Bike Repair and Maintenance For Dummies®

Table of Contents


About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

What You’re Not to Read

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Part I: Getting Started

Part II: Basic Bike Repairs

Part III: Shifting into a Higher Gear: Advanced Bike Repairs

Part IV: Keeping Your Bike on the Road

Part V: The Part of Tens

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I: Getting Started

Chapter 1: Channeling Your Inner Grease Monkey

Starting down the Road of Bike Repair and Maintenance

Before, During, and After Your Ride

Before you ride

While you ride

After you ride

Making Repairs

Performing Maintenance

Monthly maintenance

Annual maintenance

Chapter 2: Bike Physiology: Understanding How Your Bike Works

Gross Anatomy: Identifying the Parts of a Bike

Getting Your Bearings

Don’t Screw This Up: The Threading System

Tightening enough, but not too much

When fasteners come loose

Shopping for threaded fasteners

Considering How Cables Control a Bike

Gearing Up

Making Sure You Don’t Get Derailed

The Quickest Release in the West

Other Bike Parts to Keep in Mind

Chapter 3: Setting Up Shop: Repairing Your Bike at Home

Tools of the Trade

Assembling your bike-tool starter kit

Specialized tools for advanced bike jobs

Setting Up Shop

Considering how much space you need

Factoring in ventilation

Looking into the light(ing)

Wrangling a workbench

Focusing on storage

Banking on a bike stand

Chapter 4: Making like MacGyver: Handling Repairs on the Road

When You Can’t Call AAA: Handling Your Own Bike Repairs on the Side of the Road

Repairing a bent rim

Replacing a broken spoke

Fixing flats and torn tires

Repairing a broken chain

Extracting a jammed chain

Dealing with the derailleur

Knowing When You Should Walk Home

Inspecting Your Bike after an Accident

Looking for looseness

Checking the alignment

The All-Purpose Repair Tool: Duct Tape

Chapter 5: Help! When You Need Professional Assistance

What to Look for in a Bike Shop

Shopping at Your Bike Shop

Buying a bike

Buying accessories

Recognizing the Repairs You Need Help With

Repairing frames

Installing a new headset

Truing a wheel

Working on suspension

Part II: Basic Bike Repairs

Chapter 6: Burning Rubber: Tires and Tubes

Why Flat Tires Happen to Good People

Fixing a Flat

Grabbing yourself a wheel

Removing the tire or at least half of it

Finding the puncture

Patching the tube

Inspecting the tire

When it’s more than just a flat

Ready to Roll!

Putting on the tube and tire

Attaching the wheel

Coming to a screeching halt: When you get another flat right away

A Pound of Cure: Preventing a Flat

Chapter 7: Hugging the Curb: The Wheels

The Spin on Wheels

Shopping for new wheels

Caring for your wheels

Inspecting the wheels for problems

Taking off a wheel

Repairing dents in the rim

Installing the front and rear wheels

Hubba-Hubba: Working on the Hubs

Overhauling the hubs

Reassembling the hubs

Adjusting a hub

I Spoke Too Soon: Working on the Spokes

Replacing a spoke

Truing a wheel

Chapter 8: Stopping Short: The Brakes

Types of Brakes

Inspecting the Brakes

Removing and Installing Brakes and Brake Pads

Removing brakes and brake pads

Installing brakes

Adjusting Brakes

Adjusting brake-pad position

Centering and tensioning brakes

Silencing those squeaking brakes!

Using the brake quick release

Replacing brake cables

Chapter 9: Taking Your Seat: Saddles and Seat Posts

Saddle Up! Types of Saddles




Removing and Installing a Saddle

Adjusting the Saddle Fore, Aft, and Height

Angling for the right angle

Fore and aft, to and fro

Chapter 10: Hitting the Links: The Chain

A Chain Is Not a Chain Is Not a Chain: Types of Chains

Recognizing What Can Go Wrong with the Chain

Getting down and dirty

Stuck in a rut: Stiff links

Wear and tear

Caring for Your Chain

Keeping it simple: Cleaning and lubricating your chain

Going deeper: Giving your chain a heavy-duty cleaning

Replacing a Chain

Unchain me! Removing the chain

Measuring your new chain

Reassembling your chain

Chapter 11: Gearing Up: Freewheels and Cassettes

The Dirt on Freewheels and Cassettes

What’s so free about a freewheel?

The best things come in packages: The cassette

Inspecting Your Freewheel or Cassette

Cleaning the Freewheel or Cassette

Lubricating the Freewheel or Cassette

Removing a Freewheel or Cassette

Removing a freewheel

Removing a cassette

Removing individual the cogs on a freewheel or cassette

Removing the free-hub body

Installing a Freewheel or Cassette

Part III: Shifting into a Higher Gear: Advanced Bike Repairs

Chapter 12: Holding It All Together: The Frame and Suspension

I’ve Been Framed: Your Bike’s Frame

What to look for in a frame

Types of frame materials

Inspecting your frame

Maintaining your frame

Suspended in Disbelief: The Suspension

Types of suspension

Tuning the suspension

Maintaining the suspension

Chapter 13: Putting the Pedal to the Metal: The Drivetrain

Putting the Pedal to the Metal

Shopping for new pedals

Identifying worn-out pedals

Removing pedals

Overhauling the pedals

Installing new pedals

Crank It Up! Working on the Crankset and Bottom Bracket

The crankset

The bottom bracket

Chapter 14: Dropping It into Gear: The Shifting System

Demystifying Derailleurs

The rear derailleur

The front derailleur

The derailleur cable

Gear Shifters

Removing shifters

Installing shifters

Chapter 15: Turning on a Dime: The Steering System

Gimme a Hand: Types of Handlebars

Delving Deeper: Handlebar Options

Taping Your Handlebars

Getting Your Head around This: The Headset

Inspecting the headset

Adjusting your headset

Overhauling your headset

Part IV: Keeping Your Bike on the Road

Chapter 16: An Ounce of Preventive Maintenance

Before You Ride

Assembling an emergency tool kit

Giving your bike the once-over: A pre-ride inspection

While You Ride

After You Ride

Cleaning your bike

Giving your bike a lube job

Storing your bike

Chapter 17: Regular Bike Maintenance

Monthly Maintenance

Surveying your bike for structural damage

Kicking the tires

Cleaning your bike

Giving your bike a lube job

Tightening up

Checking the brakes

Examining the chain, cogs, and chainrings

Protecting your saddle

Inspecting the suspension

Annual Maintenance

Deep-cleaning the chain

Truing the wheels

Replacing cables and housing

Overhauling the hubs

Overhauling the headset

Overhauling the pedals

Overhauling the bottom bracket

Cleaning the rear derailleur

Replacing the brake pads

Replacing the handlebar grips or tape

Waxing the frame

Checking your accessories

Part V: The Part of Tens

Chapter 18: Ten (Or So) Steps to Take before You Ride

Take a Road Safety Skills Class

Adjust the Handlebars

Adjust the Saddle

Check Tire Pressure

Check the Brakes

Look for Looseness

Check the Wheels

Grab Your Toolkit

Wear Your Helmet and Gloves

Improve Your Visibility

Stock Your Emergency Gear

Chapter 19: Ten Considerations in Fitting Your Bike

Considering Crank Arm Length

Going for Gearing

Resisting the Temptation to Tilt Your Saddle

Setting the Saddle Height

Looking at the Saddle Fore and Aft

Choosing the Right Saddle Type

Sizing Up the Frame

Focusing on Frame Dimensions

Positioning Your Handlebars

Getting a Handle on Handlebar Style

Chapter 20: Ten Ways to Improve the Performance and Comfort of Your Bike

Upgrading Your Wheels and Tires

Ramping Up Your Rear Derailleur

Beefing Up Your Bearings

Pumping Up Your Pedals

A Shoe-In: Choosing the Best Shoes for the Job

Saddle Up! Taking Your Saddle to the Next Level

Upgrading Your Handlebars

Boosting Your Brake Levers

Taking Your Clothing up a Notch

Embracing Your Inner Geek with a Cycling Computer

Bike Repair & Maintenance For Dummies©

by Dennis Bailey and Keith Gates


About the Authors

Dennis Bailey: Dennis Bailey has been actively involved in bike repair and maintenance for over 18 years. He has worked on bikes on biking tours in the United States, Europe, and Latin America. Dennis brings a perspective on how to maintain and repair bikes, not just from within the comfort of a well-stocked bike shop or garage, but from the side of the road, where, on many occasions, he’s had to put on his MacGyver hat and improvise with whatever grab bag of supplies were available at the time. You can contact him at

Keith Gates: Keith Gates started as a bicycle mechanic in 1977 when he was in high school. In 1982, after going to college, he got married and went back into the bicycle business as the Service Manager for A-1 Cycling in Manassas, Virginia. He became a partner in the business in 1984 and, in 1992, took advantage of an opportunity to buy out his partners. He has been the sole owner of A-1 Cycling since then, providing personalized service and expertise to local bike enthusiasts of all ages. You can contact him at


Dennis Bailey: This book is dedicated to Randy Cronk, who showed me that the world is best explored on two wheels.

Keith Gates: This book is dedicated to Fred Landau, who originally opened A-1 Cycling and gave me the opportunity to turn my passion into a career, and to the many people throughout the years who have helped A-1 Cycling support the Northern Virginia cycling community.

Author’s Acknowledgments

We want to express our debt of gratitude to the many people behind the scenes who made it possible to transform an idea about helping bike riders of old and young alike into something on paper on bookstore shelves. They include our acquisitions editor Michael Lewis; our project editor and copy editor, Elizabeth Kuball; our photographer, Jean Fogle; and our technical editor, Ed France.

Special thanks to Barb Doyen, our agent extraordinaire, who always has a way of matching the right people with the best project.

Dennis Bailey: Thanks to my wife, Adriana, and our daughter, Valeria, who make it all worthwhile. Additional kudos to Dave Coldiron, Aaron Plank, and Brad Graley for their timely and important contributions.

Keith Gates: Thanks to my wife, Lynn, and our children, Colin and Chelsea, and the rest of my family for their love, support, and encouragement throughout the years.

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our online registration form located at For other comments, please contact our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 877-762-2974, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3993, or fax 317-572-4002.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Elizabeth Kuball

Acquisitions Editor: Michael Lewis

Copy Editor: Elizabeth Kuball

Assistant Editor: Erin Calligan Mooney

Editorial Program Coordinator: Joe Niesen

Technical Editor: Ed France

Senior Editorial Manager: Jennifer Ehrlich

Editorial Supervisor and Reprint Editor: Carmen Krikorian

Editorial Assistants: Jennette ElNaggar, David Lutton

Art Coordinator: Alicia B. South

Cover Photos: © Daniela Richardson

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Lynsey Stanford

Layout and Graphics: Reuben W. Davis, Cheryl Grubbs, Christine Williams

Proofreaders: John Greenough, Joni Heredia

Indexer: Broccoli Information Management

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Kristin Ferguson-Wagstaffe, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Ensley Eikenburg, Associate Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services


Welcome to Bike Repair & Maintenance For Dummies, where the often confusing and complex world of caring for your bike just got a whole lot easier. We’ve written this book to tell you not only what your bike needs to stay in great condition but also how to take care of the repair and maintenance yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re planning to work on your kid’s single-speed bike or overhaul an expensive road bike, the same repair and maintenance principles found in this book apply.

Maybe you picked up this book because you’re planning on making biking a larger part of your life. With the price of gasoline these days and the health benefits from exercise, riding your bike makes a lot of sense. Or maybe after biking for a number of years, you’ve decided that your trusty two-wheeled companion could use a little better care. Good idea. You don’t want a wheel or something coming off the next time you round a tight curve. Whatever the case, if you’re interested in attending to the health of your bike and you want a simple and easy-to-understand guide to do it, you’ve found the right book.

Yes, working on bikes can be challenging — but it doesn’t have to be. A lot of books written on the topic are thick, technical manuals written by hard-core bikers for hard-core bikers. Peel away the jargon and the arcane discussions and you’re left with some basic procedures that anyone with a little hand-eye coordination, the ability to follow simple directions, and a willingness to get a little grease under the nails can do.

About This Book

We know that many books on bike repair and maintenance are competing for your attention. But we offer the following compelling reasons why this book stands apart from the rest. If you’re still not convinced, we’re not above bribes and begging — but we’re confident we won’t have to go that far.

It’s in plain English. This book is not another one of those dense tomes full of technical language that require a degree from a bike-mechanic school to understand. Those are better left for when your only other source of entertainment is watching paint dry. In Bike Repair & Maintenance For Dummies, our goal is simple: If someone with zero bike knowledge can understand the concept, we’ve succeeded.

Dennis approaches bike maintenance and repair through the lens of a bike rider, having toured thousands of miles on three continents. Keith is a bike-shop owner who, over the years, has worked with thousands of customers, most of whom are not bike experts. Together we combine our biking knowledge with a penchant for communicating in everyday English to help you care for your bike.

It’s a reference. You can read this book cover to cover if you want. But we know that you’re busy and that your goal is not to become a bike mechanic — at least not anytime soon. So you can also use this book as a reference guide — and we’ve written it with that goal in mind. You can pick it up whenever you’re having a specific issue with your bike and turn right to the section that explains how to handle it.

It’s comprehensive. Just because this book is written in easy-to-understand language without a lot of biking jargon doesn’t mean it’s not comprehensive. We cover every part of the bike and all the maintenance and repair procedures that you’ll likely ever need.

It’s objective. We’re not trying to promote or sell bikes or a line of parts. Our goal is to make you as knowledgeable as possible so that you can repair the parts on your bike and, if needed, know how to replace them.

Conventions Used in This Book

Every book has its own conventions, and this one is no different. To make the most of the information we provide, keep your eye out of for these conventions:

Terms we’re using for the first time are in italics. Plain-English explanations or definitions of these terms are nearby, often in parentheses.

When we give you steps to follow in a particular order, we number the steps and put the action part of each step in bold.

Web addresses are in monofont. Note: When this book was printed, some Web addresses may have needed to break across two lines of text. If that happened, rest assured that we haven’t put in any extra characters (such as hyphens) to indicate the break. So, when using one of these Web addresses, just type in exactly what you see in this book, as though the line break doesn’t exist.

One last thing: We’re writing this book as a team, but when one of us has something to say, we use our first names (see the preceding section for an example of this convention in action).

What You’re Not to Read

You’re not on the hook to read the whole book. You can jump around to find the information you need, and leave it at that. You can also safely skip sidebars (text in gray boxes) — sidebars are interesting, but they’re not essential to your understanding of the topic at hand. Finally, you can skip anything marked by a Technical Stuff icon (for more on icons, see “Icons Used in This Book,” later in this Introduction).

Foolish Assumptions

So that we could tailor this book to your needs, we made a few assumptions about you:

You like to bike or are thinking about making biking a part of your life.

You or a member of your family owns a bike and you’re interested in caring for and maintaining it.

You’d like to find out how to do some of your own bike maintenance and repair so you won’t have to take your bike to the shop every time you have an issue or call someone for a ride if you break down on the side of the road.

You have little or no experience in using tools on your bike.

You may be a seasoned bike rider who wants some additional tips and tricks to keep your bike in top condition.

How This Book Is Organized

As soon as you look at the table of contents you’ll notice that the book is divided into five parts. Here’s what you can find in each of them.

Part I: Getting Started

Part I is your Bike Repair and Maintenance 101 class. Before you jump into chapters on working on your bike, you may want to take the time to get to know the names of the different bike parts and how they work together — you find all that information in this part. Here we also describe some basics for setting up a bike shop at home. Then just to whet your appetite for repair and maintenance, we discuss how to handle breakdowns on the road and tell you which repairs are better handled by a professional.

Part II: Basic Bike Repairs

If bike repair is a new endeavor for you, the repairs in this part will probably be the ones you attempt first. Here we cover the more basic bike repairs that anyone with a little concentration and elbow grease (be prepared to get dirty!) can do. We fill you in on tires and tubes, including probably the most frequent bike repair, the flat tire; wheels and hubs and the mysterious art of wheel truing; freewheels and cassettes (we tell you how you can tell the difference between the two); saddles and seat posts, including how to get the most comfortable fit for your bike; everything you need to know about brakes to keep them in working order and guarantee a sure stop every time; and the chain and why this hard-working part of your bike deserves more respect and attention than it normally receives.

Part III: Shifting into a Higher Gear: Advanced Bike Repairs

This is the part of the book where you earn your advanced degree in bike repair. These procedures are a little more advanced and some require specialized tools, but they’re still very doable. Here, we cover the frame and suspension, the pedal, the crankset, the bottom bracket, the steering system, and the shifting system.

Part IV: Keeping Your Bike on the Road

If your bike has treated you well, this is the part of the book where you learn how to return the favor. If you want to greatly extend the life of your bike, increase your riding comfort, and improve safety, performing maintenance on your bike is the way to go. In this part, we discuss preventive maintenance, including how to perform a pre-ride inspection, how to care for your bike while you’re riding, and how to store your bike when you’re done for the season. We also tell you the regular maintenance you should perform on your bike, and we recommend setting up a schedule for monthly and annual maintenance.

Part V: The Part of Tens

This is the part that all For Dummies book are known for — the cool lists of things in the back of the book. We’ve included a list of ten steps to take before you ride, ten ways to improve the fit of your bike, and ten things you can do to enhance comfort and increase performance when you ride.

Icons Used in This Book

Throughout the book, you’ll find icons in the margins that alert you to specific kinds of information. Here’s what each of the icons means:

Tip.eps Whenever we have a particularly useful suggestion that’ll save you time or money or just make your repair and maintenance a little easier, we flag it with this icon. (We wanted to flag this whole book with a big Tip icon, but our editor said no.)

Remember.eps This book is a reference, which means you don’t have to memorize it — there won’t be a pop quiz Monday morning. But occasionally we do tell you something that’s important enough that you’ll want to commit it to memory. When we do, we mark it with this icon.

Warning(bomb).eps When you see this icon, listen up. Bikes are precisely engineered machines, and sometimes you need to perform a certain procedure in a particular way or with a specific tool — or risk danger to you or your bike. Heed these warnings where they appear to keep yourself — and your bike — out of trouble.

TechnicalStuff.eps We love bikes, and sometimes we can’t help but share some information that’s especially technical but that you don’t really need to know. When we do, we mark it with this icon. If you’re the kind of person who likes knowing all the details, read these paragraphs. But if you’re more of a just-the-facts kind of a person, you can skip these paragraphs — no harm, no foul.

Where to Go from Here

This book is a reference, which means you can dive in wherever you want. If you’re brand-new to bikes and you don’t know your derailleur from your down tube, turn to Chapter 2. If you’re itching to set up your own workshop in your house or garage, head to Chapter 3. If your bike is riding fine and you want to keep it that way, go to Chapter 16 and do a bike inspection so some part of your bike doesn’t fall off on your next ride. Use the table of contents and index to find the information you need.

Finally, send us an e-mail with some feedback or a photo showing us your greasy bike hands as proof that you’re caring for your bike. You can e-mail Dennis at and Keith at

Part I

Getting Started


In this part . . .

Within the pages of this book, you find just about everything you need to help you care for your bike. But if you’re completely new to bike repair and you don’t know your derailleur from your drivetrain, this is the place to start. In this part, we identify each part of the bike for you and tell you how they work together. We show you how to set up space in your home to work on your bike, let you know which repairs are better left to the experts, and give you some basic steps to take if you break down on your next bike ride.

Chapter 1

Channeling Your Inner Grease Monkey

In This Chapter

Entering the world of bike repair and maintenance

Caring for your bike before, during, and after you ride

Making emergency, basic, and advanced repairs

Performing monthly and annual maintenance

Just as you’d bring along a map if you were heading off for a trip on your bike into an unfamiliar area, you should have a roadmap for your venture into the world of bike repair and maintenance. The journey you’re about to take or have already started can be fulfilling and bring lifelong rewards as long as you have a guide to help you get where you’re going. We’ve written this book to be your guide — to take the mystery out of bike repair and maintenance.

In this chapter, we open up the roadmap and examine all the different routes that are possible when it comes to caring for your bike.

Starting down the Road of Bike Repair and Maintenance

When it comes to bike repair and maintenance, the starting point is knowing the various parts of a bike, their function, and how they work together (see Chapter 2). When you know the various parts of the bike, you know

How bearings reduce friction when you ride

How to tighten threads an appropriate amount

Why cables for brakes are different than shifters

What combination of gears is best for your bike

How springs drive derailleurs

How to make sure a quick release wheel doesn’t become dangerous

When you’ve figured out all the parts of your bike and how they work together, you’re ready to get started on your journey. But wait! First you need a shop where you can work (see Chapter 3). Working on a bike doesn’t require a lot of space, but it helps to have a location where you can operate comfortably. You’ll want enough space for tools, a drop cloth to protect the floor, good ventilation, and lighting.

Tip.eps If you’re serious about bike repair and maintenance think about two major additions to your shop:

A workbench with a flat surface where you can work

A bike stand that will hold your bike off the ground

Good news! You don’t have to run out to the store to start your tool set. Many of the tools you need are probably in your house. If you have a variety of wrenches, Allen wrenches (hex keys), screwdrivers, pliers, and a hammer, you’ll be able to perform a number of basic procedures on your bike. As you move into more advanced procedures, you’ll need some specialized tools.

Tip.eps You may want to wait to buy a specialized tool until you have to actually perform the procedure it’s used for. For example, you may need a crank extractor to remove a crank arm. Instead of running out to the store and buying a crank extractor right now, wait until you do your annual maintenance on your bike and actually need that tool.

When you do decide to purchase tools — such as a chain tool, chain whip, freewheel tool, or spoke wrench — you need to decide whether to buy them on the cheap or invest in a more expensive brand that will likely last longer than your bike. In Chapter 3, we give you some options.

Finally, to keep the moving parts of your bike in good working order, purchase an all-purpose lubricating oil. Focus on lubricating your chain and the pivot points in places like the brakes and derailleurs. Having a cleaner around when you’re working on your bike is just as important. Look for an environmentally friendly product, such as a citrus degreaser.

Before, During, and After Your Ride

Bike repair and maintenance involves more than caring for your bike while you have it stowed away at home. It’s an ongoing process that’ll involve action before, during, and after your ride.

Before you ride

The before-you-ride part of the trilogy deals mostly with the preventive maintenance steps you should take, which not only help your bike but increase the safety of each ride.

One of the best things you can do to improve your safety is to do a pre-ride inspection and maintenance check:

Using a gauge, check that your tire pressure is equal to the recommended level on the tire’s sidewall. (See Chapter 6 for more information on tires.)

Inspect the brake to make sure the pads are not worn and they tightly grip the wheel when you squeeze the brake levers. (See Chapter 8 for more on brakes.)

Look and listen for looseness in the handlebars, headset, wheels, and other part. (See Chapter 16 for more information on inspecting your bike.)

Whether you have a brand-new bike or a 20-year-old clunker, things go wrong when you ride. Your best bet is to be prepared and bring a toolkit along with you to help you if you get into a jam. Here are some steps you should take to prepare your toolkit (see Chapter 4 for more information):

Have a small tire pump mounted to your frame.

Include everything you need to repair a flat, including a patch, glue, tire levers, and spare inner tube (in case you blow a tube).

Include some hand tools, such as Allen wrenches, screwdrivers, a spoke wrench, and pliers. These will allow you to make adjustments as you ride.

Pack away a rag to wipe the grease off your hands when you’re finished.

If you’re planning an extended trip, you’ll want to add some tools to your kit. These include a spare foldable tire, a chain tool, chain links and rivets, extra spokes, spare cables, lube, and the all-purpose MacGyver tool, duct tape. (See Chapter 4 for more information.)

While you’re preparing for a possible roadside emergency, don’t forget the following:




Energy bars

Rain jacket


While you ride

Although you may not think about riding as a time for bike maintenance, there are things you can do while you ride to care for and maintain your bike. If you get into the habit of doing these things, you’ll extend the life of your bike and stay safer:

Keep your tires properly inflated while you ride to improve rolling resistance and absorb shock.

Pay attention to the road in front of you.

Walk your bike over curbs and other objects.

Raise yourself out of your seat and use your arms and legs like a horse jockey to absorb an impending blow.

Shift into lower gears before you reach the steeper sections of inclines to put less strain on the chain and derailleurs.

Look out for any creaks or loose parts on the bike before they’re in need of repair.

For more information on safe riding practices, turn to Chapter 16.

After you ride

The trilogy of maintenance activities is completed with the after-you-ride phase. Dirt acts as a major abrasive against your bike and, as it works its way into the internal parts, it starts wearing out bearings and other components. After you ride is a great time to combat this enemy by washing your bike. Wet it down — but make sure you don’t spray water directly at the hubs or bottom bracket. Use a brush and soap to scrub down your bike. Use degreaser to break up any difficult-to-remove grease.

Remember to always lubricate your bike after drying it — particularly the chain, derailleurs, brakes, and cogs. When you’re finished, wipe off any excess grease so that it doesn’t attract additional dirt.

For more information on washing and lubricating your bike, turn to Chapter 16.

Making Repairs

If you’re lucky, you’ll never have to repair your bike anywhere but in the comfort of your own shop at home. But nobody’s that lucky. The fact is, if you ride long enough, sooner or later you’re going to break down on the side of the road and have to make a repair, like one of the following:

Fixing a flat tire: A flat tire is the most basic of emergency repairs (see Chapter 6).

Tip.eps Practice patching a tire before you have to — that way, if you get a flat on the road, you’ll be able to fix it without stressing out.

Dealing with your wheels: If you hit something with your wheel, the rim may bend or a spoke may break. You can repair both issues on the side of the road, depending on the severity of the damage (see Chapter 7).

Coping with the chain: Your chain may act up on you while you ride. In some cases, a chain may jump off the smallest chainring and become jammed between the chain stay and the chainring. Worse, the chain may even break. To fix the chain, you’ll need to have a chain tool and an extra link or two available, or else you’ll be walking home (see Chapter 10).

Dealing with the derailleur: The fact that derailleurs stick off the side of your bike make them vulnerable to being hit or knocked as you ride, which may bend or damage them. Depending on the situation, you may need to adjust the derailleur, reposition it, or remove it (see Chapter 14).

Warning(bomb).eps Some repairs you won’t be able to make when you’re on the road — mainly because specialized tools are needed. These include a loose crank, loose pedals, problems with the bottom bracket, or a bent frame. If any of these happens while you’re on the road, your best bet is to call it a day, because riding could cause greater damage to your bike or lead to an accident.

Emergency repairs are the ones no one wants to deal with. Much more preferable are all the repairs you can do in your shop at home. Some of these repairs are simpler to perform than others. If you’re new to bike maintenance and repair, try these basic repairs before attempting the more advanced ones:

Repair flat tires. Flat tires are the main source of problems with tires and tubes, and you’ll have to learn how to remove a tire, find the puncture in the tube, patch the leak, and reinstall it. After you’ve done it a few times, it’s pretty easy. (See Chapter 6.)

Overhaul hubs. Central to maintaining your wheels in good working order is caring for the hubs. Overhauling them at least once a year will keep your wheels spinning smoothly. (See Chapter 7.)

Change brake pads. Few things are more important than being able to stop on your bike when you need to. Learn how to adjust your brakes and changes the pads, and you’ll be in good shape. (See Chapter 8.)

Adjust saddles and seat-post position: This is where you can make adjustments that your butt will thank you for. Choosing the right saddle and then adjusting it to the right fit will make riding a more enjoyable and comfortable experience. (See Chapter 9.)

Replace chain. The hard-working chain is one of the most exposed parts of your bike and, as a result, it needs a lot of care. After it has given you a few thousand miles, you’ll need to replace it. (See Chapter 10.)

Replace cassettes and freewheels. Over time, the teeth on the cogs of cassettes and freewheels will wear out causing your chain to skip gears. With a couple of tools and a little bit of effort, you can replace them yourself. (See Chapter 11.)

In reality, advanced repairs are not that advanced — they’re just a little more complicated than basic repairs. In some cases, you’ll need a specialized tool or two and you’ll have to be careful to follow the directions step by step. With a little concentration and determination, you too can be a hard-core grease monkey who knows how to handle just about any repair on your bike, including the following:

Maintain the suspension. Although you’ll be limited to the kind of frame repairs you can perform, you can handle the maintenance and repair of suspension. In some cases, you’ll need to make an oil change or adjust the air pressure depending on what type of suspension you have. (See Chapter 12.)

Overhaul the pedals, crankarms, and bottom bracket. The pedal, crankarms, and bottom bracket are part of the drivetrain of your bike and work to transfer force to the rear wheel. They absorb a lot of force and should be overhauled every year. You’ll need one or more specialized tools for this job. (See Chapter 13.)

Adjust the shifting system. Most modern-day shifters are highly calibrated mechanisms that only require minor adjustments and maintenance. Most of your work supporting the shifting system will come from keeping the rear and front derailleurs in good working order. (See Chapter 14.)

Overhaul the steering system. Handlebars, stem, and headset give you the smooth steering you expect of your bike. The bearings inside the headset take a pounding from the road so do this component a favor and adjust it frequently and overhaul it annually. (See Chapter 15.)

Even the most gung-ho grease monkeys should take some of the most difficult procedures to the pros at their local bike shop. Your local bike shop will have the expensive tools and, more important, the experience to handle these procedures properly. The following repairs should all be handled by a pro:

Repairing frames: Frame repair is beyond the scope of what most people can accomplish at home. Some bike shops even recommend that you go to a frame specialist for many jobs or replace the frame altogether.

Fitting a headset: Adjusting or overhauling a headset is an easy job that you can perform at home or on the road. But when you’re installing a new headset, it’s time to head to your local bike shop to leverage their experience and specialized tools.

Truing a wheel: Truing is complicated stuff. You need specialized tools (such as a truing stand, a spoke tension meter, and a dishing tool) and a lot of practice.

Working on suspension: There are many different types of front and rear suspension and all repair work on them should be done either by the manufacturer, your local bicycle store, or a specialty bicycle suspension repair facility.

Performing Maintenance

In bike repair and maintenance you have two options:

You can focus on the maintenance so that your bike will need fewer repairs.

You can ignore maintenance and end up having to do more repair work.

We prefer the former. If you do, too, here are the maintenance activities you should be performing on a monthly and annual basis.

Monthly maintenance

Tip.eps Put your monthly maintenance on the calendar for the months you ride and it will soon become a habit and normal part of your life.

Here are the steps you’ll take during your monthly maintenance:

Check for structural damage. Visually inspect your frame for signs of stress and structural damage, paying particular attention to areas where the frame is welded and hard-to-see sections such as the underside of frame tubes.

Inspect the wheels and tires. Are they spinning straight? Are the tires worn, cut, or torn and are the spokes tight?

Clean your bike. Dirt is your number-one enemy so if you don’t have the time to clean your bike after every ride, make sure you do it monthly, especially if you’ve been riding on a regular basis.

Lubricate your bike. You take your car for an oil change every 3,000 miles — make sure your bike gets a lube job every month that you ride to extend the life of its movable parts.

Check for tightness. Even if they’re tightened properly, fasteners such as nuts and bolts have a way of working themselves loose over time. You don’t want something to fall off while you ride, which could be dangerous or cause you to lose a part, so check to make sure everything is tight as a part of your monthly maintenance.

Check the brakes. When a squirrel runs out in front of you is not the time to discover that your brake pads are worn out. Check the brake pads for wear, confirm that the cable clamp has the cable securely in place, and give your brake levers a firm squeeze to confirm that the brakes evenly and firmly grab the rim.

Examine the chain, cogs, and chainrings. Don’t let your chain wear out because it’ll shorten the life of your chainrings and cogs. Measure the chain to confirm that 12 links measure 12 inches and, if not, replace the chain or soon you’ll be replacing the much more expensive cogs and chainrings.

Protect your saddle. If you have a leather saddle, you’ll need to pay attention here. Leather saddles are great, but they require a little extra work, including a regular leather treatment to clean the leather and replenish the leather’s natural oils.

Focus on your suspension. If you have suspension on your bike, inspect all suspension pivot and linkage bolts for correct tightness. If you have suspension forks, check your owner’s manual for instructions on how to care for them.

Tip.eps For more information on monthly maintenance, including instructions on how to do all these things, turn to Chapter 17.

Annual maintenance

Do you yearn to ride your bike in the middle of those cold winter months? Do the next best thing and become reacquainted with your bike by giving it an annual overhaul:

Deep-clean the chain. Soak the chain in a environmentally safe degreaser to get a deep clean in between the links, rollers, and pins.

True the wheels. All those bumps over the course of the year are going to affect the tension of your spokes and, as a result, your wheel alignment. Take the time to bring it back into true.

Replace cables and the housing. Inspects your cables and the housing in which they run. If you notice any kinks, rusting, fraying, or a buildup of dirt and grime, it’s probably time to install new ones.

Overhaul the hubs. Overhauling the hubs annually is especially important if you have traditional hubs with loose bearings. If you have sealed bearings, you probably can go a few years.

Overhaul the headset. Yearly maintenance is a good time to inspect, clean, adjust, and overhaul the headset.

Overhaul the pedals. Pedals are another component that utilizes bearings. As with the hubs, if you want them to continue spinning smoothly, give them an overhaul.

Overhaul the bottom bracket. The bottom bracket is the center of your drivetrain. All the revolutions of the bottom bracket add up over the course of a year, so do your bike a favor and overhaul or replace the bottom bracket.

Clean the rear derailleur. The focus here is on removing the derailleur so that you can clean the dirt where it builds up most, on the two jockey wheels.

Replace the brake pads. Keep an extra set at home. They’re cheap and easy to install, and when you install a fresh pair, they give you peace of mind.

Replace the handlebar grips or tape. Need to add a little pizzazz to your bike after a long year of riding? Inject some color and life as well as some comfort for your hands by replacing the handlebar tape or grips.

Wax the frame. If you take apart your bike for the annual overhaul, take advantage of easy access to a clean frame and give your bike a good waxing.

Check your accessories. Don’t make the mistake of discovering that you’re missing an important accessory — like a patch kit, tool, or extra batteries for your light — when you have an emergency. Take a quick look at your accessories and confirm that everything is there.

Tip.eps For more information on annual maintenance, turn to Chapter 17.