Since I’ve been having a bout of bike problems myself lately, between having a little accident on it not too long ago and now trouble with the engine, I thought I’d post a few tips on basic bike maintenance. A little advice to help you increase the longevity of your ride and keep things as reliable as you reasonably can, based on the issues I’ve been having with my bike lately.
1. Tire pressure. As someone who’s neglected this in the past, I can definitely say this is something you should be keeping an eye on. Not too long ago I wasn’t keeping a regular check on my tire pressures, my front ended up going flat and I somehow managed to almost decapitate the valve. It’s on an old tube tire too, so no puncture repair kits would have helped me even if I’d managed to get the tire off at the roadside. An under-inflated tire can really make handling the bike difficult in turns and affect your braking. Don’t just watch out for your tire pressures being too low, also watch for them being too high! An over-inflated tire can cause wheels to not grip the road as much as they should and you may find your back wheel skipping around on turns or worse- slip from under you completely. Invest in a good quality pressure gauge and have a look in the manual for your bike to find the recommended tire pressures. The front and rear tires usually have different tire pressures so look for them both. Most petrol stations have digital tire inflators now so you can put in the desired PSI and let the machine do it for you. But if you’re doing it yourself at home or you’re not using digital inflator, definitely use a pressure gauge, such as the Oxford Digital Gauge to ensure your pressures are correct and safe.
2. Chain tension. It’s a good idea to check this routinely, I was having a conversation with a colleague and he’d told me a story of how his chain came off while going around a roundabout and it had tucked in between the sprocket and wheel. He’s very lucky his back wheel didn’t lock up and throw him off the bike. Hearing this story made me immediately think to check mine and I’m very glad I did. A loose chain doesn’t only run the risk of coming too loose and slipping off or locking up the wheel, it can also lead to increased wear on the sprockets and even affect rear suspension. Have a look in your owner’s manual, if you have one, or do some thorough research on the net to find out what your correct chain tension should be. Also it’s quite important to have weight on the bike when doing this. You don’t want to tighten your chain up only to sit on it and find the chain is over-tightened while you’re riding. So it’s best to do it little by little, sitting with your full weight on the bike between tries and reaching down to check the tension. Alternatively, if you’re really worried about getting it spot-on and can’t do it by eye or feel, maybe try a Chain Monkey. If you decide to get a new chain, its too long and you need to take links out- try using a chain breaker. While you’re doing your chain maintenance, also clean and lubricate your chain to increase it’s life span and keep it from getting too hot. Heat means expansion and too much expansion on a chain can be bad. So be thorough in your cleaning and liberal in the application of your choice of chain grease or chain wax but careful not to get any where it shouldn’t be, like in your brakes.
3. Engine Oil and Filter. It is so very important to regularly check the oil levels in your engine. An engine that’s running on no oil or not enough just ends up hurting its self, resulting in anything from power loss, to seizing up the engine to killing it completely. But checking your oil is really simple! There’s usually a small view-port on the side of the engine casing or a dip-stick that is part of the cap you take off to put the oil in. If the oil is between the indicated levels on either of those- your oil level is just fine. If it’s over, you’ve got too much [Draw some out bit by bit using a syringe with a small hose that fits on the end] . And if it’s under or non existent, you’ve got too little. Consult your owners manual or a thorough search of the net on what kind of oil to use. If you think it’s time for a complete oil change, if you can, start up the bike and let it warm up for about five minutes, it makes things much easier. After the bike has warmed up turn it off and locate the sump plug, it’s a big fat bolt right under the engine. Make sure you’ve got something under the bike to catch the oil in like a deep tray and loosen up the plug until a steady stream of oil flows. Once it’s all out, remove the filter and give it a check. Also have a look at your old oil in whatever you used to catch it and look out for a silvery dust floating on the surface, shards of metal or anything else that may indicate damage inside the engine. Once you’re happy all the old oil is out, put the filter back in and bolt everything back up. If you can or have torque tools, tighten everything back up to the recommended torque to ensure you’re not going to strip any threads in the engine. Once done, fill the engine up with fresh oil to the indicated, ideal level and start the bike, checking for leaks while it warms up again. Then turn the bike off, let it cool and settle for another five minutes and check the oil level again to be sure.
So there’s three things you can check on your bike. There’s obviously a lot more you can do but those three issues have popped up recently for me and I’ll save a few other tips for another time.
I hope you find these helpful!
Until next time
– MattW at Ghostbikes.com