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How to Take Care of Your Road Bike

Chances are, you spent good money on your bike, and it brings you unlimited joy. Naturally, you’ll want to protect your investment and make your bike ride like new for as long as possible.

Just like anything else, such as our cars (oil changes! tire rotations!) and even our own bodies (doctors! dentists!), the more regularly your bike is cared for, the better it will perform, and the longer it will live.

We asked our service techs to chime in for this helpful guide to properly caring for your bike. Their expertise will help you keep your bike running as good as new … perhaps even better. And who doesn’t love the feel of a smooth running bike?

Perform Regular Maintenance Checks

Make a habit of giving your bike a careful lookover between rides. Schedule a time when you’re not rushed so you’ll have the opportunity to get something fixed before your next ride if necessary. Ten minutes before you pedal out is clearly a lousy time to discover something is wrong with your bike, right?

Check Your Handlebars

With your hands on the grips, press down with weight, and try to rotate your handlebars back and forth. If there’s any movement, tighten with a 3-way hex wrench, usually 4 or 5 mm. Once a year, lube the screws that connect the handlebars to the headset with a squeeze of Park Tool grease + a Q-tip.

Check the Stem Tightness

This is the gap area where the headset meets the frame. To check, hold the front brake and rock the bike back and forth. If you feel any movement or play, first loosen the stem clamp bolts and tighten the screw at the top of the stem to a quarter turn more than finger tight. Then, straighten the handlebars and retighten stem clamp bolts.

Check the Bearings

These include: headset (feel for roughness, or vibration); front wheel (hold fork and spin front wheel; should spin nice and freely, no roughness); pedals (should spin freely, no noise); bottom bracket; rear wheel. If this sounds like Greek to you, come by and we’ll demonstrate.

Check Your Brakes

Check the brake caliper bolts; make sure they are tight. Check pads for wear; ensure they are present and aligned, with each pad an equal distance  from the rim or rotor. Ideally, the wear on your pads should be equal; if this is not the case it may indicate an alignment issue.

Your brake levers should have enough tension to pull to about one inch from the handle bars. If your pads are worn and/or your levers are loose, we can help you get them adjusted properly.

Check Your Tires

Make sure your tire pressure meets the minimum psi; this info can be found on your tire. There’s a fine art to running different amounts of tire pressure depending on terrain, but in general, you want to run the psi indicated on the tire to avoid pinch flats and other issues. Check out this tire pressure calculator by Silca that can get you dialed in perfectly.

Be sure to look at the tire tread. If the tread is visibly bare in the center of the tire, it’s time to swap it out for a new one.

Check Your Wheels

Make sure your front AND rear skewers are secure and tight, with the levers set between the 12 and 3 o’clock positions so they cannot be opened while riding. This important safety check should be repeated just before you ride, every time you ride.

Also, check to make sure the wheel spins straight. If not, come see us before you hit the trail. If you don’t notice a wobble at this checkpoint, but do on your ride (wobbly climb or squirrelly descent), you’ll know it’s time to get that rear/front wheel trued.

Check Your Seat and Seat Stay

Make sure the seat is properly aligned (by getting on bike or eyeballing), and routinely check to make sure nuts and bolts connecting your seat to the seat post are snug and secure. If you move the seat back and forth and there is any play, you will need to tighten the connecting screws.

Also check the seat stay (the ring that holds the post in place). Use a 3-way hex wrench (usually 4 or 5mm) to tighten clamp if needed.

Lube Your Chain

Lube your chain at least once per week, and after any wet ride (clean and dry the chain first)

To apply the lube, backpedal while applying a thin stream to one revolution of chain. Make sure you don’t spray lube on or near the rotor as you apply it. Backpedal slowly (to prevent the lube from flicking onto the rotor) for four or five rotations to ensure the lube is evenly distributed.

Finally, wipe the chain to remove any excess lube. Using a towel, put the chain between your left index finger and thumb (use the bottom chain, moving from cassette to front ring), and backpedal once again until any excess lube is wiped off.

Pro tip: We use Dumonde Tech because it lasts the longest and is best in class for protection of your chain.

Check Your Suspension (for Non-Rigid Frames)

Some cross bikes and hybrid commuters boast front suspension. It’s important to take good care of that fork as it’s a very expensive part to replace.

Carefully look over your fork to make sure it’s clean and smooth. Be sure to inspect your stanchions for scratches as this sort of damage can carry dirt to the inside of the fork. (Stanchion scratches are a 911 — bring your fork in right away to be fixed!)

Grit, grime, or any other build up around your seals means they are overdue for service. Proper post-ride care and regular service will keep your suspension feeling like new.

Get factory service recommendations and information on our service packages here.

Drive Train

A worn drive train does not feel good to ride! Check the chain, the front chain ring, the cassette, and the front and rear derailleurs regularly for wear, and keep the entire system clean and dry. If you notice slack in your chain, hooked teeth on your front chain ring, or a “skipping” chain when the chain itself is healthy, it’s time for some love. 

Although you can certainly learn to service these crucial parts yourself, it’s what our mechanics are well-trained to do, so save yourself the hassle and put your fine steed into our capable hands.

Pivots, Cables & Housing, Bearings, and Brakes

These components should be serviced on a regular basis. Remember, the more preventative care you invest in, the less likely you’ll wind up with a major repair bill down the line. Maintaining these parts is rather complex, so we recommend leaving the wrenching to us unless you have solid bike mechanic skills.

Keep Your Bike Clean

Take the time to wash your bike on a regular basis to keep its parts working well. The frequency will depend on how often you ride, and/or the dirtier your bike gets, but aim to soap up at least once a month.

Learn how to properly wash your bike here.

A Well Cared For Bike is a Happy Bike

You want your bike to last as long as possible, and the more regularly it is cared for, the better it will perform, and longer it will live.

Whether you do the service yourself, or bring your bike into the shop, be sure to add regular bike care to your routine. We are happy to guide you on DIY procedures, and on scheduling service. 

If you purchased your bike at Epicenter, remember you get two FREE basic tune-ups every year for the life of your bike. Give us a call to schedule an appointment.