Guide to diy maintenance

Pumping up tyres, image courtesy of Bike for Good

Things like punctures are a hassle, but a few simple steps can maintain your bike & keep it running.

Fair warning – being unsure of how to fix something or not having the tools doesn’t mean you should ignore a problem. Take your bike to a reputable workshop for some expert maintenance and repair. This also applies if you’ve tried to fix it yourself but the problem persists.

The M-Check

Named after the order in which you carry out the checks on your bike, the M-Check is a handy, regular check you can do that won’t take longer than a few minutes. Watch this video for a demonstatation.

Step 1

  • Is the front wheel secure? Is the quick release lever or wheel nut firmly tightened?
  • Lift the front of your bike and spin the wheel to check that it is straight.
  • Is the tyre inflated to the recommended pressure written on the tyre wall?
  • Check that the tyre tread isn’t worn and inspect for damage and bulges.
  • When squeezed, are the brake levers effective?
  • Are the brake pads worn or the cables frayed?
  • Make sure that the brake pads line up with the metal of the wheel rim.
  • Is there any damage or wear to the rim or tyre?

Step 2

  • Hold the tyre between your knees and try to move the handlebars from side to side to check that everything is correctly tightened.
  • Is the handlebar stem correctly aligned with the front wheel?
  • Are the stem and handlebars fully secured? Check that the handlebar stem isn’t raised above the height limit mark.
  • Hold the front brake on and try to push the bike backwards and forwards. Any knocking or ticking indicates a loose headset which will need tightening.

Step 3

  • Inspect the frame to check for cracks or blistered paint that might indicate damage.
  • Are both pedals and the chain set moving freely and smoothly?
  • Run through the gears. Does each gear click in smoothly without the chain skipping or falling off?

Step 4

  • Is your seat height correct? Make sure the seat post isn’t raised above its height limit mark.
  • Make sure the seat is firmly secured.
  • Do your knees bend comfortably? If not, slide your seat backwards or forwards.

Step 5

  • Now do the same to the back wheel as you did to the front wheel in step 1.

If you spot a problem while doing your M-check you can tighten up bolts, adjust things, lubricate moving parts, even pump up your tyres.

An image of a bike marking out positions where you would do an M-check

M-check, courtesy of Bike for Good

Identify wear

Chains and all other mechanical parts of the bike will wear out (many cyclists will express shock at needing a new chain for their clunking bike!) The best-case scenario if you clean and lubricate your chain every day, is getting up to 3000 miles out of a chain, with the cassette and chain rings also wearing at this point. In colder, wetter climates such as Glasgow, moving parts will wear, and you will notice the overall ride quality of your bikes starting to deteriorate.

When it comes to getting some work done, it does cost more than the occasional chain. It’s easy to identify wear on a bike if you know where to look, which will enable you to prevent bigger issues. By doing some basic mechanical research you will show your bike some love!

International Women’s Day maintenance class, photographer Katie Noble, image courtesy of Bike for Good


Puncture Repair

A flat tyre is a quick and easy fix.

Firstly, remove the wheel from the bike. If your bike is fitted with a quick release, then this can be done by hand. If not, you may need a spanner, and it’s best to start carrying one. 

Both wheels should be easy to remove from the bike, but take note of how the chain interfaces with the cogs attached to the wheel. You may also have to ‘release’ the brake if your bike has rim brakes.

Once the wheel has been removed from the bike, visually inspect the exterior of the tyre for the cause of the puncture: it could be glass or a thorn, or something that has now fallen out. If you find something, remove it and continue looking until you are happy that there is no other debris in the tyre.

The next step is removing the tyre and tube from the wheel. Use tyre levers (not teaspoons) to carefully lever the tyre off the rim. This shouldn’t take too much force and avoid ‘nipping’ the tube between the tyre levers and rim. Work your way around the wheel, so one ‘lip’ of the tyre is off the rim. The tube should now be exposed in the tyre.

Remove the tube from inside the tyre and identify the hole – you can submerge the tube in water and see where the air bubbles come from, or listen for the air coming out of the tube. Top up the air pressure in the tube to make it easier to identify.

Use a bit of sandpaper (this should be in your puncture repair kit) to roughen the area where the hole is on the tube, this will allow the glue and patch to stick better. Apply a thin layer of glue and allow it to get tacky, this should take a couple of minutes.

Identify a patch that suits the hole size, peel of the foil apply the patch to the tube and apply pressure. Wait for a good couple of minutes before reinstalling the tube to the tyre and wheel.

To reinstall the tube, use your pump to put some air in the tube. Most tyres are malleable to be reinstalled without tyre levers, and this reduces the chance of nipping the tube on reinstallation.

Reinstall the wheel to the bike, pump your tyre up and reconnect your brakes (if necessary) and ta-daaaaa, you are done!

Although it is best practice to fix tubes using a puncture repair kit, it is more common to pop a new tube in to get yourself mobile again, and then patch the defected tube later.

Fixing a puncture, image courtesy of Bike for Good