Canadian Cycling Magazine
The Best Maintenance Plan for the Year Ahead
Keep your bike running smoothly through all seasons with this schedule
The leaves have fallen. There is frost on your car in the morning. It just seems unbearably windy all the time. When you live in the northern hemisphere, this is the time when you either hang up the bike or put it on an indoor trainer for winter. It’s also the perfect time to start thinking ahead and fixing unsolved issues or the pesky squeak and creak that’s been bothering you all fall. It is also a good time to plan out a maintenance schedule for the upcoming year.
Whether you are storing your bike for the winter or riding the trainer for the next few months, give your bike a good cleaning. Use running water (but no high pressure) and a gentle soap. Do not let caked-on dirt and road grit sit for the winter, especially if you’re storing your bike in a cold environment. This combination can sometimes stain delicate matte or gloss paint finishes and corrode metal components. Make sure to degrease and clean the drivetrain (chain, cassette, chainrings and derailleurs). It’s also a good idea to get a tune-up by a professional to fix any issues you cannot manage yourself. Any good shop will have a tune-up package that includes a detailed cleaning of the frame and drivetrain. If you’re storing the bike, keep the charge topped up on electronic components regularly or bring the batteries into a warmer environment. Consider even bringing your tubeless wheels inside as well to keep the sealant from freezing and drying out. Try to avoid hanging a bike with hydraulic disc brakes vertically for long periods of time. By keeping the bike horizontal, you dodge the need to purge air and bleed the brakes before you want to take it out for that first spring ride. Replace your chain if it is at or past 75 per cent wear. Consider replacing your cassette on your indoor trainer at this time too if it has had a couple good winters in it.
If you performed all the proper maintenance before putting the bike away for the winter, you will be rewarded with a freshly tuned bike that’s ready to rip in spring, after adding some air and maybe sealant in the tires. If you rode it hard and put it away wet, you’ll need a thorough tune-up. I always recommend replacing your rear shift cable once a year, and now is the time to do it. Don’t end up at the side of the road with a snapped shift cable. Be proactive.
If the bike was on the trainer, it will need another good cleaning and inspection. Check that chain for wear at the end of trainer season. If you put in daily rides, I guarantee it will need a good cleaning or replacing. As you know, the sweat that drips onto your bike as you ride the trainer can eat away at expensive parts. Sweat always seeps into the headset. Pull it apart, and clean out the gunk. Replace bearings if they’re worn and regrease. Change your bar tape while you’re at it. It will be hammered after a winter of Zwift rides. It’s a good refresh as you head back out on the roads.
You will get caught in at least one rainstorm during the spring. A late May or early June checkup is always a good idea. It’s a good time to service your bottom bracket. Remove your crank and check the smoothness of the bearings. Replace if necessary. Inspect your headset again along with wheel bearings, too. Water and moisture will get in these areas. Of course, a good cleaning and a lube of the drivetrain won’t hurt.
Keep on top of that drivetrain maintenance. Clean and lube. Check tires. If you replaced them in the spring and have done at least a few thousand kilometres by July, inspect them for cuts and abrasions. Also, look at the wear indicators if your model has them. Most high-end tires roll smoothly and quickly, but do not last as long as heavier, more durable tires. Pay extra attention if you’ve invested in lighter race tires. Give the brakes a good once-over. Do not let disc brake pads get too worn. If you keep using pads that are shot, you will ruin the rotor and eventually the caliper. My rule of thumb is to have 1 to 1.5 mm of pad material. You can use three standard business cards as your gauge, which usually measure about 1-mm thick. Slide them up against the pad material to check.
The autumn can be a great time for riding. The temperatures are cooler and the air is crisp. If you’ve kept on top of your maintenance, you will avoid any downtime and be able to enjoy the remainder of the riding season before coming full circle again. If you haven’t been as diligent, well, get on it!
“You can use three standard business cards as your gauge.”