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Preventative maintenance checklist

Sunday, March 27, 2016 10:00 PM | Sheherezade Adams (Administrator)

One of the classes offered by the SRCC education program is called Home Care for the Bike. The objective of the class is that participants learn how to check over their bike so that they can be proactive in maintenance -- notice a problem and address it before it causes a safety problem or a brakedown on a ride. We go through a checklist that participants can use at home and provide a handout that covers the material. There are two versions of the handout, one for rim brakes (mechanical only) and another for disc brakes (hydraulic or mechanical). Those handouts are provided below. Please remember these are designed to go along with in-person instruction, and they assume a certain level of experience and proficiency.


SRCC home care for the bike clinic – handout for bikes with rim brakes

Use this list to remind you of the steps we went through in the clinic. By doing a thorough check over of your bike you increase the chances your next bike ride will be safe and not delayed by mechanical problems. Consider doing this checklist every 250 miles, any time you’ve noticed any new sounds or problems while riding, any time it’s been a while since you’ve ridden the bike, or any time something happened to the bike such as a crash or being knocked over. Before every single ride check your tires have enough air, that brakes are functioning, that your quick release levers are closed, and scan for damage to frame, tires and cables.

  1. Put bike on a bike stand if you have one. If your frame is made out of carbon fiber over tightening the clamp on the bike stand can damage the frame. If you have a metal seatpost you may wish to clamp it there to eliminate the possibility of frame damage.

  2. Open the brakes and take off both wheels. If you do not have a stand you can try to hang the bike by the nose of the saddle, for example on a sturdy tree branch or by a strap hanging from the rafters. Otherwise you can rest the bike on the side without the gears, or turn it upside down protecting the seat with a rag and taking off handlebar accessories.

  3. Clean frame, looking closely for any cracks or other signs of damage on the frame or fork. All cleaning on your bike can be done with a rag wetted with a dilute solution of a mild soap, such as Simple Green. Something which is designed for cutting grease, such as citrus degreaser, is helpful for cleaning the chain and all the parts it touches.

  4. Inspect brake pads- if you can’t see the grooves they need replacing, if the wear is uneven they need to be filed down and adjusted, if they have bits of metal you can pick them out, if they are shiny you can file them.

  5. Clean and look closely at each wheel – check the condition of the tread and sidewall of the tire, too many cuts in the tread or cracks in the sidewall mean tire is at the end of its life. Clean off rim, using fine sand paper if necessary to remove brake pad material. Check condition of rim, if it is very worn in the center (concave) rim may be at the end of its life. Check for cracks near the spokes. Clean gears on back wheel by ‘flossing’ with a rag, make sure they are securely attached to wheel, check for excessive wear.

  6. Clean the two jockey wheels on the rear derailer, check for excessive wear. Occasionally put a drop of lube in the center of each.

  7. Put wheels back on. Put the bike right-side-up on the ground, open and close both quick release skewers to make sure the wheels are in straight. Make sure both brakes are in the closed position. Put bike back on workstand.

  8. Check all bearings to make sure none are too loose (or too tight).

  9. Spin each wheel looking at a brake pad as it goes around. If the wheel appears to move back and forth double check that the wheel is in straight. If that does not fix the problem, the wheel may need to be trued. A minor wobble is okay, but a larger one should be addressed. Squeeze all spokes, checking for broken spokes. All of the spokes on the same side of a wheel should be about the same tension.

  10. This step cannot be done with bike right-side up and tires on ground. While turning the pedals shift through all gears making sure they work smoothly and well. If it is missing a shift, or making a clicky-clicky sound when in certain gears it may need the cable tension or limit screws adjusted. Take a look at the cables and housing that connect the shifter to the derailers, cables that are rusted, frayed or kinked may need replacing. Occasionally drip some lube into all housing.

  11. Spin each wheel and test the brakes. If you have to squeeze the lever too much before it stops the wheel the cable may need adjustment. Your brakes need adjustment if you notice any of these problems: brake shoes rubbing the rim when brakes are not depressed, brakes rubbing tire, only part of brake shoe is hitting the rim, other part hangs below the rim, left and right side do not hit the rim at the same time.

  12. Clean your chain using citrus degreaser and a rag, an old toothbrush can help too. If the chain is too stretched out, has a stiff link or a link that has any other problem you need to replace the chain. One way to check if it is stretched out is with a ruler- 12 links should measure between 12 and 12 1/8”, if they are longer than that it is time for a new chain. Use chain lube to lube your chain. You may wish to wipe off excess lube with a dry rag.

  13. Ensure tires have enough air. Check accessories such as rack, bag, pump, or computer are firmly attached and functioning.


SRCC home care for the bike clinic – handout for bikes with disc brakes

Use this list to remind you of the steps we went through in the clinic. By doing a thorough check over of your bike you increase the chances your next bike ride will be safe and not delayed by mechanical problems. Consider doing this checklist every 250 miles, any time you’ve noticed any new sounds or problems while riding, any time it’s been a while since you’ve ridden the bike, or any time something happened to the bike such as a crash or being knocked over. Before every single ride check your tires have enough air, that brakes are functioning, that your quick release levers are closed and tight, and scan for damage to frame, tires and cables. If you have hydraulic brakes check all hoses and fittings for leaks.

  1. Put bike on a bike stand if you have one. If your frame is made out of carbon fiber over tightening the clamp on the bike stand can damage the frame. If you have a metal seatpost you may wish to clamp it there to eliminate the possibility of frame damage.

  2. Take off both wheels. Do not squeeze brake lever with the wheel out if you have hydraulic brakes, if you think you might do this by accident, stick a piece of cardboard where the rotor (that’s the round metal thing a little smaller than a plate on one side of your wheel) normally goes; If you do not have a stand you can try to hang the bike by the nose of the saddle, for example on a sturdy tree branch or from a strap hanging from the rafters. Otherwise you can rest the bike on the side without the gears, or turn it upside down protecting the seat with a rag and taking off handlebar accessories. If you have hydraulic brakes they will feel squishy afterwards for a little while if you turn the bike upside down or on its side and if there is an existing problem with the brakes turning it upside down or putting it on its side may make it worse.

  3. If you have hydraulic brakes, inspect all hoses and fittings for leaks, if you find one do not ride bike until this has been repaired. Consider having the entire system bled once a year. If pulling the brake lever does not feel firm or if it becomes more firm with repeated pumping of the brake lever, you may have air in the system, have them bled before using.

  4. Clean frame, looking closely for any cracks or other signs of damage on the frame or fork. All cleaning on your bike can be done with a rag wetted with a dilute solution of a mild soap, such as Simple Green. Something which is designed for cutting grease, such as a citrus degreaser, is helpful for cleaning the chain and all the parts it touches.

  5. Brake pads should be checked periodically for wear, typically once the remaining pad is the thickness of a dime it is time to replace pads though manufacturers differ on this; do not touch or spill fluids on brake pads; check that bolts that hold caliper onto frame/fork are tight.

  6. Clean and look closely at each wheel. Avoid touching or getting oil on rotor. If rotor is dirty it needs to be cleaned with isopropyl alcohol, if it is bent it needs to be straightened or replaced, if it is cracked or damaged it needs to be replaced. Rotors which are concave or thinner than 1.5 mm are worn out and need to be replaced. Check that bolts that hold rotor onto wheel are tight. Check the condition of the tread and sidewall of the tire, too many cuts in the tread or cracks in the sidewall mean tire is at the end of its life. Check for cracks in rim near the spokes. Clean gears on back wheel by ‘flossing’ with a rag, make sure they are securely attached to wheel, check for excessive wear.

  7. Clean the two jockey wheels on the rear derailer, check for excessive wear. Occasionally put a drop of lube in the center of each.

  8. Put wheels back on. Put the bike right-side-up on the ground, open and close both quick release skewers to make sure the wheels are in straight. Disc brakes put more stress on hubs than rim brakes, skewers need to be tight and checked regularly. Make sure both brakes are in the closed position. Put bike back on workstand.

  9. Check all bearings to make sure none are too loose (or too tight).

  10. Spin each wheel looking at rotor as it goes around. If the rotor appears to move back and forth double check that the wheel is in straight. If that does not fix the problem, the rotor may be bent. Squeeze all spokes, checking for broken spokes. All of the spokes on the same side of a wheel should be about the same tension.

  11. Spin each wheel and test the brakes. Pads should not rub rotor. If you have noticed squishiness or reduced braking power or brake lever can be squeezed all the way without activating the brakes pad spacing may need to be adjusted, cable may need adjustment or hydraulic system may need to be bled.

  12. This step cannot be done with bike right-side up and tires on ground, though you could do it by riding the bike in a safe place like an empty parking lot. While turning the pedals shift through all gears making sure they work smoothly and well. If it is missing a shift, or making a clicky-clicky sound when in certain gears it may need the cable tension or limit screws adjusted. Take a look at the cables and housing that connect the shifter to the derailers, cables that are rusted, frayed or kinked may need replacing. Occasionally drip some lube into all housing.

  13. Clean your chain using citrus degreaser and a rag, an old toothbrush can help too. If the chain is too stretched out, has a stiff link or a link that has any other problem you need to replace the chain. One way to check if it is stretched out is with a ruler- 12 links should measure between 12 and 12 1/8”, if they are longer than that it is time for a new chain. Use chain lube to lube your chain. You may wish to wipe off excess lube with a dry rag.

  14. Ensure tires have enough air. Check accessories such as rack, bag, pump, or computer are firmly attached and functioning.





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