Everything you need to know for a safe cycling trip and how to fix the most common breakdowns on the road

A few weeks ago we gave a very interesting class in our workshop in Deporvillage Alcorcón on practical bike mechanics. Our technical service manager, Fer, explained to us the main steps to carry out correct maintenance of our bikes and some tricks to be able to repair the common breakdown issues that we can suffer whilst on a ride. A set of very useful explanations for safe cycling outings with the confidence that, in the event of a breakdown, we will know how to repair it and we won’t have to call anyone to come and pick us up in the middle of the route.

Today we want to share all this knowledge with you, with the aim of helping you to improve the maintenance you do on your bike and to learn how to fix these breakdowns that happen to us most often when we are on the road.

Basic bicycle maintenance

Let’s start with the basics, how to clean and lubricate our bike properly. Although it seems to be a super simple step that we all know how to do, we often fail to do it correctly. Let’s see how to do it the right way!

  1. Put the drivetrain on small chainring and large sprocket.
  2. Then apply the degreasing product and leave it to act for 5 minutes. In the meantime, we will prepare the brushes we will need for cleaning. Please note that it is very important to have the right brushes for cleaning in order not to damage the components.
  3. We start cleaning the bike by pedalling and brushing the sprockets with the transmission brush, exerting a little pressure on the sprockets. In the case of bicycles with two or more chainrings, we will do the same process with each of the chainrings and changing the sprockets by half and up to the smallest one. With this process we will also clean the space between the sprockets and between the chainrings to remove as much dirt as possible.
  4. When we have finished, it is time to wash the components. It is important to NEVER use pressurised water because it penetrates the bearing areas and it is not in our interest to do so. Ideally with a sponge or cotton cloth. We continue by washing the rest of the bike, applying the specific cleaning products for bicycles specific cleaning products for bicycles and start cleaning.
  5. For rims and tyres, we preferably use a specific single-use wheel brush.
  6. The last step in this washing process is to clean the frame, fork and the rest of the bike. A third brush will be used for them.

Please note: Subsequent drying is the most important part of the bicycle washing process. We have to make sure that EVERYTHING is dry and that there is no moisture, especially in the transmission, bearings and other parts where water can penetrate.

It is very important to do this first flushing step properly and thoroughly because it is very important for lubrication to ensure that the transmission and other points to be lubricated are as clean and dry as possible.

The transmission is lubricated from the inner edge of the chain. We will look at the starting point and pedal applying the product going all the way around until we reach the starting point again. Now keep pedalling and change gears to lubricate all the sprockets. It is important to make sure that we do not over-lubricate. We also periodically grease key points such as the derailleur gears, seat post, handlebar-stem connection, bottom bracket. 

And now we have the bike clean and ready for the next ride! Let’s get on to the next part of the bike check.

Brake adjustment, here we will give you a basic trick to adjust your brakes at home in the best way. When it comes to brakes, there are several different types of brakes. If the brake rubs a little, the first thing to do is to check that the disc is not bent. If you are, stop! Get an expert to help you. If it is not, it means that the brake calliper is not fully tightened. Using an Allen key of the correct size, loosen a couple of turns of each brake calliper bolt. Now we turn the wheel and brake. We repeat the operation a couple of times and the last time we leave the brake pressed and proceed to tighten the screws again. We will do this process little by little on both screws to avoid that the pressure of one of them twists the clamp. Once again, if the noise persists, we recommend that you visit a reputable workshop.

Finally, another mechanical process that every cyclist should know how to do is gear shifting. Being able to check them personally will allow us to go out with the confidence that the bike will respond correctly to everything we ask of it. The first thing to bear in mind is that the gear is adjusted by tension. Before starting the adjustment, we must first check that the derailleur hanger is straight. If it is a little bent, our gear will never be 100% tight. Very good! We have already checked the pin and it is absolutely straight. We now proceed to look at the stoppers of our change. These are the two screws that are referenced with the letter H (high) to the small sprockets and L (low) to the large sprockets.

The H-stop adjusts the derailleur to prevent the chain from slipping out. The L stop, on the other hand, is the one that prevents the derailleur from pulling the chain towards the spokes. We already have the buffers in place. We move on to cable tension. If our gearbox has difficulty shifting up, we will have to add tension with the regulator. If, on the other hand, it is difficult to go down, we will have to remove tension.

Mechanics on the road – Don’t get standed!

Now that we know the basics of basic bike maintenance, let’s learn how to repair some of the most common breakdowns on our rides.

Chain breakages are one of the most common breakdowns and can lead to a forced end to an outing if we don’t know how to fix it. If we have a quick pin, we will have to repair the chain so that we have two links <female links> (the inner link), where we will be able to use the quick link. If you don’t have a quick link, all is not lost! If you do it very carefully, you can repair the chain. To do this, we push the bolt in without pulling it all the way out. Next, we put the bolt that is in the male link with the female link and join them together with the chain link. This repair will not allow us to continue on our route, but it will allow us to get home safely without having to find someone to come and pick us up. We always recommend that you carry a quick link and tools with you so that you can continue your training.

The most common breakdown problem is undoubtedly punctures. Even if you have anti-puncture fluid with you, you may come across something that causes a puncture, especially if you have not checked the fluid in the last few days and it has been a few days since you put it on. What we will do in this case is first check what has caused the puncture and, if it is still there, remove it. If the tyre is fitted with an inner tube, the tyre should be bead-taped and the punctured tube replaced. Before fitting the new inner tube, check the inside of the tyre again to ensure that there is no trace of the puncturing element. After making sure of this, we fit the spare inner tube and put the cover back on. In the event that the element that has suffered the damage is the cover and that it has a large hole, we will look for an element that will allow us to cover it. For example, a piece of old inner tube, a piece of old tyre, a piece of cardboard… carrying items that can help us in these cases will make it easier for us to make a repair that will allow us to get home.

Another very common fault is a bent shift lever. It is a very fragile part and trying to straighten it can cause it to break completely. In order to try to straighten it, we will have to proceed very progressively and with patience. We can’t apply too much force. We will try to make sure that the derailleur hanger is as straight as possible so that our derailleur will work properly again. In the event of such faults, we recommend that you take your bike to the workshop so that they can check the derailleur hanger, straighten it with the appropriate tools and adjust the derailleur.

Finally, a very annoying malfunction is brake noise. If it occurs during braking, it is most likely that the brake pads are contaminated (dirty). In this case when we get home, we can try cleaning the pads. To do this, we sand the first layer of the pad until the dirt is removed, put alcohol on it, light it on fire and let it cool down. The brake disc must also be cleaned thoroughly to ensure that the dirt is also removed. If the noise persists, the best option is to replace the pads with new ones. If, on the other hand, the noise is produced when walking, causing the sensation of rubbing, it is possible that the problem stems from the disc and that the disc is a little bent. To check it, loosen the calliper bolts and turn the wheel. We braked hard a couple of times. On the third brake application, hold down the brake and tighten the calliper bolts progressively.

These are the keys to basic bicycle maintenance and how to fix the main faults.

Cheers and get pedalling!

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