2. Gather a tool kit.
Once you know more about your bike’s features, you can collect the appropriate tools for basic fixes. Joe Riemensnider, owner of Spotted Dog Cycles in Missoula, Montana, recommends all bike enthusiasts have number 4mm, 5mm, and 6mm Allen wrenches for bolts; a Phillips screwdriver for shifting; needle-nose pliers; and a pump with an accurate pressure gauge. “Even as professional mechanics, those are the main tools we use,” he says.
Other handy items include a tire patch kit, tire lever, lubricant, degreaser, portable multitool, and clean rags. Some nonessential tools that might make maintenance easier for ambitious riders, Riemensnider adds, include a crescent wrench to tighten a loose seat; a 13mm, 15mm, or 17mm box wrench for adjusting wheels; and a bike stand. If you don’t have a stand, you can easily prop your bike upside down on its handlebars and seat, placing it on a tarp or a towel.
Smart Tip: Keep a seat pack strapped to your bike, stocked with on-the-road emergency supplies such as an Allen wrench set, a spare tube, a small pump or CO2 cartridge, and a patch kit.
3. Keep your bike clean.
To keep your bike cruising, it’s important to clean off dust, debris, grease, and any other buildup. “The dirt can get past the seals and accelerate the wear of pieces,” says Kelly Ernest, a mountain biker and hobbyist mechanic in Ely, Nevada. He adds that a clean bike is also easier to inspect for cracks, damage, and other wear.
For a quick clean, Ernest mixes a dab of laundry detergent with warm water in a washtub to create suds, and then uses a washcloth to wipe down his bike’s frame and components. When it’s extra dirty after a ride, or if there’s time for a more thorough wash, he’ll use the hose on a lower pressure. “I turn the host on a quarter or half the way and let the water fall onto the bike,” he says. “If the water pressure is too high, bearings and seals can be damaged, so make sure not to spray the bike too hard.”
To clean your chain, use a bike-specific degreaser to get rid of any accumulated gunk. Avoid kerosene or turpentine, which are too aggressive and can be harmful to your skin and the environment. Some solvents are more eco-friendly, but with every product, always dispose of the excess properly and as advised.