Some people love to spend hours in the garage tinkering on their own bikes. They like to crank up the tunes, crack a beer, and take their time dialing everything in. I’m not one of those people. I like the accomplishment and sense of self-reliance when I work on my own bike, but I want to get it done as quick possible so I can go ride.
Part of the reason I like to work on my own bike is I can get it done immediately without having to drive anywhere and wait hours or even leave my bike behind. What I dislike is when things are tedious or worse—when I can’t fix it! Admittedly, my mechanic skills leave a little to be desired, but I’m getting better. Below are five easy tips and tricks I use to make bike maintenance easier and quicker.
1. Get the right tools and know where to find them
Something I’ve realized is that having the right tools make a world of difference. Also, having my tools organized saves time. I recently got the Topeak Tool Station, a well-organized and complete set of basic tools that have become the backbone of my maintenance program. Getting a basic bike-specific tool kit and creating a designated space for it will save you from having to improvise, and from spending more time looking for your tools than actually using them.
Topeak Tool Station: $899.99, topeak.com
2. Compress to mount and inflate tubeless tires
I’ve been that person at the gas station fiddling with the air compressor and showering the parking lot with latex sealant. I’ve also tried using CO2 cartridges and floor pumps to similar results.
Finally, I broke down and invested in my own air compressor, which worked OK, but didn’t really come together until I bought a bike-specific attachment called the Prestaflator. This $50, high-precision trigger and gauge makes getting tubeless tires seated and inflated simple. The job is made easier by removing the wheel’s valve stem core which facilitates higher airflow into the tire—a technique that also makes re-inflating previously mounted tires easier.
On the way to a race in Chile earlier this year, my tires lost air and became unseated on the plane. I was in a remote place with no air compressor anywhere and feeling doomed. Because my tires had been previously seated, they snapped back into place with just the extra “oomph” of the valve-free airflow—whew!
Prestaflator: $49.95, prestaflator.com
3. Refresh expired sealant
Also on the tire front, I’ve been guilty of letting my sealant go too long because I feared having them come unseated. Stan’s NoTubes’ Tire Sealant Injector along with removable valve stems are a good way to get around this fear. If you set up your tires with this system to begin with, all you need to do to refresh your sealant is remove the valve core, squeeze in the sealant and re-inflate with a floor pump.
If you have “Stanimals”—the chunks of hole-sealing material that clumps and tumbles inside your tire—you’re going to need to remove the bead. In most cases, you should be able to get the tire to re-seat without a compressor.
Stan’s Tire Sealant Injector: $9.95, notubes.com
4. Take care of your chain
I’ve been running a SRAM chain the last several years and love their Powerlink that lets you “break” and reconnect the chain. What I don’t love is trying to remove it. Thankfully, the Park Master Link Pliers makes it as simple as squeezing a handle. It compresses and unhooks the Powerlink with one squeeze, making it easy to take the chain on and off for deep cleaning, switching derailleurs, and other maintenance tasks. For regular cleaning of my chain I recently added the Finish Line Pro Chain Cleaner to my toolkit.
Editor’s note: SRAM recommends that 10- and 11-speed Powerlinks only be used once, and that chains be subsequently broken and reconnected with a new Powerlink at a different link. That said, we know many people who re-use Powerlinks as Sonya describes. Proceed at your own risk.
5. Torque it right
With the precise tolerances of lightweight components, it’s imperative to tighten your fixing bolts to the correct torque spec to prevent slipping from not enough torque, as well as damage from too much. Ritchey’s inexpensive Torque Key is pre-set to 5 newton meters (N-m)—a common spec for many stems, seat posts and components—making it a great road tool for reassembling bicycles when traveling. I also have Topeak digital D-Torq Wrench for the workshop that adjusts between 1-20 N-m by .1 N-m increments.