It’s been awhile since I wrote anything so I thought I’d write about something that I like to think I’m pretty good at:  Dealing with bike based mechanical problems, more specifically, doing as much as you can to ensure that you can deal with them quickly in a race or group ride situation.

One of the most effective things I’ve learned is to perform all jobs on the bike wearing the same cycling gloves I would wear during a ride (I have an old pair I keep just for this).  This allows me to get a feel for doing these jobs with gloves on and helps me be quicker about it on a ride.  I will also try and do some of the jobs that I am likely to encounter during a race quickly and time myself aiming to get faster each time.

As with most things prevention is better than cure so I would recommend that about once a month or every 150 miles you give your bike a pretty thorough once over, this isn’t a full overhaul/service but a check of the bike and taking action as necessary.  The check should include:

Frame:  Check for cracks, paintwork chips or other damage that may lead to future problems.  Take care around dropouts, bottom bracket, seatpost and other joints.

Tyres/Wheels: Check Tyres to ensure that the rubber hasn’t started to get nicks, cuts and slashes or got anything nasty embedded into it that could be working it’s way into the innertube.

Check the condition of the innertube and valves.

Check the spokes to ensure there is nothing coming loose or none have been bent while accidentally leaned on (This is a works bikeshed paranoia of mine).

Drivetrain: Check the sprockets and chainrings for wear.  Do the same with the chain.  Pull the crankarms around a bit to ensure there is no lateral play, lift the bike up, holding it by the seat tube and spin the pedals backwards.  If you can feel anything knocking or vibrating through the frame.  If you have either lateral play or vibration/knocking it may be time to replace your bottom bracket.  Check the pedals are nice and tight and they are adjusted to your cycling shoes to allow you the level of play/tightness that you want.

I also take this opportunity to adjust/re-index the gears as appropriate.  To do this follow these steps:

  1. Shift to the largest chainring and smallest sprocket
  2. Loosen the clamp bolt on the cable in the rear mech and turn the barrel adjuster to the halfway point
  3. Turn the pedals backwards.  If the chain isn’t running through the jockey wheels smoothly then use a screwdriver on the adjuster marked ‘H’.  Keep spinning the pedals back while adjusting the screw back and forth until you get it running smooth
  4. Tighten the cable clamp back up making sure you don’t lose any tension
  5. Shift the chain one sprocket t a time.  You should get a nice one click, one shift result but if this isn’t happening then turn the barrel adjuster outwards until you do.  If the chain shifts past the intended sprocket then turn the adjuster inwards until it stays on the intended sprocket
  6. Shift all the way up to the largest sprocket, if the chain goes straight over the edge and comes off the cassette you need to screw the ‘L’ adjuster inwards until the chain stops at the largest sprocket, sits there and runs smoothly.  You may also need to check none of the rear mech is too close to your spokes.  Again tightening the ‘L’ screw will sort this.
  7. Check the front chainrings shift one click to one shift and don’t drop off in the same way using the ‘H’ and ‘L’ screws on the front derailleur.

Nuts/Bolts/Adjustables:  Check all are sufficiently tight, particularly after a period of wet weather riding.  Sometimes all it takes is a short ride on a slightly bumpy road to vibrate things loose.  Where you get something coming loose persistently it might be worth applying some thread locker.  Check any cables aren’t worn or frayed and the brake pads aren’t worn.

Before Every Ride

Check the condition of your tyres and re-inflate, I always re-inflate regardless to ensure I’m at the appropriate pressure.

Apply a small amount of chain oil to the chain.

Ensure that all nuts/bolts etc are tightened as appropriate.

If bad weather is likely I ensure that I have my lights fixed onto the bike and the batteries are charged, it goes without saying that this is the case when I’m going out in the dark.

What I Take On A Ride

Multi Tool with a set of allen keys, screwdrivers, mini socket set that fits all possible adjustables on my bike

2 x Decent, strong tyre levers

Chain Tool

2 x Master Link for my chain

2 x Brand New Innertube (Most definitely not a repaired or older one)

Roll of electricians tape (Because loads of stuff can be fixed with sparky tape, if only to hold it together till you get home)

CO2 Inflator & 2 x CO2 Cartridge (Personal preference so I can fit all in my saddlebag.  You may prefer to replace these with a high pressure hand-pump)

If I’m taking lights I’ll also take a couple of spare batteries for my rear light

A £5 or £10 note (depending on how far from home I’m going) and my mobile phone in a ziplock plastic back

These items should get you past most minor mechanicals or at least get you repaired enough to get back to civilisation.  They will also be the tools you use when carrying out repairs at home to ensure that they are tried and tested and the first time you need them isn’t the first time you use them.

After Every Ride

I always give my bike a rub down with a cloth to remove any dirt and inspect the frame and wheels to ensure I’ve not managed to damage anything.

I’ll run the chain through a chain cleaner using Muc-off and give the rear sprocket a spray with the same product.

Maybe once a fortnight, depending on how much dirt is building up I’ll give the bike a proper wash.  Some people, with more expensive bikes than mine will wash after every ride.

Tools To Keep At Home

In addition to those I take out on a ride consider having the following to help with any general jobs on the bike:

Full Socket Set

Pedal Spanner

Set of Allen Keys

Spoke Key

Cassette Tool

Chain Whip

Crank Puller

Bottom Bracket Tool

Breaker Bar

Long Nose Pliers

Mole Grips

High Pressure Track Pump (with gauge)

Chain Lubricant



Cleaning Products & rags