Keep your bike in great condition by lubricating it properly. This is especially important in the winter when you bike gets wet frequently and the roads get even dirtier than normal. The question often asked is how frequently should someone apply lubricant to their bike. It is a tough question to answer because it varies depending on how often you use your bike and in what kind of conditions you are cycling in.
The chain is the part that requires most frequent lubrication. If it is a long ride in the rain then the chain should be lubricated afterwards. In the summer months the chain needs less frequent lubrication. Twice a month should cover it if you ride daily. The other parts of your bike do not need to be lubricated as often as your chain. As a general rule, when the bike starts to become noisy it is worth applying some lubricant to see if it solves the problem. Also, if you touch the chain and it feels dry, then it may benefit from a small amount of lubricant. To complete this repair you’ll need bike lubricant, grease and a cloth.
You can’t lubricate a bike unless it’s clean. The reason for this is that lubricant attracts more dirt, which causes wear of components and is tough to clean off. The first step, therefore, is to clean your bike. This is best done with an official bike cleaning product as then it won’t mess with any lubes you want to stay on the bike.
The two biggest mistakes people make when lubricating their bikes is they apply too much and they use WD-40. The truth is your bike needs less lube than you would think and WD-40 is not suitable on fast moving parts. I highly recommend getting bike specific lubricating products. These are designed to extend the life of your bike. As a rule of thumb, you should apply lube where there are moving parts.
Spin the chain and drop a small amount of chain lube as it spins round. Make sure you work the lube round by shifting into all the gears so it spreads. Leave it to dry for 5 minutes and then spin the chain through a dry cloth to wipe off any excess. The chain should feel very slightly moist to touch.
Also apply lube to the brake arms and levers. Avoid getting any lube on brake pads and wheel rims as this can drastically reduce stopping power. Squeeze the brake lever to work in some of the lube.
Brake and shift cables also need lubricating occasionally. Use grease to lubricate cables. Simply release the cable from its housing and then work in a little bit of grease with your fingers around the cable. Move the part you have just added lube to around a bit so that it can spread. Remember, you only need small amounts.
Lube the pivots on your rear derailleur. Also apply a small amount of lube to the jockey wheel, though this is unlikely to need much as it picks up most of it from the chain as it spins round. The front derailleur mechanism needs lubricating on all the pivot points. It is also a good idea to very lightly grease the chain cage.
This will feel a bit counter-productive, but once you have finished adding lube to all the different parts allow them to dry. Then using a dry cloth, wipe off any excess. Any lube that is needed will have sunk in, whereas the excess will simply gather dirt. The components should have only a very thin coating and should feel slightly moist to touch. This prevents your bike from gathering dirt while you ride.
Generally such an extensive process doesn’t need to be undertaken every weekend, although in the winter I do my chain every few weeks or after a heavy rain. It might be worth doing the full lubrication every couple of months if you ride regularly through the winter. The main thing is to not ignore any clicking or grinding noises. Often times they will go away with a little lubrication, but if they don’t, perform a full safety check and consider getting your bike checked out.
Take these instructions with you
We built the Bike Doctor App for iPhone and iPad after looking for a more comprehensive bike maintenance manual. The app has since been downloaded over 20,000 times and frequently gets 5* reviews from happy users. If you are looking for a convenient maintenance guide on the move and you’d like to learn more about looking after your bike, then search for Bike Doctor in the App Store.
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.