the pads or rims! Worn rims should be replaced. Check and clean the pads, again if they are worn down they should be replaced. Most pads have a wear indicator that tell you when they need to be changed. If either of these two issues aren’t the problem then it’s probably just a case of setup. Most pads should be adjusted so the top edge is about 1mm closer to the rim, known as toeing in. Don’t forget to ensure your pads are the correct compound for the rims you have.

3. Hanging on: Avoid riding with your contact points badly setup or worn. Handle bar tape must be wrapped properly, any that is hanging off can cause an accident by getting caught in something or by your hand slipping off the bars. It’s not as tricky as it look to apply bar tape properly. Practice makes perfect here. As far as setup goes, the thing to avoid is over tightening bars and stems. A torque wrench is a wise investment as all modern bikes use lightweight bolts that need as little as 5Nm to secure them. Over-tightening bolts can either snap them off, make it impossible to remove them if they seize up or in the event of a crash can actually result in more damage to your bike.

4. The chain gang: the chain is often an overlooked component and yet it is the single most hard working element in the whole drivetrain. As a chain reaches a certain wear point it begins to wear down the cassette and chainrings. A chain checking tool is a useful guide for beginners, telling you when your chain has reached 0.75% wear, which simply means that it has actually stretched. If you replaced a chain at this point you will probably avoid having to replace the cassette which is always costly. Changing your chain at this point can mean you’ll go through three or more before the cassette actually needs to be replaced. Don’t forget to regularly degrease, clean, dry and lubricate your chain if you want to keep it in top working condition. A dirty, clogged up chain will have an impact on gear changing and pedalling efficiency.

5. What’s that other noise? Don’t ignore creaking noises from your bike. Creaking noises from your knees are less worrying but it may be worth asking your GP about them. Creaks are often a sign that something isn’t right with your bike. It could simply be something just needs to be tightened up, like the seat-post clamp, stem or a pedal. It could also be a loose or worn bottom bracket, which would be worth getting checked by a professional mechanic.

Keeping your bike clean, lubricated and following the above tips will help to prolong it’s working life and minimise hassle for you. It is also a good idea to get your bike properly serviced by a mechanic. How often you do this does depend upon usage. If you ride regularly, do a lot of miles or ride in wet and muddy conditions then an annual service is definitely a good idea.

If you’re at all concerned about your bike then please do bring in to the Cycle Centre for an appraisal. If you know something is wrong and needs fixing or replacing then give us a ring to book it in.

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