Basic bike maintenance is super easy and inexpensive. You don’t need a lot of skill, time, or fancy tools to keep your bike in great condition for years to come. Bicycles are, after all, made to last. Of course, the cheapest bikes from big box stores are going to rust, seize up, and fall apart no matter what you do. However, most bikes other than the very cheapest will give you a decade or more of faithful service if you take just a little time and care to maintain your ride.
Doing a little of your own bike maintenance at home will save you quite a lot of time, money, and hassle in the long run. Now, for many cyclists, wrenching on their own rides is a therapeutic diversion of love and passion for their machine, but the casual rider may feel like maintenance is a chore. Don’t sweat it. Just a few minutes a month will do the trick, but remember that without this maintenance, your bicycle will inevitably deteriorate to the point that it will either become unrideable or will require expensive professional help. Save yourself time, money and frustration by periodically giving your bike a little attention.
Bikes like this sixthreezero Evryjourney Mens 26" 3-Speed are built to last. So unless you are riding a ton of miles, there are usually just a few areas that need ongoing attention to get maximum life and performance out of your bike. You will want to check up on the tires, wheels, chain, and gears. There are a few other little things, but that’s really just about it.
Before we elaborate on your new bicycle maintenance routine, there is one thing that you must do to keep your bicycle functioning adequately. For your own sake, store the bike out of the weather. Although most bikes are just fine getting wet, they cannot stay wet for extended periods of time. Keep your bike in the garage, a shed, or indoors somewhere. If this is not possible, cover it with a tarp. After riding in the rain or after hosing it down, bounce the bike a few times to shake off excess water before storing in a dry place. It’s not a bad idea to wipe it down with an old towel either, but this is not necessary.
Once a month, run through the following routine. It should take less than twenty minutes:
First, pump your tires up to the proper pressure. The recommended pressure is written on the side of the tire. Most general use bicycle tires are somewhere between 40 and 65 psi. All bicycle tires lose air over time, and tires will deteriorate if allowed to languish uninflated.
Then give your wheels a spin. Check for true (see if they wobble). If they need some adjusting, slight deviations can be corrected with a spoke wrench. More serious deflections, usually caused by an accident or rough riding, should be fixed or replaced at a shop. Getting a wheel trued at a shop can often be done on the spot for around twenty dollars. Also, grab the wheel and see if the hub bearings are loose by trying to rock the wheel from side to side.
Next (optional), you can hose down your bike if desired. Give the chain a good spray to knock debris out of the links. Be very careful to never aim a jet of water at bearing areas such as the hubs, the bottom bracket (where the pedal arms/cranks attach to the frame), or headset. Bounce the bike dry, towel it off if desired, and wipe the chain with a disposable rag.
Fourth, oil the chain. Use a lubricant specifically designed for bicycles. Do not ever use WD-40 for this application. It’s a great product, just not for oiling your chain. Ideally, you want to put a drop on the rollers and plates where each link connects. Try not to get oil on the outside of the chain plates. Finish by wiping excess oil off of the whole chain. Excess oil attracts grit, accelerating chain wear.
Gears may need to be adjusted. This is a topic for another article, but you can do it yourself. There are many great videos on YouTube. If you have a 7-speed, for example, go to YouTube and type “how to adjust gears on a 7-speed bicycle” into the search bar. Most videos can walk you through it in about 5 minutes. Important: please keep in mind that adjusting gears requires a very specific sequence of steps. It is not difficult, but if you skip any steps or do them in the wrong order, you’ll be in for some serious frustration. For a maintenance-free gearing option, you can look into getting a 3-speed like the sixthreezero EVRYjourney Women's 24" Three-Speed Step-Through touring bike.
Lastly, if your bike has hand brakes, give them a squeeze. If they’re loose, then tighten the cable at the pinch bolt. You can also adjust the pads, but this is a job that requires some hands-on experience. Again, YouTube is a phenomenal resource for learning how to do this.
Yes, your bike shop has approximately 300 specialized tools that cost into the thousands of dollars. If you do your part, though, you can do everything that will ever need to be done to your bike with a handful of mostly basic tools. Here is a good list that will cover pretty much all home bike maintenance and repairs:
Phillips Head Screwdriver
Flat Head Screwdriver
Allen Keys (also called Allen Wrenches) in 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, and 6mm
Open End Box Wrenches in 9mm, 10mm, 14mm, and 15mm
Bicycle Chain Lube (get this at a bike shop-- don’t substitute. Avoid WD-40)
Optional: Spoke Wrench (14 gage is most common)
Chrome is a thin coating of copper, nickel, and chromium (an element on the periodic table) that is commonly used because it looks awesome. In all likelihood, your chrome is going to fall apart after a while, especially if you live near the beach, but you can keep it going for as long as possible with the following procedure. First, rub chrome parts with aluminum foil to transfer ions that cause corrosion. Second, coat the parts with car wax to form a protective barrier against the elements. Repeat once a month.