Road and Gravel Bike Maintenance Tips

Road and Gravel Bike Maintenance Tips

Winter is closing in on us, and now is the perfect time to get your bike in the workstand and carry out some basic maintenance tasks to keep it running perfectly. None of these tips are season-specific however, so have a read or check out the video below and learn some new skills for year-round bike perfection.

Many people see bike maintenance as a dark art or something that they're just not capable of doing, and while some tasks can be more complex than others, bike maintenance isn't rocket science, and many tasks are easier than they used to be. Anyone can, and should, learn some basic bike maintenance skills - it pays off in the long run, spending less time with the bike in the shop and spending less money by fixing problems as they arise, or even preventing them entirely. Thankfully, many of these things are actually really easy to do and require few tools - some don't even require a workstand. So jump in and let's get started!

Tire Pressure

Check your tire pressure every ride. Yep, every single time. While tubeless tires do tend to lose air faster than tubes, and that's totally normal, tubes will also lose air every time. It's important to check your pressure every single ride not only so that you can ride at the optimal pressure for grip vs rolling resistance, but also to prevent punctures and damage to the tire carcass from running it too low.

If you're not sure what pressure you should be running, refer to your tire sidewall. They almost always have a recommended pressure range, for example 50-90psi on a road tire, or 30-70psi for a gravel tire. These are estimates, so do check your tires specifically, but also feel free to experiment within that range a little to see what works for you, since rider weight, conditions, personal preference and more all play a role in determining your ideal pressure. Every cyclist should own a decent floor pump with a pressure gauge, for accurate tire inflation. 

inflating a tire using a Park Tool shop inflator

Lube Your Chain

Lubing your chain is equally important and should be a part of your pre-ride ritual, every single ride. A lubed chain is a fast chain - less friction means more watts transferred from your legs to the ground, meaning less power lost. A dry chain is also noisy and wears faster, so lubing your chain keeps your legs, ears, and wallet happy. It makes sense, right?

Grab your favourite lube, wet or dry depending on the season, put your bike in a workstand or just lean it up somewhere, and backpedalling the chain, drop a single drop of lube on each chain link. Do not lube the cassette sprockets or chainrings - they don't have moving parts so don't need lubricating. Once you've lubed the chain and cycled it a couple of times, grab a rag and run the chain backwards through the rag to remove any excess lube, this ensures it doesn't attract dirt and stays clean, improving the longevity of the chain.

dropping Pedros chain lube into a chain

Bolt check

It's worth regularly carrying out a bolt check, this ensures that nothing is coming loose that shouldn't be and is a vital safety check. It's also one of the easiest things you can do to keep your bike maintained. Simply grab a set of allen keys and check every single bolt on the bike to make sure nothing is loose. Starting at the rear of the bike, work through the bike in an 'M' shape up to the seatpost/collar, down to the cranks, up to the stem/bars and down to the rear axle. Don't put any additional turns into any bolts that are already tight since this will lead to over-tightening, simply check that bolts are not loose.

Drop Test

A really quick and easy way to check for loose bolts is to drop your bike from a height of around 1". Any loose bolts will quickly make themselves known, making a rattling noise. While there's sometimes a little chain noise, the bike should be practically silent when dropped. If you hear a rattling noise then it's worth checking for loose bolts, though remember that sometimes cables, chains etc. can rattle also.

Check Your Headset

The headset is the pair of bearings in the steerer tube around which the fork rotates. A loose headset results in a knocking sensation/noise and can feel quite unpleasant over rough ground, as well as causing damage to the bearings and sometimes the frame/fork too. 

To determine if the headset is loose, grab the front brake and rock the bike back and forth. If it's loose, you'll feel play/knocking in the headset. If you put your hand around the upper or lower headset you will likely also feel the play there as the fork moves inside the headtube.

To tighten the headset, first loosen the two stem pinch bolts that clamp the stem down on the steerer tube. Next, tighten the headset preload bolt - this is the top bolt on the headset. This preloads the bearings - it's important not to overtighten this so as to avoid damaging the bearings, just tighten it until the play is gone. Next, re-torque the stem pinch bolts, using a torque wrench to ensure correct torque spec (usually printed on the stem).

Erdin checking a Specialized for headset play

Electronic Updates

Pushing electronic updates to your bike is one of the easiest things you can do to keep your bike maintained. If you have a smartphone, and who doesn't these days, you should be able to push wireless updates with zero tools. 

More and more of our bikes are coming with electronic components these days, from derailleurs to power meters and even seatposts. While they tend to be pretty low maintenance, much like your laptop or phone, they do tend to need an update every now and then. Every so often, manufacturers will release firmware updates for their components. These updates tend to fix bugs, improve efficiency, battery life and other small incremental changes. 

If you have any electronic components on your bike, it's a smart idea to make sure you have the associated software loaded onto your phone, tablet, laptop etc. for example the SRAM AXS or Shimano E-TUBE Project apps. These are usually the best way to monitor battery level, diagnose errors, dial in custom settings, and update your components. For the most part it's as simple as just opening the app, connecting to the components, and anything that requires an update will notify you that this is the case. For older Shimano Di2 you'll need to make sure you have the bluetooth unit installed on the drivetrain.


And that's it! We hope you learned something today - keeping your bike maintained doesn't have to be difficult. If you'd like to learn more, just contact us and we'll do what we can to help.