Tag Archives: Bicycle maintenance

Discovering how things work here is a group of neighborhood kids learning about bicycle maintenance. 

Teaching your child the ancient art of bicycle maintenance

by John Brown

As a parent and tinkerer, one of the most fun activities I share with my two boys is teaching them how bicycle maintenance works. Now that my older son is riding more and helping me review a bike for HaveFunBiking, the time has come to teach him how a bike works. Almost everybody gets the basics, but after 20 years working in shops, I want to give as much of my experience to him as possible. Take a look at my plan for teaching my son bicycle maintenance.

This father, son team assemble a bike for a school program.

Here this father-son team assembles a new bike for a school program.

Safety first in bicycle maintenance

Like wearing a helmet when riding a bike, working on a bike also has safety gear. Eye protection is a must. With safety glasses on, the next step is to show your child the danger zones on a bike. Spinning wheels, spinning brake rotors, along with crank, chain, and cogs, are all dangerous to little fingers. Teach your children to avoid those areas when the bike is moving. On that subject, it is also essential for kids to wear snugly fitting clothing. Loose clothing can get caught in moving parts.

bicycle maintenance

Caution areas are highlighted in red. These are the places fingers can get pinched.

Tools of the trade-in bicycle maintenance

The next step is to teach your kid the tools and how to use them. The main tools used on bikes are metric hex wrenches, screwdrivers, and metric box wrenches. First, show your child how to hold each tool for best leverage and what part of the tool engages with the bike. Then, show them where each tool fits on the bike before beginning the fix.

bicycle maintenance

Professional bike mechanics use hex wrenches, box wrenches, and screwdrivers.

Having fun with bicycle maintenance

Now that the safety and instruction portions are over, making the process fun! Your kid is likely dying to get their hands (and wrenches) on the bike as quickly as possible, so let them have at it. Considering you already gave them the safety and function basics, their bike exploration will be safe and enlightening. Once they play a little, ask your kid to teach you how the bike works! Have them exercise their brain and logic by explaining how the bike functions.

Teaching a little at a time

It’s easy for parents to get overzealous when teaching. If you are mechanically inclined, sharing that gift with your kids can be exciting, but try not to overwhelm them. Feel comfortable stopping the lesson when they lose interest. I like to start teaching with the rear brake (assuming it is a rim brake). The rear brake usually needs adjustment and is a rather simple example of how the rest of the bike functions. Once the rear brake is dialed and your kid is comfortable with the process, have them adjust the front brake.

Next, I start teaching about how to adjust the shifting system. Hopefully, you and your child had a good conversation when they “taught” you how the shifting worked because that conversation is an excellent baseline for teaching how to adjust the shifting. Because of the barrel adjuster on the rear derailleur, start with the rear shifting first. Once they get the hang of that, move to the front derailleur.

After the bike functions properly, teach your kids to adjust the seat, bars, and controls. You may ask why I would recommend the simple adjustments last. The simple answer is that these adjustments require the most leverage and are best saved once your child practices using the tools.

Test ride

Once your child completes the adjustments, it’s time to take a test ride. Have your kid test ride in a supervised area away from traffic (like a driveway). Once the test ride is complete, make any additional adjustments, and be sure all the hardware is tight.

bicycle maintenance

Test rides are fun!

Learn through mistakes

Most of the fun of learning to work on bikes (or anything for that matter) is the process. Nobody gets it right on the first try, and we all learn from our mistakes. Mistakes are more valuable than successes. So the most important part of teaching your kids to work on bikes is to let them make mistakes and be a resource for the solutions if needed.

About John Brown, the author

As a lifelong cyclist and consummate tinkerer, John operates Browns Bicycle in Richfield, MN. It all started for him in grade school when the bike bug bit and that fever is still there. Now, and over the past thirty years, he has worked at every level in the bike industry. Starting, like most, sweeping floors and learning anything he could about bikes. He eventually graduated as a service manager and then to a store manager.  Through the years, he has spent extensive time designing and sourcing bicycles and parts for some of the largest bike companies in the world. All the while focusing on helping as many people as possible enjoy the love of riding a bike. In that pursuit, he has taught classes (both scheduled and impromptu) on all things bikes. John also believes in helping every rider attain their optimal fit on the bike of their dreams. Please feel free to stop in any time and talk about bikes, fit, and parts or share your latest ride. You can also see John’s tricks and tips on the Brown Bicycle Facebook Page.

Bike Pic March 14, Tuesday bike tips, routine maintenance is critical

This Tuesday, a few tips from an article we posted on routine bike maintenance. It is extremely important to keep up with the care of your bike like you would with any other mechanical device. So take our tips, and get your bike in optimal condition today!

The photo above shows Steve Phyle from Tonka Bike & Ski, out of Hopkins, MN, helping some cyclists on the Tour D’ Amico a couple of years ago.

So, get into the zone when continuing your time outdoors and your #NextBikeAdventure. View all the great ideas and bike destinations in the latest Iowa or Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide. Then plan your next outing with family and friends in one of Minnesota’s HaveFunBiking destinations. And now, check out more stories at Let’s Do MN.

Thanks for viewing our latest bike pic

Now rolling through our 19th year as a bike tourism media, enjoy! As we pedal forward, we aim to encourage more people to bike and have fun while highlighting all the unforgettable places you can ride. As we continue to showcase more places to have fun, we hope the photos we shoot are worth a grin. Enjoy the information and stories we have posted as you scroll through.

Do you have a fun bicycle-related photo of yourself or someone you may know we should post? If so, please send your picture(s) to [email protected]. Please Include a brief caption for the image, who shot it, and where. Photo(s) sent to us should be a minimum of 1,000 pixels wide to be considered. If we use your photo, you will receive photo credit and acknowledgment on Facebook and Instagram.

As we continue encouraging more people to bike, please view our Destination section at HaveFunBiking.com for your #NextBikeAdventure. Also, check out the MN Bike Guide, now mobile-friendly, as we enter our 14th year of producing this handy information booklet full of maps.

Remember, bookmark HaveFunBiking.com on your cell phone and find your next adventure at your fingertips! Please share our pics with your friends, and don’t forget to smile. We may be around the corner with one of our cameras ready to document your next cameo appearance while you are riding and having fun. You could be in one of our next Pic of the Day.

Have a great day with a safe and memorable year ahead!

Bike tune-up tricks for better cycling performance

Do you want your bike to go faster, ride more effortlessly, and shift smoother after your annual bike shop check-up? Here are some bike tune-up tricks that you may want to keep handy.

Bike tune-up tricks to remember.

Improvements in these areas are often relatively easy to accomplish with just a few simple steps. Try out these four simple tune-up tasks below, which don’t require any special knowledge or tools, and you should see a long-lasting improvement in your bikes performance and ease of riding:

1. Clean your chain and lubricate often

Light lubrication is the key, wiping off excess to prevent dirt build up.

Light lubrication on your bike chain is the key; wipe off excess to prevent dirt build-up.

The chain and sprockets on your bike play a key part in the transfer of power from your legs to your wheels, making them go round and round. When the crank and gears collect dirt and grit and get gummy, not only does it slow you down, but they also wear out faster. Keeping your chain clean and lubricated is one of the best ways to keep your bike working well.
• How to clean your chain – quick and easy check out this video.

Tip: Use lightweight oil specially designed for bikes. Please avoid motor oil as it is too heavy and will quickly attract dirt and crud. Want a big greasy chainring mark on your leg? Using too much oil or the wrong kind is a guaranteed way to get one. Light lubrication is the key, and wipe off excess at the end.  

2. Lubricate the moving parts of your derailleurs.

Keep your derailleurs clean for smooth shifting.

Keep the derailleur on your bike clean for smooth shifting.

Your bike has quite a few moving metal parts that are vulnerable to dirt and moisture and should be lubricated regularly to keep your bike happy and is in good working condition.

Pivot points on the brakes and derailleurs are good examples of places you should target because they are vulnerable to attracting dirt and grit due to their placement on your bike. You can spot many of these places by watching your bike in action and seeing where metal parts move against and around each other.

For instance, think about your brakes. Most road bikes are mounted on a bolt on the frame above your wheel. Then, when you squeeze the lever, the brake pivots around this bolt as it contracts. These places where you want to apply a couple of drops of oil.

3. Inspect your brake pads.

check your brakes to see that the pads are clean and aligned correctly.

Check your brakes on your bike to see that the pads are clean and aligned correctly.

A quick check of your brake pads will often reveal potential problems that are easy to fix. You want to check:
• Are your brake pads adequately aligned? Brake pads are the little rubber things that clamp down on your rims to slow you when you squeeze the brake levers. Make sure they are hitting the rims evenly and aren’t either rubbing the tire or missing your rim partially or entirely.

• Are the brake pads toed in? The bike brake pads should also be “toed-in,” which means the leading edge of the pads should touch the bike rim first when you lightly apply the brakes. The pads squish a little, and you should get complete contact to the rim when you squeeze down hard – This helps prevent squeaking.

• Check for junk embedded in the brake pads. Inspect the surface of the brake pads where they meet the rims, and using a sharp pointy instrument like a knife, pick out any bits of sand or metal that may have become embedded in the pad. Removing this grit prevents the pads from wearing and scratching your rims and helps them provide more even and consistent stopping power. Need more info, check out this video.

4. Check the pressure on your tires.

Always check your tires air pressure.

Always check your bike tires’ air pressure.

Checking the tire pressure is one of the simplest things you can do to have the best results. And surprisingly, most people overlook this both on their bikes and car. Paying attention to keeping the proper level of air pressure in your tires accomplishes many things, including:
 Makes pedaling easier
• Protects your rims from damage
• Prolongs the life of your tires
• And it makes it much less likely that you will get a flat
.

And, checking for proper air pressure in your tires before every ride is quick and easy to do.

Simply look for the recommended air pressure for your bike’s tires. It will be printed on the sidewall of the tire in both English and/or metric units. When you know what that number is, inflate the tire, and check the air pressure as you pump go to ensure that you’re on target. You’ll need a tire gauge, either built into your pump or a separate gauge, to measure the tires’ air pressure. Be sure to check the pressure frequently as you pump up the tire so that you do not overinflate your tire. See this video for more information.

Also, take a quick moment to check your tires for proper inflation before each ride and add more air if needed. It is not uncommon for tires to gradually lose air over several days, even without having a flat that needs to be replaced. Taking just this simple and easy step will prove to be a valuable one to you in the long run.

If you are still having problems, need to adjust the derailleurs, or get some new tires if the ones on your bike are several years old, visit your local bike shop, they will fix you up and share some more easy maintenance tips.

Now go out and have fun riding!