Bicycle in great condition

Every week we bring you a simple idea for reducing your carbon footprint and protecting the planet. This week: making sure your bicycle is in tip top condition.

Cycling is good news for your health, the planet and your wallet. It keeps you fit, reduces traffic and carbon emissions, and is a whole lot cheaper than owning a car or even taking public transport.

But to keep enjoying these benefits you have to make sure your bike in good nick – damaged tyres, rusted chains and frayed cables mean your bicycle isn’t operating as efficiently as it could be, which eventually adds up to unnecessary money spent and resources used. Set a reminder to give your wheels the once over every week to keep things running smoothly. Here’s what’s on the agenda.

1. Pump up your tyres

The single biggest positive impact you can make to your riding experience is making sure your tyres are properly inflated, and doing so will also have a knock-on effect on other potential problems you may encounter. They’re less likely to puncture, and they’ll do a good job of absorbing shocks and bumps that could damage your wheels or knock other parts of the bike out of tune.

Pumping up your tyres is quick and easy. Invest in a decent pump that will last, rather than a cheap one that won’t, and check out bicycling.com’s guide to finding the perfect pressure.

2. Lube up

Little and often is the name of the game when it comes to lubrication, and we’re not talking about anything complicated like stripping down parts or greasing bearings. Rather, quick bits of basic maintenance that’ll make sure your bike is always good to go.

Pay attention to any areas with moving parts, so that’s the chain, cogs, gear shifters and so on – don’t oil your brake pads though, for obvious reasons! Apply a few drops of lubricant every so often – there are many products available but don’t use cooking oil or WD40 – but be sparing, as oil attracts dirt. A light dab and a wipe should be enough to keep things properly greased, but if you find any patches of rust developing or feel any stiffness anywhere, try lubing up more frequently.

3. Check your brakes

Brakes are arguably the most important part of a bike, so check them before every ride. To check the front brake, push the bike forward and then apply the lever (usually the right hand one). The bike should stop. For the back brake, do the same but push the bike backwards.

Over time, though, brake cables will stretch. The only real consequence of this is that you’ll have to pull the brake lever further before it has any effect, but eventually they will lose their efficiency. Tightening brake cables is an easy job for a bike mechanic, but it’s not too difficult to do yourself. Cyclescheme.co.uk has a handy DIY guide.

4. Keep your gears aligned

Like brake cables, gear cables will stretch over time, gradually moving the gears out of alignment. This will happen to all the gears, not just one, as when one moves, the rest follow in turn. This won’t stop you from being able to ride your bike, but it could make your riding experience less comfortable as you’ll have to wrestle to get in the gear you want. Again, a mechanic will be able to sort this out quickly and easily, but Halfords has produced a handy video tutorial if you want to give it a go yourself.

5. Just use it!

One of the very best ways to keep your bike in good health is simply to ride it. Riding your bike gets all of its moving parts working which can delay and reduce problems, and if you keep it outside, a good ride will dry it out, shaking off any moisture that could cause rusting and other issues. If you know you’re not going to be riding your bike for a while, bring it inside if you can. If not, invest in a bike cover.

Remember, almost any bike is repairable (so don’t be too quick to write off a bike that’s got some problems), but by tending to yours little and often you’ll keep it in good condition for as long as possible, doing your bit for the condition of your health and the planet, too.

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