When you first got it home from the shop, it was a thing of beauty. Shiny aluminium tubing, anodised seatpost, silver rims and immaculate black tyres. Six months on, however, and the rigours of daily use have taken their toll: the once-lustrous framework is now speckled with mud, the chain is black and smeared with grease and the tyres are deflated and dirty.
Nothing stays beautiful forever, and so it’s unrealistic to expect your bike to retain that ‘never been ridden’ look. If you ride a mountain bike – one that actually sees off-road action – the dirt won’t just be superficial either. It may have penetrated the seal that protects the headset and crank shaft, while water may have permeated the brake or gear cables – causing rust and inhibiting performance. Even if your bike tackles nothing more vertiginous than the occasional kerb, city riding (with exhaust fumes, puddles and urban smog to contend with) can take its toll.
If you are in the habit of taking your bike off-road, it will likely require cleaning after every ride. Hose off the worst of the muck with the aid of a soft brush to remove stubborn areas of dirt. If you’re using a pressure washer, keep it on a low setting and avoid targeting the pedals, hub and bottom bracket directly to prevent grease and bearings from being compromised. Conversely, if your bike’s more accustomed to being ridden on-road, regular cleaning can be done with nothing more than some furniture polish and a cloth.
After cleaning your pride and joy, the next step is to inspect its health. Give the whole bike a quick once-over to check for signs of wear and tear. Check the brake pads for damage – as they get thinner, there’s an increased risk of the pad striking the tyre and damaging the sidewall.
Also check the gear and brake cables from end to end. If any cables are starting to fray or rust – or even if the casing’s cracked – take your bike to a repair shop for servicing. Better to spend a few quid remedying a fault than to have your brakes fail when you’re miles from home.
Next, use a wrench or spanner to check that all major bolts are tightened. This includes the seatpost bolt, wheel quick releases, stem and handlebar bolts as well as those on the brake levers.
Also check the wheels for signs of buckling or asymmetry. Loose spokes should be tightened using a spoke tool, while tyres should be inflated to the correct PSI. Tyres that are too flat will slow you down and increase the risk of rim damage when bouncing off kerbs and other hard surfaces.
Finally, grease the chain and front and rear mechs and spray light oil on all moving parts and around the brake and gear cable housing.
Regular maintenance isn’t just good for your bike’s health – it’s equally good for yours. Accidents can happen to anyone, leaving you liable to personal injury claims and significant time off work. Be good to your bike and your bike will be good to you. It’s that simple.