Your Guide To Bike Maintenance (Conquer The Fear!)

Recently I asked the Femme Cyclist community what their biggest challenge was as it relates to cycling. One of the most frequent answers? Bike maintenance.

From total beginners to seasoned riders, we’ve discovered that many women don’t know how or are intimidated by the idea of working on their own bike. The good news is that bikes are actually pretty simple machines.

You don’t have to be an incredibly mechanically-minded person to work on your bike. (I’m certainly not).

Bike maintenance skills are something that you can learn (and get good at!) with a little practice, some lessons, and the right tools. In this article, we share the what and how.

What you should know, what tools you need, and how to gain bike maintenance skills.

But first….

Why You Should Learn To Work On Your Bike

  • It’s cheaper than taking it to a bike shop.
  • You’ll be able to keep it in tip-top shape so it runs smoothly and doesn’t need expensive repairs later.
  • You’re less likely to get stuck on the side of the road or trail if you know to do simple fixes.
  • It’s empowering. It feels good to know how your bike works and how to fix it.

Things To Check Before Each Ride (ABCs)

The bike community has developed a clever acronym to help you remember what to check before each ride. ABCs stand for “Air, Brakes, Chain.”

Every time you go for a bike ride, you should check these things first.

A Is For Air

Check your tire pressure. If your tires are too low you could pinch flat (it’s never fun having a flat tire), or even crash.

You can check the sidewall of your tire for the recommended tire pressure or check out our guides on mountain bike tires and road bike tires.

If you need a little help on pumping up your tires, our post/video on using a pump will help.

How to Use a Bike Pump to Pump up a Bike Tire

B Is For Brakes

Squeeze your front and rear brakes to make sure they are working properly.

C is For Chain

Is your chain cleaned and lubed? If not, make sure to give it a quick wipe down and lube before you take off.

rear bicycle gears

Bonus: Quick-Releases

In addition to the ABCs, I think you should also always check your quick-releases. If you have quick-release skewers on your wheels, make sure they are tightened and firmly closed. It’s also not a bad idea to check the quick-release on your seatpost collar. There’s nothing worse than having your seat slowly sink downward.

BICYCLE QUICK RELEASE

Other Bike Maintenance Stuff Every Woman Should Know How To Do

Items with an asterick (*) are things you should learn right away. All other items can be learned over time as you gain experience and confidence.

Tires

Wheels

  • Check your wheel for loose spokes
  • True & tension wheels

Brakes

  • Check pads for wear *
  • Change brake pads
  • Bleed brakes (if hydraulic)
  • Replace cables & housing

Drivetrain

  • Clean your drivetrain and lube your chain *
  • Inspect & tighten crankset
  • Check your drivetrain for wear
  • Fix a broken chain
  • Replace a chain
  • Replace a cassette
  • Replace chain rings
  • Replace cables & housing
  • Replace a bottom bracket

Fork And Shock (On Mountain Bikes)

  • Set and adjust air pressure *
  • Service suspension seals
  • Clean and grease suspension pivots
  • Replace shock oil

Other

Bike Maintenance Classes And Clinics

One of the best ways to learn bicycle maintenance is directly from a professional. You can do this by taking a class or clinic.

We’ve listed some popular classes below, but chances are a local bike shop or continuing education organization near you offers classes as well. We recommend reaching out to your local womens bike club or organization to ask if they know of any classes.

You can also try googling “bike maintenance class near me.”

Bike Maintenance Videos

If you can’t go to an in-person bike maintenance clinic, then the next best thing is watching YouTube videos. Of course, you can always just do a Youtube search for the skill you want to learn, but here are some of our go-to channels:

Books And Other Resources

Years ago (before the internet was a helpful resource), I learned everything I know about bike maintenance by reading books. Here are a couple of invaluable ones.

If you buy thru these links, we may make a commission.

Bike Tools You Should Have On Hand

It’s time to start building your arsenal of bike tools. There are a couple of ways to do this.

You can go ahead and buy a pre-made kit, but that can be spendy. Another option is just to buy tools as you go, and over time you’ll amass quite the collection.

Basic Tools To Get Started

At a minimum we recommended having these basic tools.

  • Allen wrench set
  • Chain lube and cleaner
  • Chain brush (or toothbrush)
  • Rags (you can use old t-shirts)
  • Tire levers (do yourself a favor and invest in steel-core ones)
  • Spare tube(s)
  • Tube patch kit
  • Floor pump with gauge
  • Pedal wrench
  • Work stand (ok, this one isn’t mandatory but it sure makes life a lot easier)
  • Shock pump (if you have a mountain bike)
  • Grease
BICYCLE WORK STAND
A work stand isn’t required…but it makes working on your bike A LOT easier.

Tools To Collect With Time

  • Crescent wrenches (6 to 12mm)
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Bleed kit and oil (if you have hydraulic disc brakes, specific to your brand)
  • Rotor truing tool
  • Torque wrench
  • Screwdrivers (multiple sizes of flat-head and Phillips)
  • Cable cutters
  • Chain tool
  • Chain pliers
  • Chain wear indicator gauge
  • Cassette lockring remover
  • Chain whip
  • Crank puller (make sure to get the right one for your bike)
  • Bottom bracket tool (make sure to get the right one for your bike)
  • Truing stand
  • Cone wrenches (13, 15, and 17mm)
  • Spoke wrench
  • Spoke tension gauge
  • Dish tool
  • Air compressor
  • Derailleur alignment gauge

More Stuff You Might Like

About The Author

kristen bonkoski

Kristen Bonkoski is the founder and owner of Femme Cyclist.

An avid cyclist for a few decades now, she took to cycling during her late teen years — a time when she needed something to help boost her self-esteem and confidence.

Mission accomplished, the sport has become an important part of her life.  Kristen’s favorite disciplines are mountain biking and bike commuting, although you can also find her cranking out a century on her road bike and touring with her husband and son.  If it has to do with two wheels, she enjoys doing it.

Kristen is a certified USA Cycling coach, and she runs Rascal Rides, a website about biking with kids.

IG: @femme_cyclist

2 thoughts on “Your Guide To Bike Maintenance (Conquer The Fear!)”

  1. Thanks for this post! This year has been the year I’ve finally started working on my bikes (more so than just putting air in my tires and cleaning the chain, haha). I guess I have COVID to thank for the boredom of staying home leading to the motivation to tinker around in the garage on my bikes! I’ve adjusted the derailleurs (rear only) on my road bikes, but am a bit stymied by the MTB derailleur. Any tips/tricks/specific video advice there?

    Reply

Leave a Comment