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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Check your tire pressure *
- Pump up a tire *
- Fix a flat *
- Add sealant (if running tubeless tires)
- Replace worn tires
- Check your wheel for loose spokes
- True & tension wheels
- Check pads for wear *
- Change brake pads
- Bleed brakes (if hydraulic)
- Replace cables & housing
- 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
- Replace grips or bar tape
- Check and tighten bolts *
- Service dropper post (on mountain bike)
- Add, replace, or swap out pedals *
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.”
- REI bike maintenance classes (all over the U.S.)
- Park Tool School (all over)
- United Bicycle Institute (Ashland, Oregon – worth traveling to)
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:
- Femme Cyclist — still new, but we’ll be adding more videos!
- Park Tool
- Bike Shop Girl
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.
- Zinn And The Art Of Mountain Bike Maintenance*
- Zinn And The Art Of Road Bike Maintenance*
- Park Tool Big Blue Book Of Bicycle Maintenance*
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, like this one from Park Tool*, 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. I’ve linked to the tools I use and love, but any brand is fine.
- 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)
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*
2 thoughts on “Your Guide To Bike Maintenance (Conquer The Fear!)”
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?
I’ve been working on my bike more too! COVID has been good for something, I guess. Here’s a pretty good MTB derraileur tutorial: https://youtu.be/8fkpPZ8MOxw