Anyone who cycles – man, woman and even youngsters should have a basic understanding of how to maintain their bike. I know plenty of women who are very mechanically minded, but I’m also fairly confident that there are plenty of others (and men too, to be fair) who go out cycling without any real thought about first checking their bike or what to do if something goes wrong on the bike.
To give you some context, I know a female cyclist who has made sure she carries all the necessary bits in the saddle bag – spare inner tube, puncture repair kit, tyre levers, multi-tool – but admits that, if she’s riding solo and gets a flat, her most likely first action will be to phone home for a lift. Riding in a group? Someone else is bound to be able to get her back on the road faster than everyone else can down an energy gel. Luckily, her first puncture happened just minutes from home – a passing cyclist even stopped to offer help – and she knew that this was her opportunity to learn. She wheeled the bike home (why face potential embarrassment on the roadside!) and spent an hour under the tutelage of a slightly impatient partner while she tried to get to grips with the business of repairing an inner tube – she is now at least on her way to being self-sufficient!
Bike maintenance isn’t rocket science, but it does need a little practice – and for many women it’s about building confidence. Having your bike serviced regularly by your local bike shop will help ensure that the various components are kept in good working order, but there are a few basics that you should be able to deal with yourself:
Wheels and tyres
- check that the tyres aren’t split, cracked or worn too smooth
- inflate the tyres to the recommended PSI
- spin the wheels to check that there is no wobbling
- make sure no spokes are broken or missing
- check that the quick release mechanism is tight
- Make sure the blocks aren’t excessively worn and that they are correctly positioned test that they actually work
- Check the brake cables for fraying
- Know how to adjust your brakes
- Inspect the frame for cracks or bends in the tubes
- Ensure the handlebar stem is correctly aligned and turns freely
Pedals and chain
- Check the pedals turn freely
- Make sure the chain is lubricated, clean and taut
- Check that the gears are changing smoothly
None of the above bike maintenance requires the brain of an engineer, it’s just good old common sense to get into the habit of checking your bike and knowing how to resolve minor issues before they become major problems that ruin your ride.
It’s well worth checking with your local bike shop to see if they run bike maintenance classes. Evans Cycles runs regular FIX IT sessions at each of their stores (which means, ladies, that even the guys need to learn how to do things!), including women only sessions. And, having recently partnered with British Cycling’s Breeze programme, Halfords is running free introductory bike maintenance classes for women in 400 of their stores on Wednesday 20 May. Places are limited, so book while you can! But there are many other centres that regularly hold bike maintenance classes, just check out some of these, Cycle Training UK, your local council, Look Mum no Hands cafe also holds bike maintenance classes if you are based in London.
Attending a class could be an hour or so well spent – learn to look after your bike properly and your bike will look after you when you’re out and about!