How to care for a bike

bike that is well cared for

Your whole bike should undergo a thorough seasonal cleaning. The parts that require the most attention are tires and chains. Inspect your bike frequently. Frequency depends on weather, how often you ride, and whether you are riding on or off road.

In addition to cleaning and maintenance, your riding style will affect the condition of your bike. Avoid hitting potholes and obstacles in the road. If you’re an off roader, learn to cushion the worst of the jolts.

When inspecting your bike, be sure to check for the following:

  • Chains should be clean, not too tight or loose
  • Tires should be properly inflated, look for weak spots
  • Wheels should not rock back and forth
  • Bolts should be tight
  • Pedals should not wobble or squeak
  • Handlebar should turn freely without being too loose
  • Shifter should be easy to use
  • Shifting gears should not be too noisy
  • Derailleurs should be clean and adjusted properly
  • Body should be clean and free of gouges

Tools of the trade

For simple repairs and maintenance, you will need the right tools. Working on bikes is fairly simple—and addictive. At a minimum, keep a tire pump and air gauge on hand. You will also need a wrench. You can use a set, or find one that is adjustable to fit all the bolts that will need tightening. A repair kit for tire tubes is also essential. Keep bike lubricant on hand.

For the chain, be sure to purchase oil that is specially formulated for bike chains. You want something that lubricates without attracting dust and grime. Include also a degreaser for the bike. And you’ll need something to protect your clothing and clean your hands.

On the road

For on-the-road emergencies you can find miniaturized versions of the tools you keep at home. Equip a small bag you can carry with you. Keep it with your bike so you don’t forget to take it along.

Include a rag, adjustable wrench, and a portable air pump. Emergency tire repair can be done with an adhesive patch kit. A pair of gloves or hand cleaner will be appreciated when you are ready to resume your ride.


Basic tools

If you want to go beyond the emergency level, here are some tools you should have:

  • Hex wrench set
  • Regular and needle-nosed pliers
  • Flat head and Phillips screwdrivers
  • Tire lever
  • Spoke wrenches
  • Cable cutter
  • Repair stand
  • Chain tool

More mobility

Having a bike gives you a good deal of mobility. If you’re lucky, you can ride your bike in your own neighborhood. But if you want to enjoy trails in other locales, you’ll need a way to get the bike there. You’ll need some special equipment to expand your mobility options.

Bike racks can be attached to your vehicle. Choose either the rear style or the kind that goes on the roof. If you expect to leave your vehicle unattended for any length of time, consider security risks. You may want to remove one of the wheels to discourage theft.


Even the most secure neighborhood can be subject to opportunistic bike thieves. Depending on the level of security you find necessary, you’ll find a number of products to meet that need. It may be adequate to run a long-necked padlock or a locking chain through the tires. This will discourage the casual thief. To deter more determined felons, fasten the bike to a bike rack or metal post.


Keep your bicycle inside if at all possible. Exposure to any kind of weather can damage the components. Whether it’s a dry or rainy climate, snow, or salt air—all work against keeping your bike in good condition.

If space is at a premium, you may install bike hooks. One hook will suspend the bike vertically. If you use two, it will hang horizontally. If you cannot attach hooks in the walls, use a bike stand.

Now, go ride

Learning how to care for a bike will increase its reliability. Your rides will be more enjoyable if you’re not worrying about mishaps. Take care of your bike and it will take care of you. And when you are ready to upgrade to the next model, it will bring a better price or trade-in.