Workshop and Tech Centre
No matter if you are cycling for recreation or for daily transport, it is important to keep your bicycle in top condition and there are a range of simple checks and general maintenance tasks that you can carry out to keep your bike performing reliably.
It goes without saying that before you can tighten, fix, or adjust anything on your bicycle, you will require some kind of a tool kit. You may already own tools which will serve the purpose and compact, lightweight portable tool kits especially designed for bicycles are available for this small investment at any Blackman Bicycle store.
Provided your bicycle is relatively modern (i.e under 10 years old), a tool kit to allow you to solve most mechanical issues on the side of the road will comprise fairly standard items (older bicycles, or entry level bikes that have lock nuts to hold the wheels on rather than quick release mechanisms, may require additional spanners of different configurations).
- Puncture repair kit (glue, patches and tyre levers)
- A quality pump
- Multi-tool containing multi-sized Allen keys
- Needle-nosed pliers are sometimes handy to pull cables taut while tightening their anchoring nuts on brakes and derailleurs.
- A Philips head screwdriver (often contained within a multi tool comprising pliers, flathead, Philips head and pen knife)
Naturally, you should keep these basic tools with you while you are riding because this will invariably be the place that you require them - i.e when a breakdown occurs.
In addition to the list above and depending on your mechanical aptitude, there are additional tools of a more specialised nature that you can buy to carry out more advanced repairs such as buckles, broken chains, hub adjustments and bearing lubrication.
If you are touring, and likely to be a long way from a specialised bike shop, it could be a good idea to invest in the following tools and learn how to use them.
- A spoke key for small wheel truing adjustments
- A chain breaking tool.
- A pair of cone spanners for hub adjustments
- 8, 9, 10mm metric spanners are only required if your bike has any small standard nuts or bolts in those sizes.
As previously mentioned, if your bike has lock-nuts on the hub axles, these will require larger spanners if you are to remove a wheel on the roadside. As these larger spanners add a fair bit of weight to your tool kit, quick release hubs are a superior option.
One of the most critical elements in day to day bicycle maintenance is in the inspecting and tightening (if required) of the the various nuts and bolts that hold your bicycle together.
It is quite amazing how quickly road vibration and general movement of parts can loosen nuts and bolts and even see them depart your bicycle altogether.
Replace standard washers with lock washers or nylon lock-nuts on any mounting bolts and use a medium strength Loctite (a kind of temporary nut glue to prevent loosening) every time you discover a new loose nut or bolt and pretty soon an occasional tweak will be all that is required to keep things tight.
Modern brakes generally require little adjustment but ensure the rubber brake blocks are kept close and aligned with your wheel rim for efficient braking. As there are several types of brakes, check your bike manual for adjustment points that will require the occasional tweak as the break blocks wear down.
Tyres and Tyre Pressure
A flat or under inflated tyre increases the amount of rubber in contact with the road. The increased resulting friction means faster tyre wear and more effort will be required to propel yourself forward. Recommended pressures are typically much higher than a car and will generally be written on the sidewall of your tyre. 60 - 90psi is typical on a modern bike and if you invest in a quality pump with an inbuilt gauge, checking this prior to every ride is a simple task that will see you go further and faster with less effort and longer lasting tyres.
Tip: The tyre pressure tips above also applies to motor cars but because added effort is simply pressing a little harder with our right foot, it is easy to overlook under inflated tyres. If you want better fuel economy and tyres that last longer, always check your tyre pressure.
For something with so many moving parts, there are surprisingly few that require lubrication in your general maintenance program. Most bearings on your bike (hubs, cranks etc) are sealed units and will only need servicing every so often by the bicycle service team at Blackmans. The exception to this is your chain and drive train.
Chain and derailleur care
Contrary to popular belief, you should not use motor oil or WD40 to lubricate a chain. Instead, a dry wax and silicone lubricant should be lightly rubbed over the length of the chain. The use of dry lubricant helps to prevent dirt mixing and sticking to your chain and making an abrasive paste that will eat your chain for breakfast.
Tip: If you have been off road, clean dirt or mud from both derailleurs and chain with an old toothbrush, and a little citrus degreaser if necessary. Then apply lubricant as per normal.
WARNING: Do not soak your chain to clean it as you will wash out internal lubricant, which is not something you want to happen. Give us a call if you have already done this for a solution to get it back in there.
Q: How often should I change my chain?
A: A well cared for chain used on dry sealed roads can last for a very long time. 5000klm would be a ball park figure but beware. Dry lubricant is a lot like sun screen in that it needs to be re-applied after all off-road jaunts or riding in the rain. When your chain is dirty or wet without the protective coating of lubricant, it will shorten its life considerably.
Q: How do I know when my chain is due for replacement as I do not have a trip computer?
A: Excellent question - a worn chain is actually very easy to spot. As it wears, the first thing you are likely to notice is that gear changes may become less efficient and accurate. Stuttering changes that can not be rectified by adjusting your gear shifters is a good indicator that your chain needs replacement or at the least, professional help.
Q: I have a badly buckled wheel, what should I do?
A: Repairing a buckled wheel is usually something you can bring to the Blackman team to fix as 'wheel truing' as it is known requires special equipment and training to get it right. HOWEVER if you are adventurous, you might try up turning your bicycle and using the brake blocks as a guide to help you re-centre any bumps using a spoke tool.
Q: How can I tell if my crank requires servicing
A: Cranks, hubs and headsets should be periodically checked to ensure that they rotate freely without roughness or grating sounds or any loose side-play. Hubs and headsets can be given the odd tweak up by you however for that once in a blue moon replacement of bearings it is more cost effective to allow us to do this for you rather than buy the special cone spanners required to do the job. In the same way, bottom bracket crank axles on quality modern bikes are typically sealed units which must be screwed in and out of the bike frame with another special tool they can not be dismantled so a defective one must be replaced completely. Save your time, skinned knuckles and money and allow the Blackman Service team to attend to these items.
Tip: If you experience ANY looseness or play in your crank, hubs or headsets, stop riding and have it attended to immediately to prevent possible damage of bearings or worse - a nasty fall due to failure of equipment.
Q: I just brought a new chain but now it jumps and carries on like a hot-cake on the girdle.
A: New chains love to mould to chain rings and gear clusters much the same way as heavy furniture embeds into new carpet. Unfortunately, if you buy a new chain, chances are the teeth on your cluster and chain rings (which have worn to fit the old chain perfectly) will resist the new chain.
The Good News: Depending on your riding style, one or two of your chain rings may still be in good condition with only your favorite requiring replacement. If you have invested a little more upfront when you purchased your bike, you will find the more heavily worn chain ring/s can be replaced individually.
Tip: If a new chain jumps teeth after fitting it to an older cluster, you will need to renew the cluster unit too.
Q: I saw an Aldi / K-Mart / Woolworths etc bike for $149 or $229 etc. - What is the advantage of investing more in a bicycle from a specialist bike shop like Blackman Bicycles?
A: There are really only three reasons why a person buys a bicycle. Transport, fun or fitness. There are plenty of people out there who purchased a cheap supermarket bike for fitness but never use it after the first ride failed to live up to their expectations. So what was the true cost of the bike? If you want to try before you buy to ensure you end up with a bike you will love to ride that will not break soon after you start doing any serious k's then a bike shop is really the only option. See our story The true cost of a cheap bike'.