The Essentials Bike Tools You’ll Need
Here are the key tools you’ll need to perform a simple bike maintenance schedule:
Allen/Hex Key Set
Multi-Tool with a chain tool.
Brush Kit & Bucket for Washing Your Bike
Screwdrivers (Flat Head & Phillips Head)
How Often Do I need To Lube My Chain? Etc.
Every ride to once a week - ABCs
AIR - Check tire pressure & pump.
Check your tire wall for the correct PSI, and keep conditions in mind—generally if it’s raining, a slightly decreased tire pressure will give you a better grip on the road. The trick in finding the ideal road bike tire pressure is in adjusting to your particular ride. The bumpier the ride, the lower your air pressure should be. If you’re planning to hit rough terrain, a lower psi will give you better handling and improved control. A commonly overlooked factor in setting the proper tire pressure is an individual's weight and the overall weight distribution on each tire. Also, the rear tire should be inflated a few psi more due to the fact that it takes 55% of your weight and the front tire only takes 45% of your weight. Tires with low pressure pick up more road debris. Low pressure also increases the risk of pinch flats, which occur when the tube is squeezed between the road and the rim to the point where it punctures.
BRAKES - Test function
Simple. Make sure you can safely stop before you start.
CHAIN - Clean and lube
Type-A riders may do this before every ride; realistic or procrastinating riders can get away with once a week or every other week. Wipe your chain down after every ride to get rid of dirt and debris, then re-lube. Any lube is better than no lube, so don’t worry about the price or brand so much as making this a part of your weekly bicycle maintenance.
Ensure quick-releases are tight.
Sometimes after transporting your bike at the end of a ride, it’s easy to forget to tighten the quick releases, so double check that they’re tight before you go anywhere.
Wipe down your frame and wheels.
This doesn’t have to be a full-blown cleaning, but a light hand wash will help prevent any sugary sports drink or sweat from getting into your housing. This is a great opportunity to inspect your frame, and tires for any damage.
Deep clean your drivetrain.
Go a little deeper with the chain and cassette cleaning once a month (or every other month). Soak a rag with degreaser and run your chain backwards to remove dirt. Then re-lube. The grunge brush is a great tool for the job if you want to get a little more detailed on cleaning your drivetrain.
Check for loose spokes.
Touch every wheel spoke to ensure nothing feels loose.
Spin to test true.
Has your wheel stayed in line properly? Check to make sure.
Test bolt tightness.
Check stem bolts, crankset bolts, headset, and bottle cages. Be sure to check the specific Newton Meters listed on the parts. A torque wrench is a great tool to have for this job.
Every 6 months
Check brake and brake pads.
You should test your brakes before every ride, but take a hard look at the brake pads a couple times a year to see if they are due for a replacement. Brake pads have wear indicators that are helpful in deciding when to replace them.
Swap out your tires.
Depending on how many miles you’re putting in or the kinds of road you’re riding on, this could come earlier or later. Keep an eye out for little cuts, bigger holes, and flat spots which make your tires more flat-susceptible. If they reach the point of threading through the sidewall, it’s beyond time for a refresh.
Examine your chain.
Use a chain checker tool to see how much your chain has stretched over time. Generally you should replace it once it reaches the .5 marker. Replacing your chain sooner, rather than later will prolong the life of your cassette.
Redo handlebar tape.
Replace your grips and tape if they become worn or overly discolored. Make sure that your handlebars have plugs in the ends.
Replace your cassette.
Take a look at the teeth, on your cassette. If they start to look like sharks teeth, it is time to change out your cassette.
Look at the bottom of your shoe.
Is the rubber on your cleats gone? It’s definitely time to replace them.
Invest in new cables.
Even if your shift performance seems fine, it’s a solid bet to replace your cables and housing to make sure your brake and shift quality doesn’t suffer.
CHANGING A TIRE
What you need depends on whether you’re riding tubeless or tubed.
Tires with tubes
mini pump, preferably with a hose
CO2 cartridge(s), a minimum of two is recommended - just in case
inner tube(s), a minimum of two is recommended - just in case
valve extension, especially if you’re riding aero rims tire levers tube patch kit
mini pump, preferably with a hose
CO2 cartridge(s), a minimum of two is recommended - just in case
tubeless tire repair kit
inner tube - just in case
If you end up with a flat, remember - always find a safe place, away from traffic and other possible dangers, before working on your bike.
1. Remove the wheel from the bike
The first step in changing a flat tire might seem obvious, but here it goes: remove the wheel.
2. Remove/plug the tire
Standard tires are designed with an inner tube, which is inflated with air. While relatively inexpensive to replace, making them a popular option, tubes can be punctured or pinched flat relatively easily. Tubeless tires don’t have an inner tube and are instead equipped with an airtight rim that the tire snuggly rests in.
If you’re running a tube, then you’ll need to remove it; if you’re running tubeless, and the sealant doesn’t seal the small hole, you’ll need to patch it with a tire plug.
To remove the tire, you’ll need to use your tire levers. To do so, insert the flat end of the lever under the bead. Place a second lever under the bead and move along the rim until the tire is off. In most situations, you can reinstall the replacement or a patched tube without completely removing the tire. By breaking the bead on just one side, you will save a lot of time and greatly simplify the process.
3. Determine cause of flat
While many would recommend you run your finger along the tire to search for the culprit of your flat, doing so could also result in you having to do some patchwork on your finger. Before doing a hands-on analysis of the problem, visually inspect the tire, both inside and out, first. It might take longer, but you’ll be able to avoid a finger cut. You can also pack cotton pads or use something else (bike glove, sweat towel) to create a barrier between your finger and the sharp object that it might encounter, but there’s still a risk of injury. Tire levers are used for the removal of tires, but you can also run one along the tire for inspection purposes. If both the visual and tactile inspections fail, re-inflate the tire to see if you can hear the air leaking out of the puncture point.
4. Patch the problem (if applicable)
Patch kits are available if you are unable to replace your tube and come with everything you need in order to get the job done. Patch kits also happen to be very compact so they are a perfect backup. For tubeless, after locating and removing the source of puncture, use the course side of the reamer and scour the puncture hole. Then thread a plug through the head of the reamer. Insert the patch into the hole with a few millimeters of plug hanging out. Twist the plug a few times to bunch it up inside the tire, then slower extract the reamer.
5. Install new/patched tube
To install your tube, you’ll start by using your pump to inflate it just enough so that it obtains its form, making it easier for installation and reducing your chances of suffering a pinch-flat. Starting with the valve stem, put the tube on the rim and insert the stem straight through the valve hole. Carefully work the tire back onto the rim by rolling the bead away from yourself using your hands, not a lever; levers increase the likelihood of accidentally puncturing the replacement tube. Upon reaching the valve stem, wrap sides of the tire bead low into the rim and push up on the stem to get the tube into the tire.
To avoid having to deal with another flat, it’s important that you take extra care to ensure that the tire bead isn’t pinching the tube. Do this by grabbing the tire with both hands and "massaging" and twisting it side-to-side as you work around the rim. This will ensure that the tube is positioned correctly inside the tire, away from the bead that can pinch it.
6. Inflate the tire
To do this, you can use either a CO2 cartridge, a frame pump, or both. CO2 cartridges are highly effective, especially when your goal is to inflate to higher pressures. The key to using a CO2 cartridge is to ensure that the inflator is properly connected to the valve stem.
Having a frame pump in your arsenal is highly recommended so that you always have a backup method for tire inflation. As you’re inflating to your desired PSI, double and triple check the bead so that you’re sure it’s sitting in the rim correctly.
7. Install the wheel
To attach the front wheel, first line up the fork dropouts with the axle of the wheel and gently lower the fork onto the axle. Carefully push down on the handlebar to check for the proper placement of the axle in the dropouts. It’s important to be mindful that the quick release or thru-axle lever is on the opposite side of the drivetrain and not touching the frame. Hold the quick release lever in place as you tighten the bolt. Be careful that you don’t over tighten the bolt, as it should be tightened just enough to allow you to use firm pressure when closing the quick lever. If your bike is equipped with rim brakes, don’t forget to reconnect, adjust, and check them for functionality.
If your flat occurred on the rear wheel, then lay the top of the chain around the smallest cog on the cassette and make sure the frame dropouts line up with the axle. As you gently push the wheel back into the frame, take care to also pull the derailleur down and back so that it doesn’t get in the way. If you’re sure that the wheel properly placed, then it’s time to close the quick release (and rim brakes if applicable) or insert the thru-axle into the frame and hub and thread it shut. The final test in determining whether your bike is ready to continue its journey is by lifting the rear wheel and spinning the cranks.
Small, unfixable punctures. Super glue is a great quick fix for smaller punctures that might not be fixable otherwise, albeit temporary.
In the event that your tire or the sidewall of your tire ends up sliced or gashed beyond standard repair, don’t despair; make a boot instead. Using a dollar bill, old gel wrapper, or piece of duct tape to cover the hole from the inside is a quick, easy way to resolve your emergency until you get home.
Now get out there, ride, and practice!
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