As athletes, we have to take good care of our bodies so we can stay healthy and do great on race day. Our bikes are a lot like our bodies – we have to take care of them so they can do great on race day, too! Even as kids, we can learn how to keep our bikes clean and riding smoothly, making us faster and more confident for practices and races.
Check Your Tire Pressure Before Every Ride
Learn how to use your family’s bike pump, and make sure your tires are fully aired up to the PSI you want to ride at every time you ride.
What’s PSI? It stands for “pounds per square inch,” and it is how we measure air pressure in tires. All you need to know is the recommended range PSI for your tires (you’ll find it on the side of your tire if you look closely) and what PSI works best for you. Most young athletes will be in the middle to low end of the suggested PSI range on tires, because they don’t weigh as much as adult riders. Talk to someone at your local bike shop about what PSI is right for you.
Check Your Brakes Before Every Ride
Pick up the front end of your bike, spin the front wheel, and make sure it is spinning freely — not rubbing on the brakes — then squeeze the left side brake and make sure it is stopping the wheel easily. Repeat these steps with your back wheel. If the brakes are rubbing, or not stopping the wheels correctly, tell an adult so they can be properly adjusted. Do not ride if your brakes are not working correctly!
Keep Your Bike Clean
Keeping your bike clean doesn’t take that much time, and it makes your bike ride better and last longer. I tell my athletes to clean their bikes at least once a month, but every one or two weeks is best.
Start out by wiping down your frame (the big part that all the smaller parts are attached to) with a wet cloth. Then dry it with a dry cloth, getting off all the dirt and grease.
Next, have a parent help you use a degreaser (a special type of cleaner) and a cleaning cloth (old t-shirts make great cleaning cloths!) to clean your chain and gears. Clean them thoroughly until all the black dirt and grease is removed.
Finally, use a chain lube (“lube,” or lubricant, is something you use on a machine to make parts move more smoothly together) to make the chain move better over the gears. You can get chain lube with your parents at your local bike shop – don’t try to use a substitute! Spin the pedals backwards while holding the bottle of lube over the chain, letting a little bit drip into the chain (try not to get it on the outside) until the whole chain is lubed. Then wipe down the chain with a clean cloth to make sure you don’t have any extra lube that might collect dirt while you ride.
If Something Seems Off on Your Bike, Tell Someone
If there’s a noise you aren’t used to hearing, the steering doesn’t feel right or anything seems unusual, tell a parent or coach so they can either help or have a mechanic look at the bike.Those are the basics! The better you know your bike, the better it will ride. So as you get older, take time to talk to the mechanics at your local bike shop, your coaches and other riders about how to care for your bike. Never be afraid to ask questions, and remember: Take care of your bike, and it will take care of you!
Morgan Johnson is a USA Triathlon Level II and Youth & Junior Certified Coach, and a High Performance Team Coach. She coaches Team Playtri in North Texas. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.