Copyright 1987, by Bob Soetebier
Right off the top I'll recommend a very easy to read and use
bicycle maintenance book: Anybody's Bike Book, by Tom Cuthbertson.
Any good bicycle shop should carry it, in addition to your local
For general purposes, we'll be talking about adjustments made to
10-speeds. We'll assume your bicycle is either new, or has had its
annual "overhaul" (greasing/adjusting bearings, wheels trued, etc.) at
your local bicycle shop.
Most bicycle shops provide a limited-guarantee, free adjustment
period (anywhere from 30 days to 6 months). Since bicycle parts have
a "wear-in" period (within the first few 100 miles), you should
definitely take advantage of this: have them readjust your brakes,
derailleurs, chain, wheel hubs, spokes, pedals, headset, and bottom
You should check the tightness of all nuts and bolts at least
once a month, and weekly if you ride daily. (Be careful not to
overtighten them as many of the fasteners are made of aluminum and you
can strip threads easily.) Check the bolts on handlebar stem and
rotation, seat post and mountings, front and rear derailleur mounts,
all cable anchors, brake mounts and brake pad nuts, too. (Be sure to
check brake pad/wheel rim clearance, which should be about 1/8-inch.)
Don't neglect all lever mounts, water bottle holders, racks, fenders,
pedals, crank arm and chainring (front gear cogs) bolts, toe clips,
mirror mounts, etc.
In performing all of the above, be sure to use the proper tools.
Just "making do" with ill-fitting tools can result in minor, but
painful, injuries; damaged parts, chipped paint and rounded-off
fasteners. A good bicycle shop will have and can recommend all the
tools you'll need.
Regularly inspect cable housings and both cable anchors for
fraying. If there is ANY sign of wear, replace and lubricate them
with grease. Weekly, or better yet, daily, check tires for general
wear, and remove imbedded glass or rocks. Tires with large or deep
cuts, bulges, worn tread, or sidewall cracking should be replaced.
(If you're replacing tires, get ones made with Kevlar, which is a
component of bullet-proof vests!)
Check your tire pressure daily. (Correct pressure is stated on
the side of each tire.) Proper pressure affords lower tread wear,
less tire/wheel damage from unavoidable holes, fewer flats, and lower
rolling resistance, making for easier pedaling. To keep everything
running smoothly, you should lube your bicycle at least once a month
or every 200 miles, and after rain or dusty, sandy, or gritty terrain.
Use a spray lube like WD-40, or a lightweight oil. (Keep your wheel
rims and brake pad surfaces clean and oil-free by protecting them with
cloth, newspaper, and/or paper towels.)
Lube the pivot points of your brakes and derailleurs (and the
rear derailleur's "jockey wheels," too), and the chain. Lube the
freewheel, being VERY careful not to spray any oil into the nearby
rear wheel axle hub, as this could "wash-out" the grease, causing
damage. Be sure to wipe off all excess oil when through. As a final
touch, give the bicycle a general cleaning and inspect for paint chips
and rust; touch-up where needed. Also, use candlewax on exposed
cables. With practice, this will all become easy and routine.
A final note: Sealed-bearing components, such as pedals, hubs,
bottom brackets, and headsets, require very little maintenance or
adjustments, if any, and result in better wear because of their
resistance to dirt and water.