Spring is in the air, if you are anything like me, you’ll be getting out on your bike! Before you get on it, give it thorough service to stay safe and enjoy your ride.
by Emma Johnson
Four years ago, I cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats on my own. In the build up to the bike ride, Phil Willoughby mobile bike mechanic from Cycle Tech, got in touch and said let me help you. Having cycled all my life, I will confess that my commitment to bike maintenance was not necessarily as good as it should have been. His advice and help has changed my approach to bike maintenance.
I now realise, just like a car, you should give your bike a yearly service to keep it in tip top condition. Done well, it will give you a better, smoother, safer and far more enjoyable ride. The costs will far outweigh replacement or future costs to get it back on the road.
Things to Do Yourself:
Not all aspects of bike maintenance needs a bike mechanic. These are the things you can do yourself:
- Avoid leaving your bike open to the elements – if you don’t have a garage, shed or space in the house, use a proper bike cover to protect it from getting rusty in the wind and rain.
- Wheels and Tyres – check your tyres pressure before you go out. They should be at the correct pressure – over pumping risks burst tyres, under pumping risks a slow and hard work ride. Turn the wheels and look for thorns, nails or other objects likely to cause a flat tyre 2 miles down the road. Make sure you check for wear on the rims of your wheels and that the spokes are not loose. Phil taught me to change and re-inflate my tyres in less than 5 minutes without levers!
- Brakes – check that both brakes work when you depress them and that they release when you release the handle. If you have pad style brakes look for wear on the pad and indentations on the wheel.
- Chain – keep your chain clean and lubricated with the correct lubrication. Follow your mechanic’s guidance for the best lubricant for the weather. If you go out in the rain, wash the chain down with a dedicated cleaner and then dry it before you put it away. This can help to prevent rust. If the chain is slipping, it may need replacing.
- Bar Tape – replace any detached or worn tape. Flapping or loose tape could get caught in your wheel and cause an accident.
What a Bike Mechanic Will Do
- Inspection – a good mechanic will start by looking over your bike for obvious issues and will advise you if it is worth it.
- Frame, Forks and Wheels – they’ll wipe down the frame, check the cable gear guides and clear debris. They’ll look for damage to your frame and the forks, preventing risk to your safety. From here, they’ll move to the wheels and skewers, to look for wear and play, and will lubricate them.
- Components – from the main frame they’ll move onto the components like the chain, cassettes and chain rings. If noisy, worn or damaged, they will recommend replacement. Cyclists who put a lot of strain on the gears are likely to need new chain rings. The cogs should be compatible with the derailleur and shifter. The components should aligned and run smoothly.
- Brakes and gears – the levers should be correctly mounted on the handle bars. They should be loose enough to move, while stiff enough to work! Brakes should be smooth when depressed and gears should effortlessly shift between each other. They’ll look for wear on the brake blocks and disc pads, replace them if they are as well as correct alignment. If you have hydraulic brakes they’ll check for leaks and correct operation. That’s before they start on the gear cables. None of it is simple if you don’t know what you are doing!
- Torque – that’s the crank arms, pedals and steering bolts, we’ll stop there before we start on the bottom bracket!
- Wheels – it’s back to the wheels for rim checks, that’s damage, cracks, wear and braking surface. Once complete, the checks will move to the spokes and making them true (straight and tight enough to you and me!)
- Lubrication and adjustments – once the main stuff is done, it’s back to the final lubrication, gear and brake adjustments, tyre pressures, tread and wall checks.
Before you get your bike back, the mechanic will road test it and set the seat post and quill stem correctly. They’ll check the saddle, bars and lever positions against your ride.
The service may seem expensive but actually when you see all that bike mechanic does it is well worth the money against a new bike. You should always be made aware of additional costs for parts and other extras before the mechanic replaces them. Many cycle mechanics will also send photos before carrying out the work to confirm why they are doing things.
Ever since, Phil helped me with my bike, I have used him to service my bike, every year. Even during lock-down, he managed a socially distanced service. Would I recommend him? Yes and I have done with some very pleased customers.
Does he know I am writing this and has he paid me? No, I am writing because I believe in supporting local businesses as well as using them.
Phil is now paying for advertising in our printed magazine.
Website: Cycle Tech Milton Keynes