If you know how to maintain effective brakes, avoid and fix punctures (or at least replace the tube) and apply oil, it will save time and money. But if you don’t, make sure a bike shop does essential repairs before riding your bike again. Never ride a bike without effective brakes, and always try them before setting off.
Tighten brakes from time to time as they wear using the knurled screw where the cable meets the brake calliper, while holding the brake blocks against the rim. If this is not enough, you’ll need to get a friend to hold the blocks against the rim, loosen the nut holding the cable and pull it through further before tightening it again.
Adjusted properly, you should hardly need to move the brake levers for the brakes to operate. If your wheel is buckled, your brakes can’t be adjusted to work properly, so get broken spokes fixed and wheels trued properly by a bike shop.
To avoid punctures, apart from obvious precautions like not riding through broken glass or hedge cuttings, keep tyres pumped up hard. With a hand pump it’s almost impossible to over-inflate tyres, so pump as hard as you can. Don’t be tempted to use a garage air pump.
If you do have a puncture, make sure you find and remove the cause – by running your finger round the inside of the tyre. Having done that, if you have repeated punctures, the chances are that your tyre needs replacing. If you can see a different colour rubber showing through, or threads, or there is no tread left, replace the tyre. Cambridge Cycling Campaign can send you a beginners’ guide to avoiding and fixing punctures.
Keeping the chain oiled, especially after being out in the wet, makes the bike easier to ride.
Material dated: July 1997