A bicycle is a simple, humble machine, and it asks very little of its rider. Bicycles can keep on working for years—my own usual ride is forty-five years old, and I alone have put over 30,000 miles on it. No idea what previous owners may have done, nor even whether there was but one previous owner or fifteen. I’m not obsessive about maintenance or (especially) cleaning, but I do take care of my little old Bottecchia.
Some maintenance occurs at long intervals, and it’s easy enough just to call up the Pigeon and make an appointment for service. But there are some things that need more frequent attention, and in the interests of both self-reliance and easy, carefree riding, you should learn to do them yourself.
You need a headset or crank adjusted or replaced, wheel trued, or the like, it makes sense to bring it in. Those jobs require knowledge, feel, and special tools.
But you should be checking your tires and lubing your chain at least once a month, and you should be able to fix a flat. Flats happen, and tires that are up to the right pressure not only suffer fewer flats, they make your bike easier to ride. A well-lubed chain last longer, feels smoother, runs more quietly, and is less likely to jump off a chainwheel or wear your cogs out prematurely. Paying attention to both these matter makes for safety, comfort, and speed, and saves you money in the long run.
This is what you need to take care of your tires and chain:
- A floor pump to keep at home
- A frame pump or mini-pump to carry for use on the road
- A tire patch kit and, if you have nutted wheels, a small wrench of the right size
- A spare tube, because sometimes the hole can’t be patched—and sometimes you want to be lazy and just swap tubes and patch the old one at leisure later
- something to carry the above in—saddlebag, seat wedge, handlebar bag, messenger bag, old sock and toe strap….
- A little bottle of chain lube
The maximum tire pressure for an tire is printed right on the sidewall; a little below that is right for most folks. Bring your tires up to pressure once a month, inspect them for thorns and glass and such at the same time, and dribble a tiny bit of lube on the chain at the same time. Takes about five minutes per bike.
Don’t know how to do this, or how to fix a flat? In you’re in NELA, the folks at the Bike Oven can teach you how. Or you’re bound to have a friend who knows. It’s easy; I can go from “Oh, hell, it’s a flat!” to “On the Road Again” in about twelve minutes, and I’m not particularly gifted. Then you don’t have push the bike for miles to a shop, phone around trying to find a ride, or, worst of all, become one of those pathetic fools who actually abandon bicycles when the tire goes down—something I’ve seen altogether too often.
Don’t have the tools I mentioned? Don’t worry; they’re cheap. Come by the Pigeon and pick them up—along with the load of peace of mind.
We’ve got all this fine bicycle infrastructure coming in—a little TLC to your faithful wheels will keep you enjoying it mile after mile, all hours of the day or night.