Lightweight, strong, precise and delicate. Your bike wheels are what brings you into contact with the terrain. If you look after them, they will look after you. We explain the 5 maintenance tips to keep one of the most important investments of your bike in perfect condition.
1. SPOKE TENSION AND WHEEL TRUING
The most important part of the wheelset. The correct spoke tension, as well as being true is fundamental to getting the most out of your wheels. If any one of the spokes are loose, damaged or broken, it will, as a consequence, affect the tension of the rest of the spokes, which in turn will make the wheel untrue. With daily use, it is quite normal for the wheels to loose tension, and will be directly affected by the type of terrain being ridden upon, the impacts received by the rim, the rider weight, the way the bike is ridden, the type of tyres being used, and the tyre pressure. It is recommended to check spoke tension on certain intervals, both on mountain bikes and road bikes, even if the wheel is true. It is important that the work is carried out by a qualified mechanic, as is the use of the correct tools for the job, as if these are not used, the risk of damaging the spokes/nipples is increased.
2.BEARINGS AND FREEHUBS
After spokes, the second most important part of any wheelset to check regularly are the bearings. If you ride in perfect conditions, dry and without mud, then it is recommended to check the bearings every 8 weeks in both the front and rear wheels. Clean and re-grease the bearings. There is no need to remove them from the hub, just remove the adaptors and washers, use a rag and degreaser to clean them, if you have access to compressed air even better. If you ride in wet, damp and muddy conditions and ride multiple times a week, it is recommended to do these checks at least once a month. To check whether the bearings are worn, all that is needed to do is move them whilst in place with your finger, and check if the spin freely or if there is any friction. It is also recommended to check for any lateral play in them, a symptom of wear. If there is a lot of friction then replace them, remember that most rear hubs have two sets of internal bearings that need checking and replacing if necessary. Whilst checking the rear hub, it is a good idea to go over the freehub body, cleaning and re-greasing the pawls and springs. Always clean and re grease with the correct lubricants. Cheaper wheelsets usually have open bearing systems, which will take slightly longer to clean and re-grease and will need more regular checks. Replacing these types of bearings is a relatively cheap and easy procedure. With these types of wheels the final adjustment of the cones should be performed with the correct cone spanners so the wheel can spin freely and with play in the bearings.
3. RIM AND BRAKE SURFACE CHECKS
Rims, both the alloy and carbon types should be checked internally and externally at least a few times a year. Check for cracks, that the brake surface is clean and the rim lip shows no signs of damage that could affect the correct seating of the tyres or the loss of sealant in tubeless rims. For standard tubed rims, check that the rim strip is correctly placed, and no holes are showing or any loose metal shards are present that could cause a puncture. For road wheels, check that the correct brake pads are fitted for the rim material used, as carbon rims require a special pad compound so as not to damage them.
4. GREASING AND TORQUING QR AND THRU AXLES
Both quick release and thru axles should be checked before every ride. Make sure they are tightened and the levers are in the correct position. It is also good practice to clean and re-grease them occasionally, so they can be fitted and removed with ease without damaging the frame or fork. If the axles have a factory torque recommendation, then these should be checked with a torque wrench. It is also important to remember that when fitting wheels, they should be correctly seated in the frame and/or fork. With thru axles, the wheels will always sit in the correct position, but with the standard QR type axles it is normal for them to sit at an angle if care is not taken. Take your time to ensure both wheels are positioned and tightened correctly before starting your ride.
5.TYRES; TUBELESS, TUBULAR AND TUBES.
No matter what type of tyre system is used, it is important to check them regularly. If you use the traditional style of tyre/tube combo, make sure that the tyre has seated correctly when inflating, the rim strip is centred and the valve is not at an angle. For tubular tyres the most important aspect is the glueing process, if this is not done correctly, they will not sit centred on the rim or in the worst case scenario can come unstuck during a ride and cause serious harm to the rider. If you are unsure of how to go about fitting tubular tyres, we recommend taking it to your nearest road bike specialist. With tubeless systems, change the sealant at least once a season, and occasionally check that the valve is tightened correctly and does not leak. Regardless of the type of tyre being used (conventional, Tubular or tubeless) make sure that they do not present any signs of damage, cuts or holes that could cause a blowout, if this is the case, then replaces them immediately.