Bike Maintenance 1 Tyres

21/10/2012   |   Posted by jeremy


Maintenance 1: Tyres.

I wanted to write about the importance of maintaining your bike this week but I wasn’t sure who exactly I should pitch it at or how basic to be about it.

So I thought in the end it would be for those of you who may have a bike and really don’t have a clue about maintenance, or those of you who are going to get into biking and still don’t have a clue.

So where do we start, I think for the purposes of this I will start with tyres. Looking after your tyres is one of those basic jobs that everyone can do with virtually no cost involved.

 Before you start, next time you’re out an about, take a look at people riding bikes around you. Don’t worry about looking at the professional looking types but take a look at the everyday folk going about their business. What you will probably notice if you look at the point where the tyre meets the road is that a good 6 out of 10 of these tyres will appear to be very underinflated. This is especially noticeable with mountain bikes. I know that a lot of mountain bikers have their tyre pressures low but this is so they can get good grip in loose off road conditions. The fact is that most people who ride mountain bikes never go near a mountain in their lives.

You will of course need a bike pump for this. They come in all shapes and sizes, but I would recommend getting what is known as a track pump. This will pump up just about every type of tyre around. They are very easy to operate as you stand on the base and push the plunger up and down to inflate the tyres. They also come in a range of prices but as a guide you can pick up a reasonable one from somewhere like Halfords for around £25.00. I would also recommend that you buy one with a built in meter on it so that every time you pump up your tyres you can get them to the same pressure each time.

 If you ride a bike with tyres underinflated you are firstly making it very difficult for yourself as what you are doing is creating a lot of drag. When you pump your tyres up and ride it again you will find that the bike rides so much smoother, the steering will be lighter and it will be easier to turn the pedals.

There are three main types of valve that you attach the pump to, so identify which type you have. All valves should have a plastic screw on cover at the top of the valve which must be taken off first, but don’t worry if they are missing, it’s really not that important.

1: Schrader. This is the one that you are most likely to come across on a cheaper bike. To look at it’s the same as a car type valve. To inflate the tyre, just attach the pump end over the valve and pump away. To deflate it push the pin in the middle of the valve until air comes out.

2: Presta. This tends to be used on road bikes, sports hybrids or more expensive mountain bikes. They come in various lengths and look like a long thin metal threaded tube with a small knurled nut on top that you can unscrew. To inflate the tyre, undo the small nut on top of the valve; give it a push a couple of times so you can hear air coming out, then attach the pump end over the valve and pump. When you have the desired pressure detach the pump and screw shut the top part of the valve to ensure the air doesn’t come out.

3: Woods. These are used mainly on older style bikes or some of the modern versions of old bikes, like the types with baskets on the front. They also look like a metal threaded tube with a larger knurled nut three quarters of the way up its length. Simply attach the pump to the valve and pump as desired. To let air out undo the knurled nut and pull at the top part of the valve so that it just loosens to let air out. Secure the knurled nut after to retain the air.

Anyway back to the maintenance stuff, you should really check your tyre pressures once a week as all tyres will let air out on their own over time.  I’m not talking anything scientific here. Pump it up for a bit then just grab the tyre and give it a hard squeeze, it should feel firm so there is a little give in it. Sit on it and look at the bottom of the tyres with your weight on the bike. If it looks really squashy it’s probably too low so add some more. Next ride it and see how it feels, if the ride feels really hard release some of the air and try again until it’s a nice comfortable ride.

That’s it. You can of course be far more technical in your approach by using tyre pressure gauges etc., but to be honest as you get into maintaining your bike you will probably become more scientific about it anyway. Stay tuned for the next bike maintenance update and tips next week.