Zen and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance

“Sometimes it's a little better to travel than to arrive” - Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen is that feeling when your bike is working perfectly, you're cruising on a beautiful fall day, and enjoying the last of the warm afternoon sunshine. Then as you're climbing a small hill, you feel your pedals tighten, then release as your chain snaps onto the pavement behind you. Darn. 

Autumn is a great time to get your bike serviced. There are lots of beautiful riding days left, and having a tuned up bike will help you enjoy those days to the fullest. You'll also avoid the spring rush of tuneups. If you're planning to pack your bike away when the snow flies, you'll be ready to go on the first warm day. 

Getting your bike in for regular service can feel like a nuisance, but we want to make it feelmore zen-like (and of course, we have espresso while you wait). There's no better way to protect your investment than regular maintenance, and lots of it you can learn do yourself. We can help you with parts, and when service gets complicated, having a professional mechanic do a bit of work can help you get on the road again sooner. 

Here are our top ten bike maintenance tips for people who ride their bikes every day: 

  1. Clean your bike regularly. Dirt and grime can get into the chain and gears, and cause unnecessary wear on the bike. Add to that: a clean bike just looks better, too! A bucket of soapy water, and a cloth are all you need. Avoid getting water in the hubs, and on the drivetrain. Towel dry. Let it shine.  
  2. Lubricate your chain, and wipe it off with a clean rag once per week. This will increase the longevity of your whole drivetrain (crank, chain, cassette, and derailleur), and keep you riding fast and smooth. 
  3. Pump up your tires weekly. How much should you inflate your tires? Check around the side of your tire for recommended pressure, and inflate away. Eyeballing or squeezing your tire isn't a good way to properly measure inflation pressure, use a pressure gauge to make sure you get to the correct pressure. 
  4. Adjust your brakes and gears seasonally. Brakes wear differently on each bike, so keep your eyes on the pads for wear, and pay attention to your shifting. When it's not responding quickly, time for a quick tuneup.  
  5. Clean your drivetrain when your chain and derailleur accumulate gunk. Use an old toothbrush, and a degreaser like WD40. Wipe it clean, let it dry, and lube your chain again. 
  6. Change your chain when it's worn. A worn chain causes excess damage to the rest of your transmission (cassette gears, and chainrings), and can result in costly repairs if ignored. 
  7. Wheel truing - correcting a small wheel wobble will help maintain your wheels for longer, and prevent premature spoke breakage. Low spoke tension is the main reason why wheels fail prematurely, so get your spokes tuned up by a pro at least once per year. We offer wheel truing as part of our regular tuneup package.
  8. Cables are what keep you shifting and braking smoothly. Lube your cables when you lube your chain, and replace them once per year. Rusty cables can lead to non-responsive shifting, or poor braking performance. 
  9. Service the bearings in your hubs, headset, and bottom bracket at least once per year. Twice per year if you're riding every day. The grease inside your hubs is what keeps your wheels, pedals, and steering operating smoothly. This grease breaks down over time, necessitating a cleaning and fresh grease. Regular bearing service is one of those things that can be easily ignored until it's too late. If the bearings fail, permanent damage can be done quickly to your frame. This is a good one to have done professionally. We offer it as part of our full service package. 
  10. Finally, replace parts before they fail. Tires, gear systems, brakes, and chains all need to be replaced from time to time. Replacing parts before they fail will save lots of headache in the future. For example, a worn tire can cause your tubes to fail far more often than they would normally, costing you in flat tire expenses when some new rubber on the outside would have saved you the trouble. 

Regular tune-ups are what keep your bike running smoothly over the long term. Come see us this week for a bit of bike love, and a warm cappuccino. Your bike will thank you for years to come. 

The basic tools of bike repair. Lubricant, tire levers, a floor pump with pressure gauge, small wrench, and a multi-tool (or set of allen wrenches and a screwdriver). We have tools available for purchase, and they make great stocking-stuffers! 

The basic tools of bike repair. Lubricant, tire levers, a floor pump with pressure gauge, small wrench, and a multi-tool (or set of allen wrenches and a screwdriver). We have tools available for purchase, and they make great stocking-stuffers!