Home Bike Maintenance 101

Some easy ways to show your favourite ride a little TLC.

Photo illustration by Kristy Davison.

By guest writer, Ruben Salzgeber

I awake to the birds chirping outside the window; it’s the best time of year, it’s riding season. The sun meanders above the Bow Valley and the snow line has retreated steadily up the slopes of the Rockies until only a modest cap is left. It’s summer, the long days and dry terrain spur the infectious desire to keep the wheels rolling. I prepared all winter selecting a bike, parts, and gear, and on the first riding day of the season I was out there. Naturally, not everyone is as obsessed as I—some  ride only for transportation, some just for exercise, but some of us ride because there is nothing in the world we would rather do. Regardless of the type of rider you are, there a few steps that everyone should take to ensure that their bicycle is safe and ready for the season.

Lube it up

Keeping the drivetrain well lubricated is essential to the long-term functionality of any bike. Avid riders should lube their chains before every other ride. Application frequency does depend on the type of lubricant used. Heavier oil based lubricants may only be necessary once a week while wax or Teflon based lube should be applied before every ride. Use only bicycle specific drivetrain lubricants. This effectively enhances the longevity of the drivetrain by preventing the build up of wear-inducing grit.

Check Tire Pressure

Checking tire pressure is one of the most important home maintenance tasks. It is the best defense against pinch flats, which are the most common type of flat and are usually a result of insufficient pressure. Rubber is porous and can easily lose air within a few hours especially when holding higher pressures. Tires often have a recommended psi range printed on the sidewall. Never exceed the maximum pressure. Lower pressures generally increase traction while high pressures decrease rolling resistance. Ideal tire pressure is specific to wheel size, tire size, and rider weight.

Check your bike for “play” 

One major threat to the safety and durability of a bicycle is looseness in its critical parts and junctions, referred to as play. At the bike shop, play is described as unwanted movement in a rotating component that is opposite to the axis of rotation.  In laymen’s terms, it’s that clunk you feel when you’re pretty sure there should be nothing. Bikes should be checked routinely for play in the headset, hubs, bottom bracket, and suspension pivots (on full suspension bikes). Visit Rebound Cycle’s Facebook page to watch video clips on how to perform the following tests.


Place one hand on the top of the headtube the headset bearings are located there.

Apply the front brake and turn the wheel 90 degrees.

Push forward against the turned wheel and feel for clunking movement in the headset.

Quick Fix

Loosen the stem bolts that clamp the steer tube. (4/5/6 millimetre Allen key required.)

Tighten the top cap bolt with a 5 millimetre Allen key until it is snug. Be careful not to over tighten it.

Re-tighten the stem bolts.


Grab the wheel at the top directly above the hub.

Attempt to rock the wheel from side to side.

Quick Fix

Check the quick release skewers.

Ensure that they are tight. Closing the cam should be a firm muscular effort.

Ensure that the cam is completely in the closed position and not closed onto the frame or fork.


Firmly grip the cranks.

Attempt to rock the cranks from left to right side of the bike.

Quick Fix

Using an 8 millimetre Allen key attempt to tighten the crank bolt.

If the crank bolt is tight or tightening does not eliminate play bring the bike to a qualified technician that has the appropriate tools.


Place one hand under the back of the saddle.

Pull up, lifting the rear wheel off the ground.

Feel for clunking or any looseness as the rear wheel leaves the ground.

Quick Fix

Due to the variety of pivot hardware, torque specifications, and specialized tools bring a bike with play in the pivots or bushings to a qualified technician.

Most of these maintenance tips apply to all bicycles, but there is an additional step to take for your mountain bike as well as one more for your road bike. On suspension bikes of today, the stanchions (sliding surface on forks and shocks) slide past seals where the internals of the suspension component are housed. Cleaning this interface after every ride is a major factor in promoting longevity in these components. Neglect can lead to gouged stanchions, damaged seals, leaking, and other forms of premature wear. For your road bike, check the cleats on your shoes, look for wear and damage to the cleat. Heavily worn cleats should be replaced immediately as abnormalities may cause you to get stuck in your pedals. 

Checking your gear in this fashion on a regular basis will ensure lots of great, safe rides. You will become bike aware and be able to notice minor issues and take care of them before they escalate into major problems. Have a safe and exciting biking season.

Save yourself, save the planet, ride bikes!

Highline Magazine

Highline Magazine

Highline is a window into the unique culture that thrives in the Canadian Rockies. Our stories, images, and local events embody the playful, authentic, community-minded, and earth-friendly spirit of the people who make the Rockies home.

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