If you are thinking about getting into triathlon or cycling, or simply upping your game in them, understanding the finer points of the actual bicycle can be important, and that means having the ability to do some basic tuning at home.
Cycling can be a “gear junkie” sport, and one that involves quite a bit of gear, equipment, and some basic mechanical skills.
If you are getting more into cycling – either as another active pastime, or to get going in triathlon – here are a few things to have ready to go in your “home bike shop” to keep your bike rolling.
Many newer cyclists don’t realize that your bike tires should be checked and pumped before every single ride. Changes in temps or wear from the prior ride can cause your tire to deflate. For high-pressure road bike tires, this is especially true.
Be sure to have a good bike tire pump in your garage. We like a floor tire pump because it provides strong air pressure, and you usually can get the exact level of PSI (pounds per square inch) that you need.
Speaking of PSI, always pump to the pressure as specified on your tire. Every bike tire has the recommended range imprinted in the side of the rubber.
Bikes can be delicate, especially the parts that are made of carbon fiber. A torque wrench is important in such situations.
Here is a common scenario: Someone feels that they need to tighten their handlebars. Great. But then they take our a wrench and start cranking, and suddenly hear a “crack”. They might have just damaged their frame or a major component on their bike.
This problem is solved by having a torque wrench, which can only apply as much pressure as you set it to provide, so you don’t “over-tighten”. Manufacturers publish the torque specifications for their parts, and you simply tighten to that level!
Bikes need lots of lube, especially the chain. In fact, along with checking and inflating your tires, lubing your chain is something that you should do nearly every time you ride (sometimes you can get by with a couple rides in between).
Proper chain lubrication will extend the life of your drivetrain, prevent rust and corrosion, create fewer on-the-road issues, and make for a quieter bike. While you are at it, lube any other parts that move against each other, like your derailleur or your brake cables, especially if you often get your bike wet, dirty, or ride in precipitation.
There are many varieties of bike lube to choose from, so do your research and stock up on the right type.
Universal Bike Wrench
It is good to have a universal bike tool in your garage, but also on your bike with you. These tools, which are usually heavy on Allen wrenches, operate a bit like a swiss army knife and work on everything from your bike cleats to your bike components…. But be sure to use a torque wrench when doing major adjustments.
Tire Changing Basics
You will want to be able to change your tires at home, not just on the road. Have the tools for changing your bike tires, along with extra tubes (if you use clincher-style tires) or sealant (if you use tubeless).
We like having plenty of bike tire changing tools – especially levers – on hand. You never know which type will work best on a particular tire. Here’s a video of Coach Lora Erickson aka Blonde Runner demonstrating a tire change.
A Bike Stand
It is much more comfortable to work on a bike at counter-level than to have to crouch down and work on it near the ground. A bike stand allows the bike to be suspended in front of you, allowing you to work on it at a comfortable height. It might not seem like much, but it is a gamechanger in terms of helping you spend lots of time making adjustments on your bike.
With a stand, I can work on my bike for an hour. Without one, after 5 minutes, I need a break.
Just be sure to get a stand that is quality, or else it will be flimsy and you won’t want to use it.
When to call-in the pros?
Most cyclists have a line where the repair or maintenance needs to be handed-off to a local bike shop. That line is different for every cyclist. For some, anything but the most basic tire inflation or chain lube will need to be done at the bike shop. For others, they will develop the ability to nearly rebuild their entire bike at home, when needed.
For most people, they should try to learn how to do the basic maintenance at home. This means lubrication, tire changing and inflation, adjusting your shifting and brakes, changing pedals, and the occasional tightening of screws and bolts.
When it comes to moving parts and safety issues – things that could create a catastrophic accident if not done right – you may want to enlist the help of a pro.
There are also a few things that are notoriously difficult to do well. Truing your spokes is one – it is best done with special machines.
With a little Youtube education (there are many reliable resources these days) and some basic tools, you can actually do a bunch of the basic bike maintenance by yourself, at home. It feels good when you learn how to do it, and you will probably keep your bike running better too.
Cycling is great, and there are so many different ways to do it (road, trail, gravel, singletrack, etc.) The more you learn about tuning your bike, the more fun you will have cycling.
Related articles/products: RoadID