There are many different types of bicycles, from an average mountain bike to a top-of-the-line racing bike, but general bike maintenance is the same no matter which bike you may have. If you need a place to fix up your bike, KU Recreation Services Outdoor Pursuits offers some basic bicycle maintenance equipment which is available to students, staff, and faculty with a valid KU I.D. There is also a bike stand with attached tools located outside on the south side of the Rec center near the basketball courts.
The City of Lawrence also has installed several maintenance stands at key locations along trails and next to city facilities. They are marked on the Bicycle Rideability Map (PDF).
To help you in your bicycle maintenance endeavors, we've included a few tips below to keep your bike in working order.
Maintain Your Brakes Other than the occasional fixed-gear bike, most bikes will have a front and rear set of brakes. This is no news to you, no doubt, but it is always good to make sure that your brakes are working properly. It may be that your bike has been put away in storage for a while and your break pads need readjustment. Perhaps you recently bought a used bike on craigslist, only to find out that "used" actually means it hasn't been ridden since the early 80's and, consequently, the cables and break pads are sad remnants of a once well-used bike. Or maybe you just need to double-check how tightly the break pads are fastened on that newly assembled bike of yours. Regardless of your bike's state, it is always a good idea to check that your brakes are working as they should.
Keep Your Tires Inflated As with your vehicle, it is important to maintain the tire pressure on your bike. Not only will this keep your wheels in better condition, but keeping your inner tube inflated to the recommended pressure (found on the outer wall of the tires) makes riding less strenuous and gives you better control over the bike. Bike pumps can be purchased at any bicycle retailer, but keep in mind that there are two different valve types: the presta and the shrader.
If you have a mountain or crossover/hybrid bike, you will most likely have shrader valves; if you have a road bike, you will likely have presta valves. Buy a pump that can be used with both valve types if you are worried about pump/valve compatibility issues. Also, the bike repair shop has an available bike pump for use by anyone with a valid KU ID.
Changing Flats While we all hope that we never get a flat tire, it happens. Knowing how to change your inner tube quickly will get you back up on the saddle in no time flat! (pun very much intended) Whether you are on long rides or just riding to campus, it is important to be prepared for the regrettable reality that your tire may go flat. That being said, here are a few things you should have with you whenever riding.
- Patch Kit: These kits are small and inexpensive. Basically a "band-aid" for your inner tube.
- Handheld Pump: As mentioned above, make sure it is compatible with your valve type. Of course, with schrader valves you can always find your way to the nearest gas station and use the compressor there. Or, if you want to be really fancy, you can get a CO2 powered pump.
- Extra Tube: Carry an extra inner tube in case you decide you don't want to deal with a patch. Honestly, your everyday tube is almost the same price as a patch kit, and replacing your tube won't leave you in constant fear of your "band-aid" skills.
- Allen Wrenches/Multi-Tool/Tire Lever: Most of the components on bikes are fastened to the frame using Allen bolts, so having a set of Allen wrenches is a must. Also, many bikes now have quick release wheels that require no tools, but just in case you need a little extra help a multi-tool may do the job. Tire levers are also helpful in removing the tire from the wheel and reduce your chances of puncturing the new inner tube. Chain Maintenance You should periodically check your chain. Even though it may not be rusty, a chain can get grimy and dry, and riding on a dry, dirty chain causes unnecessary wear-and-tear to your chain as well as your gears. A well-lubed chain ensures quicker, smoother shifting and can increase the lifetime of your bike's components. Any oil will work, but using lubricant specifically designed for bike chains is your best bet.