With an increased interest in cycling across the country, bike shops have been swamped with service and repair requests, resulting in wait times that can range from a few days to a few weeks.

But bike maintenance isn’t overly complicated and many of the most common issues can be addressed at home, keeping the downtime to a minimum.

ABC Check

Checking to see if your bike is fit to ride is as simple as ABC — air, brakes and chain. Check the air in the tires to ensure they are properly inflated and there are no leaks or punctures. Test the front and rear brakes to make sure they engage correctly and smoothly. Inspect the chain to see if it’s adequately lubricated, and if your bike has gears, test them to make sure they shift properly. Brake maintenance can be overwhelming for most novices, so a trip to a local bike shop is recommended. However, maintaining your tires and chain can easily be done at home.

Flat Repair

Knowing how to fix a flat tire is a must for serious and even casual cyclists. Flats are inevitable, but if you’re prepared, you’ll be up and riding again in no time. All you need to fix a flat are a set of tire levers, a spare inner tube and a handpump, which can and should be taken with you on every ride. You can find what size inner tube you need on the side of the tire.

Start by removing the wheel from the bike. Once the wheel is removed, let all of the remaining air out of the inner tube.

Using a tire lever, hook the rounded end under the bead, or outer edge of the tire, to unseat it and fix the other end to a spoke to hold it in place. Use the second lever to hook under the bead, then drag it around the rim until one side of the tire is off. Once the tire is loose, pull the old inner tube out.

With the punctured inner tube removed, check the inside of the tire for the source of the flat. If a thorn, piece of glass or other sharp object is still left behind, it can potentially puncture the new inner tube. From here, you can use a patch repair kit to seal the puncture on the old inner tube or replace it with a brand-new one.

To install the inner tube, add a little bit of air so the tube holds its shape. If using a patch kit, this is a good opportunity to check for additional leaks. Start by inserting the valve stem through the rim’s valve hole, to position the tube inside the tire. Once the tube is inside the tire, work the tire back onto the rim by rolling the bead away from yourself and toward the center of the rim. Try not to use tire levers during this process as they can accidentally puncture the tube. Once the tire is fully seated, inflate the inner tube to your desired pressure and you’re back on the road.

Basic Chain Maintenance

A bike’s drivetrain consists of all the parts that allow the rider to push it forward and the component tying it all together is the chain. Proper chain maintenance is key to bike performance and it’s as simple as keeping it clean and lubricated. This is essential if a bike hasn’t been ridden in a long time or is ridden frequently.

Start with chain degreaser, which can be found at any bike shop. Apply it to the chain per the manufacturer’s directions and give it time to dry before applying a drop of lubricant to each chain link, wiping off the excess when finished. Dry lube is ideal for riding in Bakersfield conditions, though a wet lube is recommended for rainy periods. Not only will the bike run smoother, you’ll find that a clean and lubricated chain will silence many noises coming from the drivetrain.

When in doubt, head to a local shop. But you’ll find that these simple tips will be enough to keep you riding more and waiting less. 

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