California’s natural beauty and temperate climate have made it a top destination for cyclists. The state boasts numerous paved bike paths as well as hundreds of miles of protected cycling lanes. Whether you plan to hop on the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail or traverse the American River Trail in Sacramento, you will be rewarded by gorgeous scenery and great exercise. Before you head onto the road, however, it is important to familiarize yourself with simple fixes to common bike problems.
Fixing a Flat Tire
A flat tire can derail your entire ride, but it doesn’t have to. Pack a new inner tube in your repair kit, and you’ll be returning to the trail in no time. Start by releasing the wheel and opening the air valve to deflate the tire. Then, remove the tire by wedging tire levers under the edge (your thumbs will work, too, in a pinch). Remove the inner tube, checking to find the hole. Then, inflate the new inner tube halfway, slide it into the outer tire, and pop the tire edge back into place. Use your tire pump to inflate to the correct pressure. If you don’t have a spare tube, you can place a patch over the hole in the inner tube, although plan on getting a new tube soon.
Aligning Your Wheel
Tire rubbing one of the brake pads? It’s annoying, and it often happens after repairing a flat or removing your wheel for another reason. Take a look at the skewer springs (small spiral springs), which keep your wheel appropriately centered. Make sure the narrow end of the spring is closest to the hub of the bike. Reversed or missing skewer springs are the most common wheel alignment issue.
Chain that Grinds or Skips
Issues with your bike chain are common, particularly if you’re putting on a lot of miles. A chain that skips or makes a grinding noise, it’s time to check it out. One common reason for chain grinding occurs when you’re using your large chainring in the front and the largest sprocket in the rear. Click down a few gears to see if the problem stops. If not, it’s time to lube your chain.
If you’re mid-ride, scrubbing out muck with an old toothbrush and adding new lubricant can help. Just make sure you wipe off excess lubricant, as too much will just attract more dirt. Once you’re home, use a chain removal tool to pop your chain off the bike. Brush it, soak it in a chain cleaning solvent, and then relubricate before reattaching it to your bike.
Trouble With Shifting
If your bike is finicky or slow to respond when you try to shift gears, there are a number of possible culprits. Perhaps the simplest is that your derailleur cables are getting stuck from accumulated grime. Check the housing of your cables, spot cleaning as needed. Adding a couple of drops of lubricant can keep things working smoothly. If problems persist, it may be time to find a good mechanic.