If you're a veteran biker, you probably know that proper bike maintenance really matters. Not only will the right maintenance increase the bike's longevity and save you money on repairs, but it can also keep you safe. There's nothing more dangerous than riding on rough terrain or busy streets when your bike is minutes away from a breakdown. To keep yourself safe and your bike in good shape, commit to these five basic maintenance responsibilities:
1. Store it properly
Bike storage directly affects how much maintenance it will need in the long run, so aim to keep it away from direct sunlight and harsh weather. Your garage is a great option, since it's also a good place to do any cleaning or repairs. Look into garage wall storage options like a wall bike rack that will keep it up and out of the way until you're ready to go on a ride.
2. Develop a regular cleaning schedule
Bikes should be cleaned regularly to keep all of the parts in good condition, but the amount of cleaning you do will depend on how often you ride it. Go for at least monthly cleanings, but if you're a regular rider, develop a weekly or biweekly schedule. To clean, use a clean damp rag to wipe everything down, and switch to a brush and bike cleaner for the dirtiest areas. Clean the drivechain with a degreaser, and rinse the whole bike off with low-pressure water. Wipe it dry as much as possible, especially around the shock seals.
3. Examine it before riding
You should inspect the bike before each ride in order to make sure everything is tight, clean and ready to go. Spend a few minutes both on and off the bike, checking the frame, tires and controls. Make sure the handlebars are straight, the bike isn't wobbling, the tires are at a good pressure, the gear controls are working properly and there aren't any dents or cracks in the frame. Also check the brake pads and hoses, cables and chain.
4. Know where to apply lube
Lubrication is an important part of bike maintenance, but only in certain areas. The most important area to lube is the chain, although you shouldn't overdo it. Apply grease or oil on the side plates and center roller, and wipe off any excess when you're done. Only lubricate the chain when it's dry or squeaking or after it's gotten wet from rain or a wash. You can very occasionally lubricate the derailleur, bearing system, brake pivots and shifters, but only use a tiny amount in each area.
5. Keep the tires inflated
Under-inflated tires can be dangerous to ride on and make the bike harder to control, so make sure they always have enough pressure – check them before and after each ride. If they feel like they aren't inflated enough during your pre-ride inspection, fill them up to the right amount. Keep a pump in your garage cabinets so you can ensure you'll always be able to fill them properly.