10 How-tos Every Cyclist Need to Be Able to Do Well

Being a responsible cyclist means taking proper care of your bike. Maintaining and repairing your two-wheeler will help keep you and others safe on the road (or trail). 

If you also happen to be an athlete, it is very important to know the essential bike checks you must do before a race to help have the best bike split ever.

10 How-tos Every Cyclist Needs to Be Able to Do Well

5 Basic Bike Repair and Maintenance Skills

What You’ll Need

Like vehicles, routine bike maintenance is essential for performance and safety while riding. In addition, a bike that’s well cared for will save you money and enhance your riding experience. Instead of waiting for something to break mid-ride and taking it to an expensive repair shop, regular maintenance can help prevent injury and save on costly repairs down the road.

Essential Tools

The following tools are widely available, easy to use, and should be included in every cyclist’s bike repair toolkit: 

  • Allen key set (ranging in size from 2 to 12 millimetres)
  • Chain brush
  • Chain lube and cleaner
  • Clean rags
  • Latex gloves (for cleaning)
  • Open-end spanners (ranging in size from 6 to 17 millimetres)
  • Spare tubes
  • Tyre levers
  • Tyre pump with gauge
  • Torque wrench
  • Tube patch kit

1. How to Fix a Flat Bike Tyre

The first step is to remove the wheel with the flat tyre. Remember to disconnect the brake cable from the brake arms if required. However, most modern-day bikes also have a quick release on the brake lever or calliper to facilitate removing the wheels without having to disconnect the brake cable.

If it’s your rear tyre, shift your chain to the smallest sprocket. Then, loosen the quick release to free the tyre. If your wheel is attached with nuts, you may need to use a crescent spanner or commonly called an adjustable spanner.

Your next step is to remove the tyre’s inner tube. Open the air valve and let out all the air inside the inner tube. Then, take the tyre bead off the rim by inserting a tyre lever between the tyre bead and rim edge at least half an inch (15mm) away from the air valve. Next, carefully pull the inner tube out from inside the tyre.

You can then replace the damaged inner tube with a new inner tube or you can locate the leak and patch the hole. 

To find the leak:

  • Inflate the damaged tube using a bike pump, then hold your hand or face near the tube while moving it to determine where the air is escaping.
  • Submerge the tube in water and see where water leaks out.

Once you’ve confirmed where the hole is, use a patch kit and follow the step-by-step instructions for patching the tube.  Once repaired and the glue is dry, reinsert the fixed tube into the tyre.  Next, inflate the tyre to the recommended tyre pressure, tighten the valve nut, and replace the valve cap.

Reinstall the wheel onto the bike frame. Do this by pulling the derailleur down and checking that the chain wraps around the cassette. Next, ensure the disc brake rotor is aligned with the space between the brake pads and check that the axle is in the dropouts.  Lastly, check that your brakes work before riding.

2. How to Reattach a Dropped Chain

If your chain slips while riding, start by downshifting into your bike’s lowest gear, which ensures the chain will be on the largest chain ring. Keep pedalling to see if this realigns the chain. If downshifting and pedalling fail to work, get off your bike to have a closer look.

While holding your bike seat with one hand, lift your back tyre while spinning the pedals with your opposite hand. Push the rear derailleur forward to release chain tension. Then, lift the chain and place it back on the chain ring.

Keep spinning the pedals by hand while elevating the back tyre to realign the chain.

You can prevent chain slips by checking the number of teeth exposed under the chain ring. Wiping off the chain after every use or having a chain brush on hand also are easy ways to care for the chain. Read your owner’s manual to understand how to maintain your bike chain as each brand is unique.

3. How to Replace Brake Pads

You can tell if your brake pads need replacing by going for a quick spin and pumping your brakes. If your brakes feel soft and you’re not stopping fast enough, your pads likely need changing.

Using a mini-screwdriver, unscrew the brake pads from the shoe and replace them with the new pads. Ensure the pads are aligned with the tire rim, matching the orientation of the old pads. Make sure the pads are pointing in the correct direction as they have distinct sides (front and back) and often include arrows on which direction the tire should pass.

Once you’ve installed the new pads, reduce the brake cable tension. Remember, not all brake pads work with every tyre. Read your bike’s specifications before you purchase the pads to make sure what you get is compatible with your bike.

4. How to Loosen a Stuck Seat

Your bike seat may become stuck and unable to adjust for several reasons. For example, the seat post may become seized mechanically due to it being the incorrect size and forced into the slot, or the issue may be chemical and caused by corrosion.

To resolve this issue, remove the seat post binder bolt and squirt penetrating oil (e.g., WD-40) around the seat post. Allow the bike to sit overnight.

The following day, twist the seat saddle to see if the oil loosened the seat. If this doesn’t do the trick, repeat the same procedure except with ammonia or Coca-Cola instead of penetrating oil, as this help dissolve corrosion.

To prevent future sticky situations, periodically remove your seatpost and flip your bike upside down to allow water and moisture that’s accumulated over time to drain out of the seat tube. Occasionally grease your seatpost and spray penetrating oil inside the seat tube. This will allow for easy removal of your seat post in the future and prevent corrosion.

5. How to Tighten Loose Bolts

Each bike is unique, and every bolt is designed for a specific tension range (“torque specification”). Refer to your owner’s manual or check online for the recommended torque range of each bolt on your bike.

Using a torque wrench will ensure you’ve tightened each fastener to the correct torque range. Torque wrenches are tools used to measure a fastener’s resistance to rotation. They’re the best way to adequately tighten your bike’s nuts and bolts.

Before starting, make sure the torque wrench is set to zero. Then, tighten the bolts until they are within the recommended torque range. A good rule of thumb is to check the tightness of your bike’s fasteners (bolts, nuts, screws) once a month to ensure the parts are tight and everything is connected correctly.

5 Essential Bike Checks Before Your Triathlon Race 

6. How to Wash the Bike

It’s a good idea to routinely wash your bike. In the days before your triathlon race, set at least 30 to 60 minutes aside to give your bike a proper wash.

Use cleaners and soaps specifically formulated for bicycle frames and components, and prepare to give the process some “elbow grease” to make sure all of your bike’s parts and pieces are shiny and free of dirt and debris.

Don’t forget to degrease the chain and drivetrain components and add some fresh chain lube. Not only will a clean bike perform better, but it will also give you a mental boost on race day by knowing that you’re riding one of the sharpest-looking bikes at the event.

7. How to Inspect the Tyres


Checking your tyres before a race is a two-part process. The first part is one that you can do during the cleaning process outlined above, ideally a few days before your event: Closely inspect both your front and rear tyres for small bits of debris, such as pebbles or bits of glass, that have become embedded in the tread.

Over time, these small bits of debris can work themselves through the tire casing and cause a puncture. If you find any bits of debris, carefully remove them with a flat-head screwdriver, awl, or another appropriate tool.  If you discover a large gash or another problem area that could result in a flat, replace the tyre well ahead of your event. 

The second step in race-day tyre preparation is something you must do just before your event as you’re getting all of your gear ready in your transition area. Use a pump to inflate your tyres to your preferred pressure. On race day itself, jump onto your bike coming out of the transition area to check the tyre pressure.

8. How to Check the Bolts

And as race day approaches, go over your bike and check each bolt, one by one, ensuring that they’re all tightened to the specific recommended torque setting—no more and no less. 

Get yourself a torque wrench that has settings for all of the components on your bike (usually with a range of at least 4 Nm to 10 Nm, but this can vary from bike to bike) or a set of multiple fixed-Nm wrenches, and educate yourself on how to use it. Most components such as the stem, seat post, and basebar will have the proper torque settings written near the bolts.

9. How to Adjust Shifting


Going over your bike’s shifting should be one of your local bike shop’s or mechanic’s top priorities anytime you take it to them for service. Ideally, you’d have them give your bike a full tune-up in the days leading up to your triathlon. 

If you’re not able to utilize someone else’s service, then this is something you should check yourself. Test out your bike’s shifting and pay close attention to the smoothness of the gear changes. If your bike isn’t shifting well, make some adjustments to the derailleurs per the component manufacturer’s recommended process.

If things still don’t feel quite right, it may be time to replace the shifter cables (if you have a mechanical drivetrain) or inspect the wiring (if you have an electronic drivetrain). We recommend that you have a mechanic do this.

Shifting gears is such a vital part of racing your bike that you do not want to skip this step and find yourself struggling to get into the proper gear while you’re out on the racecourse.

10. How to Inspect the Brakes


Brake maintenance should be something that your local bike shop or mechanic is checking every time you take your bike in for service. And because it’s so critical to both your bike’s safety and performance, it’s also something with which you should be familiar and comfortable inspecting and evaluating yourself, if not fully servicing. 

In the days before your triathlon race, go out for an easy ride and pay close attention to how your brakes are performing. If everything feels good and you’re able to stop safely and comfortably, as well as modulate your brakes appropriately while descending and cornering, then you should be good to go.

If anything feels off or different from normal, inspect your brakes. First, make sure your wheels are properly oriented and secured in your bike’s dropouts or thru-axles and give them a spin by hand—make sure they’re rotating freely and smoothly.

If you have rim brakes, check to make sure that your wheel’s brake track is not contacting the brake pads while it is spinning. If you have disc brakes, listen to make sure your rotor is not contacting the brake pads inside the callipers—if it is, chances are you’ll hear a ting-ting sound. If you experience any sort of rubbing, adjust the brakes per the manufacturer’s recommended process. 

Whatever type of brakes you have, check the pads. Make sure they don’t show any signs of excessive wear per the brake pad manufacturer’s recommendations. If anything seems amiss, or your pads show too much wear, replace them immediately. If your brakes aren’t functioning properly during your triathlon event, then the only thing they’ll be bringing to a screeching halt will be your race effort.


Whether you’re a cycling enthusiast or a serious athlete, knowing these basic bike repairs will help you get the most out of your bike while keeping yourself and others safe. That said, it is just as important to know when to seek the help of a qualified bike mechanic is essential.

If you’re unsure how to do a particular bike repair or have any questions regarding bike maintenance, don’t hesitate to contact a professional mechanic. They can assist in getting you safely riding again as soon as possible.


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