How to regularly maintain your commuting bike to save money in the long run
Looking after your commuter bike is a sure-fire way to promote bike longevity and performance, both of which reduce the need for costly upgrades or repairs.
The amount of TLC your bike needs will vary depending on how much you use it and how old the bike is (or what condition it is in). However, follow these general rule-of-thumb guidelines for keeping your bike ticking over nicely and saving money in the long run.
Commuter bike maintenance 101
To start with, you need to get the basic equipment to actually take care of your bike and maintain it. A multitool with plenty of size allen keys is a great starting point, along with a standing pump with a pressure gauge to keep your tyres at the optimal level. Additionally, bike lube and degreaser are key parts of your maintenance armoury. If you want to go really DIY, you can use an old rag or piece of clothing (an old sock or t-shirt, for example) to clean your bike. Some gloves to keep dirty bike oil from your hands is also handy.
Once you’ve got the basics, follow these regular maintenance tips:
Generally speaking, try and store your commuter bike inside, or at the very least in a dry place (perhaps a shed). Avoid keeping your bike outside as rain and dirt causes your bike to deteriorate quicker, whilst mould on your saddle is never fun!
Keeping your bike in good shape begins with keeping it clean. It’s not the most fun job, but it’s essential. The good news is it isn’t hard. You can go cheap and easy by simply getting a bucket of soapy water and a sponge and scrubbing the dirt and grease off your bike. A small brush or toothbrush will help you get the dirt out of your chain and gears. Alternatively, invest in specific bike cleaning products, like Muc-Off’s Nano Tech Bike Cleaner, for a more thorough and longer lasting clean.
If you don’t keep your tyres pumped up properly (the optimum amount of air in your tyre will be on the side of the tyre - known as PSI) then you’ll be far more likely to get a puncture and damage your tyre - which means a new inner tube or a new tyre. Use the pressure gauge on your pump to make sure you are putting the right amount of air in.
There are a few components on your bike that require regular maintenance to ensure your bike is safe to ride. Firstly, check your bike for worn brake pads. If they are worn down, replacing them is a quick and cheap fix that results in safer cycling and better brake power. If you don’t know how to do this, a simple Youtube search will provide plenty of how-to resources. Secondly, make sure your wheels are spinning freely. Turn your bike upside down and spin each wheel. It should spin true, meaning it shouldn’t wobble at all or experience any friction. If it does, you should get it looked at by a professional to make sure it’s safe to ride and doesn’t result in further issues.
This might sound a bit weird, but lube is your best friend here (bike-specific lube). Check out GCN’s video on choosing the right bike lube for your chain as a starting point. Muc-Off’s bike lube is a winner again for your chain, cable, shifters & derailleurs. Or quickly pop into your local bike shop to pick some bike lube up. Before you lube up your chain, make sure it is clean! Making sure your bike is clean and well-oiled will help your cycling efficiency and your bike perform better. You should also take a look at your saddle height to ensure your bike is set up properly for better performance. When you extend your leg sat on the saddle, your leg should be almost straight.
A professional service once a year should be part of your maintenance regime to ensure your bike runs smoothly all year round. Although this can be fairly costly, depending on where you get it serviced and what you get done (most services include basic or more complex packages), it’s a no-brainer to save money in the long run. Plus you’ll get things like gear alignment and so on so your bike will be performing excellently.
Remember, every bike needs a bit of loving care to keep it in good shape. Let us know if you need any further bike maintenance tips!
Cover photo credit: dc5dugg