Learning the basics of bike maintenance together as a family is a great way to bond AND be safe as you ride. Knowledge is power so when you run into trouble, you know what to do to fix your bike. Or, better yet, you see issues BEFORE they become a problem on the trail. In this post you’ll learn the basics of bike maintenance for families.
Discover the basics of your bike
Get familiar with the components of your two-wheeled fun machine! Much like an easter egg hunt, lets go on a search to find out the answers to these important questions about each bike in your quiver.
What type of brakes does this bike have?
(V-brakes or Disc brakes)
What is the recommended tire pressure?
This info is usually printed on the sidewall of the tire and is presented in a range, like 20-30 PSI.
Does the bike have a Self Sealing/tubeless set-up or does it use basic set up with inner tubes?
A tubeless set up would common on a high end adult bike, more uncommon on a child’s bike. It should be in the bike specs or manual. Even with a tubeless set up, you’d want a spare inner tube in case of a flat (which happen less often with the tubeless setups but they do still occur).
The tubeless set up uses a liquid slime type sealant and self seals after a puncture. We’ve found this to not always be the case and sometimes self sealing needs to be overridden and a tube used instead.
What size inner tube does your tire require?
Check out the dimensions listed on the sidewall of the tire….most often, the numbers you see will be diameter x width. Some manufacturers may use a different labeling system. The diameter is the most important number.
What valve stem type does this bike use?
Most common: Presta or Schrader.
Bike Maintenance for Families Repair Kit
Great, now that we have that information, lets gather up the right stuff to have on hand for our repair kit.
Most riders carry at the minimum, a multi-tool, tire levers, tubes, patch kit, and a mini-pump.
Ask yourself these questions….
Do you have a spare tube for each tire size in your family of bikes?
If not, a patch kit will work, but I prefer to have a new tube for each wheel size…I have a low success rate with patching tubes. This is especially true on trail rides, or in areas where a flat tire would make for a long walk home.
Do you know how to swap between Presta and Schrader on your mini-pump?
Most pumps are designed to work with both main valve types. My mini-pump has a few steps to set up and switch between Presta and Schrader…and it’s not intuitive.
I had to look at the manual to see where they hid all the important parts. Get to know your pump BEFORE you need it!
Skills for your Family of Bikers to Learn
If you don’t know how to change a flat, now is the perfect time for you and your kids to learn! Numerous how-to videos exist, find one that clicks for your family and watch it & practice until you have it down.
Learn how to patch a tube using the patch kit that you own. I carry spare tubes, even for our tubeless systems, but I still carry a patch kit in case we have multiple flats in a single ride.
Make sure you know the ideal range of inflation for your tire, check that it is inflated to the proper PSI, and give your inflated a tire a squeeze to get a feel for it, in case you need a trailside re-inflation with a mini-pump without a pressure gauge.
Keep in mind inner tubes lose air over time. Additionally, temperature affects the inflation levels. Air pressure increases with a rise in temperatures. In shoulder seasons where there is a big swing in temps, if you top off your tires to their max PSI in the frosty morning air, by mid day you could have overinflated tires.
Learn how to clean & maintain your chain. Your bike manufacturer likely included this information in the manual.
Basic steps: get the gunk off with rags or an old toothbrush, apply your favorite brand of lubricant, then wipe off the excess with a clean, lint-free rag.
Leaving excess lubricant on your chain will attract dirt, dust and grime. While you’re messing around with the chain, do you know how to put it back on if it comes off during a ride?
Basics: push the rear derailer forward to give the chain some slack, now lift the chain so that it sits on the smallest chainring.
How to do a Pre-Ride Safety Check
Get in the habit of checking each bike over before you ride. Your kids can help!
Older kids should be encouraged to do this for themselves.
Look it Over
Does everything look normal? Are the quick release levers closed & tight? Saddle on straight?
Give your tires a squeeze.
Do they feel adequately inflated?
Drop and Shake
Lift the bike just a few inches off the ground. Let it drop to the ground, bouncing on its tires with your hands guiding its fall. Shake it around a bit. Do you notice any rattles or odd noises?
Spin & Investigate
Spin your wheels, make sure your brakes aren’t rubbing.
Spin your wheels again, and test the brakes! Make sure they are hooked up and working!
Spin your wheels once more and look for any wobbles or tire wear.
ABCDE Pre-Ride Check System
My kids really like to use the ABCDE System to do their checks:
A – Air
C- Cranks & Chain
D – Drop
E – ENERGY (and go!)
© 2020, Tales of a Mountain Mama. All rights reserved. Republication, in part or entirety, requires a link back to this original post and permission from the author.