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Bike Maintenance

A helpful guide to Brakes, Gears, Punctures and Safety Checks.



Effective brakes are essential. It’s easy to let them become less responsive, so check their function every time you go for a ride.



  1. Check the wheel is properly aligned in the frame
  2. Undo the nut or bolt that holds the block to the caliper. If there are a series of washers, note their order
  3. Remove the old brake pad
  4. Insert the new brake pads and make sure they align properly against the rim of the wheel - they should be at a right angle to the rim V brake
  5. If the pads are too high they will damage the tyre and if they’re too low they will leave a lip as they wear down and the brake will stick to the rim
  6. Slowly and carefully tighten the nut/bolt that holds the brake pads on - ensure that the final tightening doesn’t cause the pad to slip and end up twisted
  7. Finally - check the brakes work!


Some brakes allow you to make the brake even so that when you pull the brake lever the arms move simultaneously.

With ‘’V’’ brakes you can adjust the screws near where they bolt on.

Brake sticking on the right side? Either screw the right side in or unscrew the left side. Brake sticking on the left side? Either screw the left side in or unscrew the right side

Don’t worry if you don’t get it right straight away - just remember what you did and try the other way.

Dual pivot brakes have a little adjuster on the top - either a small crosshead or a 2-2.5mm allen key.

If right pad appears closer to rim, tighten setscrew. If left pad appears closer, loosen setscrew.



  1. Using quality cable cutters, snip off the cable end near the caliper. Undo the cable on the brake caliper. Line up the slots in the adjuster and lever.
  2. Pull the cable forward, pull the lever and release the nipple.
  3. Pull the inner wire through the housing unless it is too rusty or so rusty it doesnt move, in which case discard all the cabling – inner and outer.
  4. Select a new cable, preferably with a soldered end. Remove the outer casing, remembering the order and lubricate the inside.
  5. Fit the new inner cable into the brake lever. Move the barrel adjuster so it is as close as it will go to the lever, thus allowing greater adjustment as the pads wear down and the cable stretches.
  6. Feed the inner wire through the outer casing.
  7. Feed the wire into the pinch bolt making sure it’s in the same place as it was when you removed it.
  8. With “V” type brakes, you need to be able to release the noodle (The bit of metal the clips into your quick release on your B brake). for the cable to be at the correct tightness. Tighten the pinch bolt tightly enough to see if the noodle can be released. When you’re happy, tighten properly.
  9. Pull the lever hard about 20 times. Now check your brake and noodle release.
  10. It may be that the brake now needs readjusting. Readjust accordingly and check your brake.

NB other brakes have a much less precise tightness. It’s up to you how tight you have them so have a play around and see what suits.



Gears are great although it can be frustrating if they don’t work well. Here are some hints & tips to help you solve common problems.

The easiest way to sort out derailleur gears (pictured) is to work through them logically.

If possible use a workstand so you can see what’s going on when you move the pedals forward and move the gear levers. It’s sometimes difficult to tell exactly what the problem is when you’re riding.


  • Chain rattles in some of the gears? Check that each click moves the derailleur one cog. If it doesn't, then the gears need indexing
  • Can’t get all the gears? The cable may be too tight or too loose
  • Chain comes off at the back? Either the limiter screws need adjusting or the hanger/derailleur is bent. Its the same adjustment if the chain came off the front
  • The gears go from small to big but not big to small? The cable could be too tight or rusted in the housing
  • The gears go from big to small but not small to big? The cable could be too loose
  • The gears slip under pressure? Probably a worn cassette & chain
  • The gears slip between the cogs? Cable may need adjusting
  • Does the chain suck (wrap around the front gear) when pedalling backwards? Possibly a sticky freehub body
  • Chain doesn’t always go into gear? Could be a bent/twisted hanger


It’s difficult to deal with every gear issue on paper. Most problems are to do with the cable tension. You can’t just check the tension by feeling the cable as it varies from bike to bike, so you need to run through the gears and check that they’re indexing properly.



Turn the barrel adjuster anticlockwise (as if you were unscrewing a jar lid) to tighten the cable and help the derailleur move to a bigger cog.

Turn the barrel adjuster clockwise (as if you were screwing the lid back on the jar) to loosen the cable if the derailleur is jumping two cogs or struggling to go into as higher gear.


We all dread them, we all get them. The secret to sorting out a puncture is to relax, think positive and look forward to jumping back on the saddle! 

Here’s our step-by-step guide to sorting out your puncture...

  1. Undo the brake on the appropriate wheel. See the brakes card for images on different types of brakes. You won’t be able to undo a caliper brake or a centre pull brake - instead you’ll need to remove and replace the wheel with the tyre deflated. Make sure you can do this before you get a puncture so it isn’t another problem!
  2. Put the chain onto the smallest cog at the back. If you have 3 gears at the front put the chain on the middle cog at the front.
  3. Remove any computer head or light from the handlebars and turn the bike upside down. If you have a good saddle you might want to put a cloth underneath it.
  4. Stand behind the appropriate wheel and undo the quick release or wheel nuts - as shown in the image on the right. If it’s a front wheel you’ll have to unwind the quick release to get the quick release lever past the ‘drop outs’.
  5. REAR WHEEL Pull the derailleur towards you with your left hand, as pictured. With your right hand hold the top of the wheel & pull the wheel up and out, releasing the derailleur and disengaging the chain if necessary. FRONT WHEEL Hold one of the fork legs in one hand and using your other hand grasp the top of the wheel and pull the wheel up and out.
  6. To remove the tyre you need to push the valve and ensure all the air is expelled. Push the sides of the tyre so that the rubber of the tyre and the metal of the rim aren’t sticking together.
  7. Stand behind the wheel with your thumbs facing outward and massage the beading of the tyre into the well of the rim. Keep pushing and as you work your way around the rim the tyre will pop off the rim - or use tyre levers.
  8. Now you can either mend the puncture with a repair kit* or replace the inner tube. Check the inside of the tyre for the cause of the puncture and remove the offending article. If you don’t find anything check again! Check that the rim tape is seated properly.
  9. Fit the tyre on one side of the rim 10. Slightly inflate the tube to give it shape and then put the valve through the valve hole and fit the tube into the tyre
  10. Start to fit the tyre onto the other side of the rim starting at the valve.
  11. Inflate the inner tube as much as possible and force the beading into the well in the same way as when you removed the tyre.
  12. Sometimes you have to use tyre levers. It also depends on how strong your hands are. If you have to use levers, be very careful not to pinch the inner tube between the lever and the rim.
  13. Partially inflate the tyre checking carefully that the beading is seated in the rim. Also checking the tube is not pinched between the rim and the tyre.
  14. To replace the REAR WHEEL pull the derailleur towards you with your left hand and with your right hand place the wheel in the correct position with the cog between the chain - the chain being on the smallest cog. To replace the FRONT WHEEL drop the wheel into position.
  15. Tighten the wheel nuts or quick release.
  16. Turn the bike the correct way up and do a final check on the quick release/ wheel nuts to make sure the wheel is in the correct position.
  17. Don’t forget to re-attach the brake if it was undone!

*How to use your repair kit

  • Locate hole in the tube and mark
  • lightly sand around the hole to roughen tube slightly
  • Apply vulcanising solution/glue to area, making sure the area covered is bigger than the patch
  • Wait until solution is dry (NOT tacky)
  • Remove foil from patch and place patch over the hole. Apply pressure for 20 seconds
  • Pump up tube and check for leaks
Safety Checks


Bikes ride more smoothly and parts last longer with regular cleaning. Clean the frame and wheels with a dedicated bike cleaner or diluted washing up liquid. The dirty bits - chain, derailleurs, chain rings and freewheel/cassette need a deeper clean - try a stronger solution of washing up liquid or a bike degreaser.

Rinse your bike with water and leave it to dry - or help the process along with a squirt of water dispersal spray or light lubricant. Once the bike is dry you can lubricate the chain and the pivots on the derailleurs. Use a good quality PTFE based lubricate – nothing too heavy or the dirt will stick to it and the whole cleaning process will have to be repeated! Let it soak in for at least 20 minutes and then wipe off the excess.


Inner tubes inside tyres lose air over time - it happens slowly so you may not be aware that air is lost. Squeezing your tyre by hand can help indicate whether you need more air - but a pressure gauge allows you to be more accurate.

Pressure gauges come on good quality track pumps and some hand pumps. The correct pressure is written on the side of the tyre and will vary depending on the size, quality and design.

  • Not enough air: underinflated tyres are prone to pinch flats, where the inner tube is trapped between the tyre all and wheel rim.
  • Too much air: overinflated tyres are more prone to damage from sharp rocks and similar road hazards. They will give a harsh ride on anything but the smoothest pavement and can also bounce on surface defects, causing dangerous interruptions in traction.
  • Just right: correctly inflated tyres will not get pinch flats in normal use. They will also absorb minor surface irregularities, improving rider comfort.
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