Bicycles are human-powered, pedal-driven vehicles which utilize two wheels in tandem. The bicycle as we know it was actually developed and introduced around the same time as the modern automobile, in the late 1800’s. Fundamentally, bicycles (or bikes) are very similar today as they were at their introduction save for the development of modern features and construction materials. Much like in automotive maintenance, bicycle maintenance is all about taking preventative measures that will keep your built-to-last vehicle on the road for years to come.
Bikes are built to last. Today they are constructed of metals or other strong solid materials which can support the weight of a rider and tolerate day-to-day use. A well maintained bicycle can last longer than you will, so keep it in good, working order and you will minimize the risk of breaking parts or harming yourself (or others).
Just like an automobile, a bicycle is a group of systems working together. Thankfully, bikes are much more simple than cars. Though bicycles can feature electrical or even fluid hydraulic systems, they are commonly constructed out of simple machined parts that keep them rugged and affordable. While bikes can vary greatly, they generally feature these common systems:
- The Wheels are where the bike actually touches the ground, often with rubber tires.
- The Frame is what holds the whole apparatus together and is sat upon by the rider.
- The Drive Chain while not present on every bicycle, is a common feature on most. The chain is pedal-driven and turns the rear wheel. This chain can be geared for increased power output.
- Brakes are what you use to stop a bicycle from moving. Types of brakes may vary but they are almost universally present on modern bicycles.
While various types of bicycles with their numerous parts can require specific methods of attention, keeping all four of the aforementioned systems clean, secure and lubricated will ensure long-term and reliable performance from the vehicle.
Keeping your bicycle clean is the single best (and easiest) thing you can do for it. Buildup of grease can lead to a buildup of dirt and other elements which can eventually corrode any surface and result in the oxidation and rusting of metals. Avoid scratches and chips in your bicycle’s paint – this paint is as functional as it is aesthetic and is possibly required to keep your vehicle from rusting, depending on the material it is constructed from. Cleanliness applies to chains and gears as well; sediment and dirt can wear down even the toughest metals over time and break down parts that you will otherwise have to replace.
Dirt along with water will wreak havoc on metal things in general, and since bicycles are often make of metal, try to keep them out of the elements and indoors if possible. If not, just make sure you dry any metal surfaces or parts after they get wet so that corrosion (among other things) can be avoided.
Bicycles are held together by dozens of bolts, pins and screws. A good rule of thumb is to keep anything threaded tight, and to lubricate anything that is not threaded. This will automatically ensure that your moving parts will keep moving and that your structural parts won’t fall apart while in use.
Make sure the tread on your tires is still deep and not dried out. Rubber will break down over time, much quicker than the other components on your bike. Familiarize yourself with the tire required for your bicycle and the purpose you intend to use it for. Different tires can have different treads which perform in various ways. Tires can be constructed in different ways and from different materials, but generally require pressurized air; the degree of which can also vary from tire to tire and frame to frame.
The bike’s chain is a metal-on-metal mechanism which is driven by force, and it will endure friction, stress and heat. This is why the drive chain is the second most likely to break down system on a bicycle (after the tires on the wheels). Often paired with a complicating gear mechanism, the number of problems you can face with a chain will compound with more parts. However with attention to keeping your chain and gear mechanisms free from dust and other unwanted particles, the mechanisms throughout the chain drive system will function as they were constructed for. Again, lubrication and greasing are quintessential to countering the adverse effects of friction and material stress.
Finally, brakes can be a necessary complexity in any bicycle design. Often powered by a cable mechanism, brakes exert force on one or both wheels in order to slow and stop them. Think of a wire shifting back and forth in its casing; there will be some friction but there is space for the wire to move. However if anything else is introduced into a cable apparatus it will get in the way and grind down surfaces. Cables can break down after prolonged use and stress, but so long as they are kept free from foreign particulates such as dirt, they will last a very long time requiring nothing more than the odd tightening and adjusting.
There are many commercial multi-tools for making adjustments and tightening parts of your bike, we have some available here. Otherwise make sure to keep a tire pump around to ensure you maintain an optimal air pressure in your tires.
While bicycles are relatively simple in construction, they require a knowledge of welding and machined parts. Since bicycles are the most common vehicle on the planet, you will generally have an easier time finding one to fix up (which is basically just cleaning it in most cases) or purchasing one from anywhere, including right here. We sell a variety of bicycles for various applications.