Bike Maintenance Top Tips


In this advice article we run through some bike maintenance top tips. Here we offer 10 ideas that will make your day to day maintenance a breeze. Some will be useful out on the trail and others for bike TLC at home. Each day we’ll be adding something new, so please do keep checking back to find out more.

Removing A Tyre Without Tyre Levers

Tyre levers are great for removing tyres and sometimes that’s what you’ll need. However, they can easily damage the tyre, tube or even your rims.  If you can remove a tyre without levers that’s a sure fire way to ensure a damage free experience.  

To remove a tyre without levers you want to start by popping the bead of the tyre off the rim. Next, starting from where the valve is, press down on the outside of the tyre. Now work your way around the rim applying even pressure as you go. This forces the slack between the tyre and the rim to the same place. You should then be able to pop the tyre off the rim.  Having said all that, sometimes it isn’t possible to do this if the tyre is too tight.  That’s where tomorrow’s tip will be of use.

Choosing Tyre Levers

Getting tyres off can sometimes be a struggle even when using tyre levers. The tyres feel glued to the rim and nothing seems to want to shift them. Choosing the right type of tyre lever can be a big factor in how successful you’ll be. All levers are not the same.

The main difference between tyre levers is the material they’re made from. As one example, the Park Tools TL-1.2 pictured below is made completely of nylon. They are strong and light and will do a great job in most situations.  However, they may snap if too much leverage is applied to a tight tyre.

Stronger alternatives are made from metal.  The problem with these is they can scratch your rim.  The Park Tools TL-6.2 pictured below gets around this by combining a steel core wrapped in a composite coating. These can remove even the most stubborn tyres and avoid any major rim damage. Having said that, you still need to take care. Tomorrow, we share a tip about checking your bike headset. 

Checking A Headset

Headsets are essential for safe and efficient control and turning and yet they certainly have a hard life – especially in wet and muddy conditions. 

Checking your headset regularly will help to make sure this vital component keeps delivering.  Play in the headset can be caused by wear and we will share ideas on checking for signs of this another time, but headsets do sometimes just work loose and today’s tip is all about checking for tightness.

To check for play simply place one hand on the crown of the fork and with the other pull on the front brake lever. Now, rock the bike back and forward feeling for any play in the headset with the hand that’s on the fork.  Stay tuned for a video tomorrow on how to adjust the tightness.

Adjusting a Headset

Yesterday we discussed checking your headset for signs of play and today we have a video on how to correctly adjust it. It is important to remember not too over tighten your headset as this can cause damage to the bearings.

Please do note that play can be caused by wear and we will share ideas on checking for signs of this another time.

Checking your Chain

Over time your chain will wear through regular use. This can cause problems with shifting and decrease the life of your drivetrain (the drivetrain incorporates the cassette, chain, derailleur and chainring). So, regularly checking your chain for wear and replacing it when needed is essential.

Checking your chain is easy and we strongly suggest including a chain checker in your tool arsenal. We like to use the Park Tool CC-2, but there are many other models available from different manufacturers. If using the CC-2 as an example, place the pins of the checker in a section of chain. Then push on the black slider until you feel resistance. You can then look down through the slit on the top and find out how worn your chain is. As you can see on the photo the CC-2 tool shows that a new chain will be between 0.25-0.5 wear. A chain that needs to be replaced will be 0.75 wear or higher. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll happily advise.

Different Types of Lubricant

There are two main types of chain lubricant. Wet or dry. They both lubricate your chain. However, they have slightly different properties. 

Wet Lubricant

Wet lube comes out of the bottle as a thick liquid and stays on your chain like that. The main features of wet lube is it sticks to your chain better and lasts longer in wet or muddy conditions. For these reasons, it is a good choice during the winter or in challenging conditions. The downside to wet lubricant is that, because it stays wet, it will attract dirt and grit. It is also harder to clean off your chain. 

Dry Lubricant

Dry lube is a bit different. It comes out of the bottle as a fast flowing liquid. This helps it work its way into the pivot points of your chain. The carrying liquid then evaporates to leave your chain covered in a waxy film. This film lubricates your chain. Dry lube is more prone to getting washed off in wet conditions. It is therefore best suited to drier conditions. Because it is drier in use your chain doesn’t attract dirt in the same way. It is also much easier to clean off your chain.

All Weather Lubricants

There are also all weather lubricants available. As the name suggests, this is a lubricant designed to be used in all conditions. An example of this is Smoove which you can read about here. This might be a good choice if you are going out in very mixed conditions.

Other Considerations

Here we are only considering the key types. Alongside this, look in your local bike shop and you’ll find lubes with ceramic, chain waxes, spray lubes and a whole host of others. But, we’ll leave you to do your own research on these.

Please do check back in tomorrow. We are going to be looking at our preferred method of lubricating your chain.

Our Method Of Lubricating Your Chain

When it comes to lubricating your chain there are many methods. We have all heard of the technique where you squirt some lube on the inside of the chain whilst pedalling. That way is quick and effective. However, we would like to share with you our preferred method. 

The only part of the chain that benefits from being lubricated is the pivots. Therefore, if the lubricant goes elsewhere it is just being wasted. We like to start at the master link and work our way around the chain, applying a drop of lubricant to each link. We do this until we get back to the master link. Whilst we are applying the lubricant we also visually inspect the chain and look for any damaged links. Next, we wait 5 minutes to let the lubricant work it’s way into the pivots. During this time we also spin the pedals a number of times to ensure the lube gets worked into each pivot. Once 5 mins is up we use a clean rag or shop towel to remove any excess lube off the chain. Make sure to check out our useful video below which explains the process in detail. 

We use this method as we can be sure that every link has been lubricated, we are not wasting any of the lubricant and we can make sure that they’re no damaged links.This also minimises excess lube sitting around the chain which will attract dirt and gritty particles.

Remember to only apply lubricant to a clean chain. Applying lube to a mucky chain seals in dirt and grit. This may lead to your chain wearing more quickly and makes it harder to clean. We did a short Facebook post on cleaning your chain here which you may find useful.

Installing Cable End Caps

Cable End Caps are the little caps that go on the end of your gear or brake cables. They play a vital role in keeping the cable ends tidy and stopping them from fraying. You can get these little pieces of alloy in a range of colours and they cost pennies. So, it is well worth having some spares in your parts box. However, it is very easy for them to fall off. So it’s good to know how to replace them yourself. 

Installing and replacing end caps is easy. The only tools you need are pliers and, if needed, something that can cut cables. Firstly, you want to make sure that you can easily access the cable. You shouldn’t put a cap onto a frayed cable. If there’s enough cable simply cut off the frayed section. If not, unfortunately you may need to replace the entire cable. However, sometimes you can twist the frayed cable together and it will fit in the cap. Now that the cables is prepared, our useful video below helps explains the process of fitting the new cap.

Checking Your Brake Pads

Off road riding, especially in the winter, is very tough on disc brake pads and brake blocks.  The wet and gritty conditions can provide the perfect grinding paste to destroy them amazingly quickly.  Please get in the habit of checking regularly to ensure you set off safely for every ride. 

Disc Brakes

To check disc brakes all you need to do is look down on top of the callipers.  You need to be sure the pads still have enough braking material on them and you aren’t getting close to the metal of the back plate. If there isn’t much material left on the pads it is definitely time to get some new ones. We are happy to offer advice on what sort of pads you need if you need some help.

If you can take out your pads then this will make checking them easier. This is because you can measure how much pad you have left. Shimano say that you should replace your pads when the pad material gets less than 0.5 of a millimetre thick. Sram say that if you measure the entire pad including the back, then you should replace them when the whole pad (pad and backing plate) measures less than 3 mm.

V Brakes or Cantilever Brakes

To check brake blocks from V brakes or cantilever brakes all you need to do is have look at the pad. On the brake blocks there will be wear indicators. These are lines or markings on the side of the pad. Once these have disappeared you should replace your pads. For our final tip we are going to be looking at how to recentre your disc brake calipers. So please check back in tomorrow.

Adjusting Brake Calipers

Sometimes you might hear a rubbing noise coming from your brakes. This could be because your callipers need to be recentred.  This might be because one of the pistons in your brakes has extended more than the others or could be the whole caliper has become misaligned.

To recentre the caliper you need to unscrew the bolts holding your callipers until they are slightly loose. Then, pull on the lever of that brake. Whilst you are pulling on the brake lever tighten the bolts back up.  Now, check the wheel runs without rubbing. Providing all runs well, torque them back up to the correct torque. If you need some more information check out our video below. 

It’s important to note that this will only help if the problem is that the callipers are out of alignment. However, you may be hearing the same sort of noises if your pads are worn, your disc is bent or there are issues with wheel alignment.

We have now reached the end of our ten Bike Maintenance Top Tips.  We hope that you found them useful. Double Black Bike Repairs do have some other top tips that you may be interested in like this one on an Emergency Tyre Boot. Of course, if you’d rather we did the maintenance for you, full details of our Double Black Bike Repairs services are here. All work is carried out by Cytech qualified mechanics.