Bike maintenance: How to keep your bike going for longer

How to look after your bike so that you can enjoy the benefits of cycling.

In the first part of our bike maintenance series, how to make your bike go faster, we covered the things that every speed demon should know. This time, we're going to look at what every bike owner should know, regardless of your cycling habits.

Your bike keeps you fit, gets you out amongst the elements, lets you travel, and provides you with entertainment; so don't neglect it. Here are some tips to keep your bike going for longer.

Gear tuning

If your car was jerking, halting, and all-round uncomfortable, you'd get it checked out, right? Well, you should do the same with your bicycle too. In order for them to work well, bike gears require correct adjustment and alignment with cables. When you change gear, the appropriate derailleur should move the chain onto the corresponding cog or ring without fuss.

So how do you tune your gears? Start by putting your bike into its top gear, and then turn the pedals until the chain goes onto the smallest cog. Then you can unscrew the bolt securing the cables to the derailleur and move the cable onto the appropriate cogs for your preference. Ensure the chain sits comfortable on both the highest and lowest cogs and refit the gear cable. Go through each of your gears before embarking on a proper cycle.

Renewing cables

After a while the inside of your bike's outer cables will wear down due to the friction created by changing gears, and so it's important to renew your cables at regular intervals (how long in between will depend on your usage). You'll be able to do this fairly easily, as you can see the correct routing your new cables should take by having a good look at the ones which came with the bike before removing them.

Regular adjustments

As a standard rule of thumb, you'll want to give your bike an overall maintenance check after every 100 miles of cycling. To do this, we'd recommend getting an odometer and a cycling GPS to track your rides and alert you as to when your bike may need some attention.

Replacing saddles

This one isn't so much about keeping your bike going for longer, but keeping you going ON the bike for longer! Your own comfort shouldn't be overlooked - it certainly doesn't make anything easier if you're riding on an uncomfortable saddle. It may have worn down overtime, so consider replacing it with something squishier or shaped to suit your body. For example, a flat and wide saddle would be more appropriate for someone with thin quadriceps, whilst a slimmer saddle would suit someone with thicker quadriceps.

Switching tyres

They say one size doesn't always fit all, however when it comes to your bike's tyres, one style doesn't suit all. Which tyres you choose will depend on the different terrain you ride on, but the truth is you should be ready for any occasion. Keen cyclists who take on long distance trips will more often than not find themselves travelling on pavement, grass, woodland and crushed limestone surfaces.

If you have an adaptable frame, look to get a set of road bike tyres - the most popular width being 23mm. With road tyres, the wider the tyre the more comfortable the ride, as the air volume acts as a form of suspension (commuter tyres are also stern and durable). For off-road cycling, ideally you'll have a mountain bike with mountain bike tyres - they're essential for grip and balance, whilst the size will depend on your frame. In terms of flat tyres, it should go without saying that you need to replace them ASAP, or it could permanently damage your rims.

Grease/de-grease the chain

The more you ride, the grubbier your bike chain will become. Dirt tends to build up whilst other areas begin to rust, causing the chain to have difficulty moving through the derailleur. If it starts squeaking, it's time for some cleaning.

Grab an old toothbrush or something similar in order to get every nook and crevice, removing any dirt, before greasing the chain with a lubricant. You don't want to over-grease the chain as this can attract more dirt going forward, so if you feel there is too much on your chain you can de-grease it using a clean, dry rag.

Now that you know how to look after your bike, we trust it's in good hands. In case you missed it, check out the first part in our bike maintenance series - how to make your bike go faster.