Sunday, 1 May 2011

10 Tips to Keep your Road Bike in Tip Top Condition

      Knowing a good bike mechanic (or spanner)  is like knowing an electrician or plumber, it will save you loads of money in the long term, and ensure you don't pay over the odds for things.  

      I'm fortunate enough to have recently met an ex pro-team mechanic just up the road from me when he built my new Onix Azzuro.  I asked him to put together some hints and advice to keep your road bike running smoothly. 

Check your chain for stretch at regular intervals. If it is .75% worn order and fit a new one. If it is beyond 1% check your cassette and chain rings for wear too.  As you finish cleaning your bike post ride lube your chain with a bike and condition specific quality lube.

Then remove as much of the oil with a clean cloth as is visible. Your chain really only needs the smallest of coatings on it and on the rollers and it stops everything attracting road detritus and gumming up.

Bar Tape

Learn to apply bar tape; it needs practice and dedication to get it right. If you wind it right, it  can be re used.  If you insist on white or light colours then it requires a lot of care to keep it looking that way!


Choose tyres wisely and carefully. Some have fantastic reputations for grip and longevity. Aged tyres will last much longer than brand new ones, the rubber needs to cure properly.

When fitting I put the prominent tyre logo over the valve hole, makes it easier to find in the dark if you puncture. If you get a deep gash or hole in the outer rubber, let the pressure out of the tube and superglue it. Pinch the glued area for a few seconds and it should be fine for a little longer.

Bike Washing  

We all like cleaning our bikes right? It’s the best way to check for damage and wear.  Get a bucket with clean, warm, very soapy water.  If you think you’ve put in enough fairy liquid, put in some more!

Start at the top of your bike, saddle, bar, brake hoods then work down the frame. Do every inch of the frame, drive chain, rims, hubs, tyres, even under your saddle. If you get some stubborn grime, use a strong degreaser like Jizer (from Arco) or other water soluble degreaser and clean the offending muck.

Rinse with low pressure clean water and leave to dry a little. Polish the frame to finish off the job if you have time. Lube any pivots lightly and check that chain!


A pet hate of mine are missing cable ends. They cause no end of problems, not least meaning you need to replace a cable prematurely and an un-ended cable can harm a mechanic! If an end does fray, try to rewind it back or snip off the offending strand.

If you have a sticking shifter, check for properly routed outers or a kink in it. New 105 and Ultegra cables from the shifters can be tight on first fit if not routed behind the bar.

Clean the outer cable by spraying GT85 or WD40 through the outer until it runs clean, shake out any excess and replace on the bike. If it’s still sticky then, replace the outer. 

Torque it up

If you’re lucky enough to own a small fleet of bikes it is worth getting a torque wrench that is capable of going to very low settings. Most stem bolts go as low as 5 or 6 NM but don’t wade in to tighten them to that straight away. Step up from 2 to 4 to 5 or 6. It stops you over stressing your delicate components.

Read the instructions that came with the components you’re fitting and follow them, they will have tested them and know torque what is required. Ensure the faceplate is tightened in a diagonal pattern and you have a similar gap at the top and bottom of the plate.  Make sure you return the wrench to its lowest setting to let it rest in between uses.

Shifter Advice  

There are normally 2 adjusters in line for any mechanism on your bike. They can easily seize when you clean your bike regularly. To stop this happening you need to follow a few simple steps. Remove each adjuster from the frame and rear mech and clean the hole and thread. Grease and replace. Tighten until it stops then take out ½ to 1 turn.  This will help to reduce it seizing in the future and give a little flexibility for adjustment later on.

Once the cable is refitted, tighten the cinch bolt and shift to stretch the cable and settle the outer cable ends. Shift until the shifter stops and gently pull the cable away from the longest tube it runs along. This will stop it needing adjusting again after a few rides.

Shift to the highest gear and pull the cable back through the cinch bolt. Check the higher and lower stops on the mech and adjust the indexing between gears. This is best observed on YouTube, just type in gear adjustment or look on the Park Tools website.

Cutting a Steerer Tube

If you fit a new fork or decide to shorten your existing steerer tube you really should use a dedicated cutting guide. These can be a little expensive and you may only use it once. Unless you have the patience of a saint or the steady hand of a sniper you will need to bodge a guide.

I have been known to cut steerers in the field and have used masking tape, headset spacers and ty wraps. Not ideal but it gets you by.

Measure a couple of times and write down the size you are going to cut off. It’s usually a disaster if you get your measurements wrong, you have been warned. If in doubt get a shop to do it.

That Annoying Noise

There can be nothing more frustrating than a creak or a click from your bike, somewhere! It really could be coming from anywhere on the modern carbon monocoque. It does not mean there is an issue or problem but if you have greased and checked the usual culprits, cranks, headset, crank bolts, seatpost, etc, give all the joints a quick blast with GT85. 

This usually cures the noise. If it doesn’t, turn up your iPod or try to ignore it!

And Finally

Invest in some quality Allen keys; they keep your bolts moving for longer.

Keep your pressure up in your tyres, 90-110 PSI (6.2-7.5 BAR), a little less if it’s wet.

Clean out the grooves in your brake blocks to help with braking. Pick out any spots of alloy from the face of the blocks too, these increase rim wear at an incredible rate. 

About the Author

Started off by fixing my own bikes as a kid and after joining the military I attended several 24 hour MTB events as a mechanic then chief mechanic. I did RAAM as a driver/mechanic and then looked after several military teams at week long MTB races. 

I got my big break and worked for a couple of pro road teams,, Rapha Condor, Kinesis and Team Raleigh. I am now a freelance mechanic and build bikes for Onix Bikes.

You can follow Mike (and ask him questions) on Twitter here.  If you can get your bike to Mike, he can do the following: -

Full Service, Strip, Diagnostic Check & Rebuild. £50.
Report supplied on return, all areas cleaned, greased and adjusted.
Parts are extra to the quoted price. Any supplied component can be fitted in this price.

Partial Service, Inspection & Diagnostic Check, £30.
Report supplied on return, bike returned clean and adjusted.
Parts are extra to the quoted price. Any supplied components can be fitted in this price.

All other work, price on request.  You must arrange drop off and collection.  Contact Mike by e-mail at

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