If you’re more into riding your bike than working on your bike, it’s easy to get intimidated by bike repairs.
That’s what bike shops are for. And they make a lot of money off of people like you and me. That’s why it pays to keep an eye on your bicycle for minor repairs and tweaks you can make to keep things running smoothly. And, you might even save yourself a few bucks.
Typically on your own you want to be able to: fix a flat, adjust your brakes, adjust your seat, oil your chain, tighten spokes, install accessories like water bottle cages, and adjust your derailleur. And all of these tasks can be accomplished with a few simple tools like a bike multi-tool, a set of allen wrenches, and a Leatherman. You can also save some money by being able to replace your own bar tape.
Now that Spring is here, it’s time to pull your bike out of dry storage and give it a once over. Clean off any dust or cobwebs which can cause your chain and gearing to get junked up. Use a little bit of soapy water and rags, maybe a powerful hose to blast and rinse the whole bike, and dry it with a clean towel. Cleaning up the bike will reveal any potential problems.
DIY or Above Your Expertise?
If your tires are dry rotted, if your handlebar tape is frayed, if the bike doesn’t want to shift, you remember your broken pedal from last season, maybe the seat got torn when you crashed—now is the time to evaluate whether this is a DIY project or if it’s time to go to the shop.
Refer to the list of easy repair items above and do a run through on your steed. Air up the tires and go for a ride around the block and see how she’s riding and how the gears are shifting. How gunked up is the chain? Do you have a good solid gripping surface on your handlebars? All of these things you can take care of in your backyard or apartment even without a bike stand. Other easy fixes with your basic tools include adjusting the tension on your clipless pedals and adjusting your seat height, both requiring just a few allen wrenches.
Adjust Your Own Derailleur
Once you’ve cleaned up your drivetrain with a rag and re-greased your chain, evaluate your shifting. There are little Phillips-head screws on the back of your derailleur that control your shifting tolerances, and those can be minutely adjusted to get your gearing into alignment. You don’t have to be a bike mechanic to improve your shifting.
Take control of your bike, and of the freedom and fun it provides you, while at the same time saving a few bucks and a trip to the shop. But if all else fails, and you’re worried about the safety of your ride, then definitely head down with a six pack to your local mechanic and enlist their help and expertise.