Learning How to Handle Bike Maintenance and Repairs


Unlike running or swimming, cycling requires an optimal performance from something outside of the cyclist’s control. Each time cyclists go out, they need a bike in peak condition that can deliver what they need. To make sure this happens, bikes often need maintenance or slight repairs. While a variety of issues can come up with bike function, they all fall in to one of two categories: something the user can fix and something that needs professional attention.

James Little, a mechanic for Higher Gear in Wilmette, said that the difference in these kinds of fixes can literally make or break a bike. Every cyclist who takes a bike out for any extended period of time should know a couple of things, Little said. The most important, and most common is fixing a flat tire. To fix the flat, every cyclist should bring with them the correct tools, Little said, like a spare tube of the correct size, tire levers and a pump of some kind. Cyclists should also be able to adjust their breaks if they are bumping from one side and adjusting their derailleurs. Beyond these issues, cyclists should consider making a visit to their local bike repair shop.

“With today’s bikes, if you’re not a professional it’s best to bring it in a bike shop,” Little said. “You can cause hundreds of dollars of damage in just two seconds. It’s best to have a professional take a look.”

On top of being a big hit to the wallet, trying to fix all your bike’s problems on your own could turn dangerous. Little said that a chain sticking can get to the point where it will pop from the rear derailleur and become a big safety concern.

Even for the fixes you can perform on your own, you need to learn the proper steps. Sometimes, video lessons on YouTube can teach the cyclist what to do, Little said. He also recommended a Park Tool’s book, The Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair, as a handy guide to learning some of the less complex fixes. The book retails for $20-$25 online.

More experience makes it easier to notice even the slightest changes or deterioration in a bike. On a new or new-to-you bike, though, it can be difficult to tell what isn’t quite right. Little said Higher Gear offers a “Race Check” that goes through the entire bike to make adjustments, lube the bike and make sure it’s in optimal form. Even a brand new bike can need adjustments if it wasn’t put together by a mechanic.

Become familiar with your bike, and learn when to call in a professional to help. The difference between a bike working at its best and one that could be dangerous may be the difference between crossing the finish line.