Sometimes it seems like wear and tear can turn a great bike into scrap metal in no time at all, but with some consistent TLC, you can keep yours looking fresh for years. Basic tools to stash in your garage cabinets include a wrench, bike lube, a de-greaser or solvent and a bike pump, while a few old, soft cloths are great for cleaning.
How often you perform several maintenance steps depends entirely on how much you take your bike out and into the elements. If you use your bike to travel long distances or commute, you'll want to make sure you perform a routine inspection almost every time you ride. If you only roll yours out of the garage once a month, it will need less frequent check-ups. Here are a few basic steps that will help you stay on top of your maintenance routine:
Store it inside and off the ground
Leaving your bike susceptible to the forces of nature will accelerate a bunch of unfortunate aging processes, such as rusting and deterioration. It's best to keep your bike inside and stored off the ground in a wall storage system, or better yet, on a bike hook.
Check the wheels
This is a particularly important step if you ride often. Before heading out, check your tire pressure with every ride and fill it to the correct PSI, which should be listed on the side of your wheel. Pick any stray debris out of the tire grooves to prevent flats and spin the wheel to make sure everything is running smoothly. Every once in a while, you'll want to check for loose spokes and dry rot as well. Both the spokes and tires may need to be replaced periodically.
A frequent bike maintenance mishap is the use of WD-40, which isn't intended for objects that do a lot moving and will strip your chain of the oil it needs. Instead, opt for chain lube, which should be used at least once each month.
Although bike chains need lube more frequently than any other part of your bike, it's also important to apply some to the breaks, gear cables and pedal pivots. Don't forget that after you're done, lube should be gently wiped away prior to riding the bike again.
Be careful when washing
Washing your bike is important, but undue water pressure can damage several different components. Cleaning the frame once a month or so with warm, soapy water and an old cloth will usually do the trick just fine. For particularly stubborn or obscure spots, opt for a small, bristled brush.
This is also a good time to make sure bike bolts are secure, that the breaks still work effectively and that there are no debilitating cracks or dents on the frame.
It's a good idea to wax the frame once or twice a year and to replace parts like tires, brake pads, handlebar tape or gear cables if they are corroded or damaged. Taking your bike into a shop for routine check ups once each year will help keep it in tip-top shape as well.