We get it — your bike is like your baby and you want to take care of it, but you’re no mechanic. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to learn basic bike maintenance and keep your bike in tip-top shape.
That’s why we always recommend that cyclists spend some time learning basic bike parts & maintenance requirements. It will not only make your bike more efficient and your ride more comfortable, but it will also help you save money (and a lot of headaches) in the long run. For example, learning how to keep your chain healthy and lubricated is much better than paying a professional to fix a broken one down the line.
In this guide, we’ll go over basic bike parts and how to keep up road bike maintenance — without a garage full of pricey equipment.
Bicycle Parts: an Overview
There are many things in life we take for granted because we don’t take the time to learn their intricacies. Getting to know your bike and all of its various components will help you feel more connected and appreciative while you cycle. Maintenance also becomes a lot easier when you know the terms in all those online DIY repair guides.
Here’s a quick breakdown of basic bicycle parts:
The frame is the structural core of the bike — think of it as the bike’s backbone. Most modern bikes are made of aluminum alloy, with high-end bikes often crafted from carbon fiber and titanium.
The fork joins the front wheel and frame. The handlebars connect to the fork with the stem and this is how you steer the bike.
The headset is located in the headtube of the bicycle frame. It acts as the interface between the fork and frame allowing the fork to rotate to provide steering.
A bicycle's stem is what connects the handlebars to the bike’s frame. The length and angle of the stem will provide different riding characteristics. For example, a shorter stem will result in more active steering while a longer stem will make the smaller movements in the handlebars not as noticeable.
This one likely doesn’t need much introduction. Handlebars are used to steer the bike and are often compared to the steering wheel in a car.
Brake levers integrate with the brake pads by hydraulic or mechanical pull. Hydraulic brakes use fluid to engage the brake pads while mechanical brakes utilize a cable.
The crankset is a key part of the driving force of your bike, the drivetrain. It is powered by your legs and connected to the rear derailleur with the chain. The front and rear derailleur guide the chain to the correct gears based on the cyclist’s preference and riding terrain.
The bottom bracket is a small piece that connects the crankset to the bike’s frame, keeping everything stable and moving. It is a critical component of the bike’s drivetrain.
When you rotate your legs, the chain moves and propels the bike forward. This part is one that will need more regular upkeep and maintenance.
The cassette is the cluster of gears on the rear wheel. They’re part of the drivetrain and are responsible for rear wheel drive.
This is what actually changes gears on the bike, moving the chain from one set of sprockets to another.
How to Maintain a Bike
As you probably already know, bicycle maintenance is an important part of being a bike owner. But that means more than just performing some basic DIY road bike repairs every once in a while. Whether you ride your bike to work every day, are training for a big race, or just like to hit the trails a few times a month, regular maintenance keeps your bike in tip-top shape.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Regularly Clean Your Bike
Keeping your bike clean is the first step in basic road bicycle maintenance. When you regularly clean your bike, you reduce the chances of dirt and grime accumulating. This improves your bike’s performance and avoids more severe problems down the road. Be sure to pay extra attention when cleaning your bike chain, as this is often a culprit of grime buildup.
Check Tire Pressure
You know how important proper tire pressure is in a car, so why should your bike be any different? Because your tire pressure is all that stands between you and the road, adequately filling them is essential for bicycle repairs and maintenance. This means checking tire pressure regularly and making sure you don’t fill them up too much (this can also be dangerous). We recommend investing in a floor pump with a reliable tire pressure gauge for the most accurate results.
Not sure how much air to put in your tires? All tires have their designated range printed on the side. As long as you’re within this range, you’re good to go!
Inspect Brake Pads
The brake pads on your bike suffer some of the most wear and tear, which means they need more upkeep than other parts. This is especially true for basic mountain bike maintenance, which requires regular brake pad checks as a result of sudden braking and tough terrain. Failing to properly monitor and maintain your brake pads can have serious consequences — just like a vehicle.
But how can you tell whether your brake pads need a little TLC? There are a few things to look out for:
- If you look at your pads and the grooves are hardly visible, that means they are badly worn.
- If squeezing the brake lever causes it to travel more than midway toward the handlebars, the brakes should be tightened. Adjusting the barrel adjuster next to the brake lever should do the trick. If it doesn't work, you'll need to open the brake nut using an Allen key, pull the brake wire taut, and re-tighten it.
- If your brakes start to screech, it might be time to switch them out. However, sometimes they’ll screech simply because they’re dirty, so make sure to look out for other signs of wear and tear before spending the money on a new set of brake pads.
- If your brakes start to feel less responsive after you’ve tightened and cleaned them, it’s time for a change.
Luckily, changing brake pads on a bike is generally a fast, simple, and inexpensive road bike repair.
Lubricate Moving Parts
Friction is the number one cause of wear and tear on any bike, making it a critical component of bicycle maintenance. Remember what we said about the chain earlier? While the chain is often the most likely culprit, it’s not the only one. Get some lube designed for your bike and use it gently anywhere metal meets metal. However, remember that you must clean your bike before applying lube (this includes the chain).
Have It Checked by a Professional
Who doesn’t want to save money on bike maintenance? These days, we’re all looking for ways to cut costs. It’s easy to want to fix bike issues on your own, especially when you have a DIY mindset.
While there’s a lot you can do yourself, sometimes it’s best to have your bike maintained by a technician with the proper equipment. Removing, installing, and servicing many of these parts necessitates using dedicated equipment. A professional will be able to expertly assess your bike’s overall health, including checking the bike’s balance, fixing any minor damage to the spokes, and more.
Generally speaking, it’s recommended that you bring your bike in for a “check up” at least once a year. Unless you’re trained in bike parts & maintenance, you may not spot an issue before it’s too late.
Find Your Bike with BicycleBlueBook.com
The last thing you want is for your bike to break down mid-ride and have to shell out a bunch of money in unexpected expenses. Riding your bike should be fun, not costly!
Aside from the obvious benefit of saving you money, understanding basic bike parts & maintenance will improve your bike’s performance on the road — as well as yours.
If your current ride is beyond repair or you’re looking to upgrade, contact BicycleBlueBook.com. We use cutting-edge technology, live data, and updated algorithms to ensure our online marketplace offers the best values.
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