What Are Some Maintenance Tips for Bike Safety?

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on May 31, 2022
5 min read

Biking is a fantastic form of exercise. But bikes need to be properly maintained, or they’re not safe to use. You need to be especially careful if it’s been a while since you’ve ridden your bike. They can accumulate a lot of small but significant problems while sitting in storage. 

Often, though, your bike will just need some basic care to get it back in shape. 

There are lots of effective ways to keep your bike in good working order even if you don’t have much experience with tools. You just need to become familiar with the basics, like how to inflate a Presta valve compared to a Schrader valve. 

In the end, you’ll have a lot more fun riding if you take the time to maintain your bike properly rather than risk it falling apart on the road or trail. 

You should test out your hand brakes every time you want to use your bike as part of your basic bicycle maintenance. It can be very dangerous to have loose or broken brakes when you’re biking. Most bikes have brakes on the front and rear tires, but some fixed gear models will only have one set.

You can adjust your brakes with tools called Allen wrenches. These are small, metal sticks that are bent at a 90-degree angle towards the top and end in a flat hexagonal shape. They usually come in sets. Consult your user manual or check online for the right way to adjust the brakes for your particular bike. 

Make sure that your brakes tighten on your wheel’s rims, not the actual tires. Also, keep your brakes well-lubricated. You should apply lube to the brakes and check the cables for any frays or tears every month or 500 miles — whichever comes first. 

You’ll occasionally need to replace the brake pads as well. Check them regularly for signs of wear.   

Basic bike maintenance includes keeping an eye on your tires for any cracks or signs of dry rot. Also, check for loose spokes. If you find any of these problems, it could mean that it’s time to get a new tire. 

You should also spin both of your tires before riding to make sure that they don’t wobble from side to side. Any wobble could mean that your tire needs to be straightened or replaced. 

Check your tire pressure every time you want to ride your bike. Properly inflated tires keep your wheels in better condition. They also make riding your bike much easier — you can apply less force and will have a better time steering when your tires are properly inflated. 

You can check the rim of your tire to see what the right pressure should be. The information should be printed there. The correct tire pressure can easily vary from one bike to the next, even if they’re both mountain bikes

One thing to pay attention to is the kind of valve that your tires have. You could have either Schrader or Presta valves. Not all tire pumps are compatible with both types, but some are. Buy a hand pump that clearly says that it’s compatible with both if you’re not sure. Schrader valves should be compatible with most air compressors, too, including ones at gas stations. 

What is a Schrader valve? Schrader valves are most often found on mountain bikes and crossover or hybrid bicycles. They have broad, flat tops and a simple, threaded cylindrical shape. 

What is a Presta valve? Presta valves are mostly found on road bikes. They have a more complicated shape than a Schrader valve. They also end in a blunt tip, but it’s much smaller and finer. These valves progressively taper to a small opening at the top. They look like they could be made from a few different pieces, each with different diameters. In contrast, the Schrader valve is one solid piece with approximately the same diameter the entire way up. 

You should always be prepared for a flat tire. They’re relatively easy to fix as long as you have the correct supplies. 

Since you never know when a flat will happen, it’s best to keep the supplies for fixing one in a small kit with your bike. This way you’ll be prepared wherever you go. 

In your kit, you should include: 

  • A patch kit. This is an inexpensive way to fix a small hole in your tire’s inner tube. You can feel for air leaking out, apply the patch there, re-inflate, and be good to go. 
  • New tubes. These are the inner parts of your tire that actually inflate. There’s one in each tire. A new tube costs about the same as a patch kit, and you won’t have to worry about your patching skills if you simply use a new one. 
  • A small pump. This will let you re-inflate a new or repaired inner tube. Just make sure that it’s compatible with your valve type. You could even use a small CO2 pump. 
  • Tools. Most modern bike tires have quick-release latches, so you won’t need tools to remove them. But it can’t hurt to have a set of Allen wrenches on you. A tire iron or multi-tool could also help you pry off the rubber part of your tire so you can get to the inner tube. 

Your chain is what allows your drive train to move your bike. It needs to be properly lubricated, or your bike will face a lot of unnecessary wear. Even if your chain doesn’t look rusty, it can still be dry. A dry chain rubs on the gears, which can eventually damage them and cause your chain to break. 

Any oil will work, but a lubricant that’s made specifically for bikes is best. If you don’t have a bike-specific lubricant, then things like WD-40 and 3-in-1 oil are better than nothing. But only use a thin coat, or it’ll collect debris while you ride.

You should periodically check your bike’s frame and handlebars for any signs of wear or damage. Especially keep your eye out for any cracks that could harm the integrity of your bike. Inspect it thoroughly after six months of consistent use or every 2,500 miles. 

Other bike maintenance tips include wiping down, washing, and waxing your entire frame. These steps can help prevent rust. 

You can wipe the frame with a rag or soap and water whenever it gets too dirty. You should wax it every six months to protect your paint job or finish. Bikes with bare aluminum frames don’t need to be waxed. 

You should take a wrench and check the tightness of all the bolts on your bike every month or every 500 miles — whichever comes first. Riding your bike can jar bolts and screws loose over time, so it’s better to check on them before they fall out on the road. 

You’re also unlikely to have a wrench handy when you’re biking around, but you can try to keep one on you for safety’s sake. 

You should pay special attention to the: 

  • Crankarms
  • Pedals
  • Chainring bolts
  • Other accessory mounting bolts and screws

Also, make sure that your handlebars are firmly attached. If they pop off while you’re riding, it can be terrifying at best and deadly at worst.