Picture this: you’re out on a long ride, pavement flying beneath your wheels. You’re feeling pretty invincible on your road bike. But then… you ride over some shards of glass, you hear something puncture, and slowly, you start to lose power. The worst part? When you stop to inspect the damage you realize it’s your BACK tire that has deflated. Suddenly, you went from invincible to verging on tears. Sounds familiar?
Bikes can be intimidating. There are a lot of pieces, small and large, that slot together like a well-oiled machine. Until, that is, they break down. The truth, however, is that if you’re an avid cyclist, knowing how to check your bike to make sure it’s in proper riding condition–or knowing how to tackle the most common problems (like a flat tire!) is incredibly empowering. To help you get a little braver and a little more confident, we reached out to Vancouver-based bike mechanic Ash Kelly from Dialed Bike Service for her tips and tricks on conquering the most essential bike tune up needs.
3 tips to help you confidently tune up your bike:
1. Learn one thing at a time
Ash is the kind of bike mechanic that wants to empower riders. She even offers clinics to help cyclists learn the parts of their bikes. But the most practical piece of advice she gives is to start small.
“You don’t have to know everything,” says Ash. “Learn one thing at a time. This year, I would start with learning how to change a flat. And that honestly starts with learning how to get your wheels off the bike.”
Seriously, if the only thing you learn how to do this season is take your front and back wheels on and off your bike, you’re already setting yourself up for long term success. Then, next season when you’re ready, you can build on that skill by learning how to get the tire off the rim, and back on again. An equally intimidating task for some of us.
2. Understand the parts of a bike
Even if you’re starting with just the basics like removing a tire, understanding the parts of your bike is super empowering. Ash recommends learning The M Check - a simple, effective way of checking the essential parts of your bike to make sure it's fit to ride.
We put together this super helpful video for anyone that’s interested in giving The M Check a try. You don’t need to master all 10 steps. But just being aware of the most important parts of a bike tune up can help you keep your bike in top riding shape.
3. Invest in basic tools
Now that you’re a little more aware and perhaps a little more keen to take on some basic bike maintenance yourself, there are a few tools that you should keep handy around the house. Note: These tools should be in addition to the very necessary bike repair kit you ride with.
Here is a list of bike-mechanic approved tools, as per Ash’s recommendations:
- Bike chain checker ($15 on Amazon)
- Stan’s tire sealant (for tubeless tires)
- Valve core tool (for tubeless tires)
- Dry chain lube
- Park Tool 13-Way Hex Wrench
- Floor tire pump
- Cloth (for wiping & cleaning)
- Bike repair stand (while not essential, these make tune ups easier and are also great for storing your bike when not in use)
Now, time to get your hands dirty and give your bike some TLC!