It’s all fun and games until someone gets a flat.
Nothing takes the joy out of a ride faster than an unexpected mechanical malfunction. But many common problems are easier to fix than you might think. Knowing the basics of bike maintenance lets you pedal with confidence, no matter what surprises the road may have in store.
Just in time for warm weather rides, NBC New York met with Recycle-A-Bicycle shop manager David Heslop for a quick 101 on the essentials of bike upkeep and repair.
Before You Go, Know Your ABCs
A pre-ride rule of thumb is to do three basic checks: air pressure, brakes and brake pads, and your chain system. You’ll probably have to add air to your tires about once a week, so it’s worth investing in a pump with a built-in gauge. Next, give your brakes a good squeeze; if you’ve got about an inch of tension, you’re set. Make sure your brake pads are in alignment and free of wear lines, then check that your chain is clean and spins smoothly while shifting gears.
Give your seat, handlebars, wheels, and quick releases a once-over to make sure they’re secure and steady. With these simple checks, you can trust your bike is ready for the road.
One Quick Fix: How to Patch a Flat
Even the most cautious cyclist will have to contend with the occasional accident. But with a few tools and a little know-how, you can get back on the bike in no time. In the video below, David breaks down how to handle one of the most common ride problems: the dreaded flat tire.
What you’ll need: a tire lever, a patch kit, and a hand pump.
A patch will give you an effective temporary fix if you’re unable to swap out a damaged inner tube. First, inflate the tire and listen for escaping air to locate the affected area. Using your tire lever, remove at least one side of the tire and pull out the damaged section of the tube. Your patch kit includes sandpaper or similarly rough material that creates a better bind–use this to prepare the surface around the hole, then apply the provided rubber cement or binding agent evenly and give it a few minutes to dry. Remove the backing from your patch and firmly apply over the damaged area. Put the tube and tire back in place along the rim (starting by the valve will help keep everything in alignment). Inflate your tire and you’re good to go!
Add even more repair knowledge to your toolkit by viewing the full Bike Maintenance 101 playlist at NBC New York.
Learn something from these videos? Our Bike Maintenance for Beginners class gives you hands-on repair training led by a Recycle-A-Bicycle mechanic like David. Find out more and register here.