23 June 2016

Why bike maintenance matters

The more regularly you check your bike, the better – it should make it last longer, run more smoothly and help to keep you safe when you’re out riding in the middle of nowhere.

All you need for a basic 'once over' is a bike pump* and a set of allen keys!

Give your bike a health check

1. First of all, take a moment to look at your bike closely – try not to be distracted by admiring your new saddle or paniers! Check for cracks or damage to the frame and make sure that your chain is clean and well–oiled.

Tip: If you’re riding your bike in the UK, you'll probably get caught in the rain. When you get home, remember to dry off your chain before you jump in the shower to warm up.

2. The last thing you want is to lose a wheel when out for a ride. Make sure that the quick release levers at the centre of your front and back wheels are secure and in the closed position. If you don’t have quick release wheels, check the nuts on each side of the wheel.

3. While you’re looking at the wheels, check that the spokes aren’t loose.

4. According to tyre manufacturer Schwalbe, you should check your tyre pressure at least once a month, or they’re likely to wear more quickly, pick up more punctures and take more energy to turn. The recommended pressure is usually found on the side of the tyre.

5. Check that your seat is in the correct position and is secure. You can use an allen key to make sure that it’s not going to move when you cycle.

6. Don’t go your separate ways! Your front wheel and stem (the vertical tube from your handlebars) should not move independently.

7. Put the brakes on! When you pull the brake lever it shouldn’t make contact with the handlebars. If it does, your brake cable may need to be adjusted. If you have a new bike, it’s quite normal for brake and gear cables to stretch in the first couple of months. Many shops now offer a free check to re–adjust them for you during this period.

Look at the brakes themselves as you pull each lever in turn – both sides of the brake should move and the brake block itself must be flush with the wheel rim.

Finally, don’t point your front wheel downhill until you know your brakes work. Apply the front brake and push the bike forwards, then apply the back brake and pull the bike backwards.

8. Spin your pedals to make sure that they move freely. The cranks (the circular part that the pedals attach to) should be tight and not creaky.

9. Creaks in your headset could also spell problems. Hold the head tube firmly and apply the front brake with the other. Rock the bike back and forward to check whether there’s any rocking or clicking in the bearings.

Keep your bike safe

Once you’ve got your bike tuned–up and running smoothly, you’ll want to make sure that it’s safely stowed – and insured – at the end of your ride.

If you’re riding the latest Team Sky Pinarello, it’s time to look up specialist cover, but many people will find that their home insurance covers their bike. Speak to your insurer if you’re in doubt, as they’ll often be able to cover more expensive bicycles (typically worth over £500) too.

The level of cover will depend on your insurer, the value of your bike and where you’re storing it:

1. At home: If your bike is with you at all times, even inside, Nationwide will provide cover up to the contents sum insured when it’s in the home.

2. In a locked shed or garage: If you’re slightly less worried and leave it outside overnight, you should also find that you’ve covered up to a certain value. Nationwide Home Insurance Essentials will cover bicycles up to £2,500 in a garage or outbuilding, or up to £5,000 on a Home Insurance policy.

3. Away from home: Your bike is unlikely to be covered automatically when you’re away from home – so ask if it would be covered under personal possessions cover.

With Nationwide home insurance policies, personal possessions cover is automatically included on our Home Insurance policy (up to £1,000 per bike).

With Home Insurance Essentials, personal possessions cover can be included as an optional add–on for an additional premium (up to £500 per bike).

Tip: Protect your bike by adding it to the free, Police–approved Bike Register which can help trace stolen cycles.

*There are two types of bike valve, Presta and Schrader, so check which one your bike has before you purchase a pump. Presta valves are longer and thinner and typically found on road bikes, whereas Schrader valves are what you would find on a car tyre – and most mountain bikes.

Nationwide home insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited.

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