Bicycle Safety and Maintenance – Lesson 2

Topic Progress:

“The horse is prepared against the day of battle:  But safety is in the Lord.”  God is telling you to prepare yourself and your bike to be safe and that your safety is in His hands and we know that He will protect us!  Proverbs 21:31


Biking is a great way to have fun, travel, exercise, and to save energy.  Knowing the correct way to handle a bike in traffic will make your bike riding safer and more enjoyable.

Most people learn to ride a bike before they are 10 years old.  The first job is to learn how to balance a bike, but you have many more things to learn before you can safely bike on a public roadway.

Most streets are open to bikes, with no special permit needed.  But bikers must know and obey the rules of the road. All bike riders are responsible for obeying the rules, and as Christians, we want to know and obey the law in all areas.

It is important to learn and follow traffic laws.  These same laws will apply to you in later years when you drive a car.  Bikers share the road with pedestrians and motor vehicles.  If everyone drives and walks according to the rules, there will be a more orderly flow of traffic and less chances of accidents.  If you don’t follow the rules, you may confuse other bikers, drivers and walkers.  They will have no way to know when and where you are going on your bike.

Bicycling is an enjoyable way to spend time in God’s wonderful creation.  It is also good exercise for you and helps to keep your body healthy.  It is important that you do your bicycling in a safe and responsible manner.  Not only will you keep yourself from being hurt but you will be a good example for others.


A bicycle is about the best machine ever invented by man.  Biking is four times more efficient than walking or running.  It is almost as if man was created to ride a bicycle.  With God’s gift of a wonderful brain, he can analyze moment to moment reports of changes in speed, balance and road conditions and then make the minute adjustments needed to operate a bicycle.  His clever hands steer, change gears and operate brake levers; his powerful legs – created for climbing, running and kicking – now free from supporting his body weight, move him faster than the fastest horse.  The efficiency of this machine is almost startling!  But, a bicycle is a machine, and like all machines, it must be maintained, repaired and fine-tuned to be at its best.

Bicycles are such simple, sturdy machines that many owners seldom think about maintenance until something breaks. By spending a few minutes before each ride, and a few dollars when needed, your biking will be safer and more fun.  You don’t want to be streaking down a big hill with a stop sign at the bottom and discover that your brakes don’t work.  And a flat tire is never any fun, especially when you are a long way from home.


Brakes and Tires

If you have hand brakes, be sure that they work freely; if not, remove the cable from its housing, clean and lubricate the inner metal cable and then carefully slide it back into its housing and readjust the brake calipers.  If a cable is worn or frayed; it should be replaced.  Your brakes will never operate properly with worn or frayed cables or cables that don’t slide freely in their housings.

The brake pads must also be in good condition.  They should have at least 3/16 – inch thickness of rubber and not be worn overly crooked from misalignment.  The pads should strike the metal rim – not the tire – squarely with as much surface contact as possible.  The pads are attached to the calipers with a nut.  This nut may be loosened with a wrench – never use a pliers, you will round off the edges of the nut and will be unable to make future adjustments – to reposition the pad if adjustment is needed.

The brake pads should be about 1/8-inch from the rim. If too close to the rim, they may rub.  Rubbing pads will wear out very quickly and so will you because it is harder to pedal your bike if the pads rub even a little.  If the pads are too far from the rim, your braking time will be increased or there may not be enough travel in your brake lever to enable the pads to grip the wheel tight enough to stop you! To adjust the gap between the brake pads and rim, loosen the nut on the brake caliper (where the cable is attached to the caliper).  It may take more than one try to set the pad/rim clearance correctly.  Be fussy and get this adjustment right, it is very important!

If your bike has coaster brakes (the kind that you pedal backwards to make your bike stop), and they don’t work, be sure that the brake bracket on the rear wheel hub is firmly attached to the chain stay (frame part that connects rear hub to pedal crank or “bottom bracket”).  If the brake bracket is firmly attached, and your bike won’t stop, then the brakes should be repaired by a bike mechanic.

You should never ride a bike if the brakes need adjusting.  Once your brakes are set right, it will be a long time before they need to be overhauled and worked on again. But still, check out your brakes before you leave on any ride.

Tires should be inflated to the correct pressure for the safest handling, longest wear and best performance.  The recommended tire pressure is usually stamped on the side of the tire by the manufacturer.  Be very careful when inflating a tire at a gas station.  Air at gas station pumps is at very high pressure and could easily burst a tire and injure you in the process.  Using a hand pump with a built-in gauge, or a separate gauge, is the safest way to inflate a tire.  An over-inflated tire will wear out quickly and is likely to pop off the rim and burst.  If a tire is underinflated it may be easily cut and go flat if it is pinched.  Pinch flats often occur when the tube is pinched between the rim and a rock, a pot hole, a railroad track or any other hard object.  This type of puncture is called a “snake bite” because the two small holes caused by the pinch look like snake fang marks.

Tires should have good treads and no side wall cracks. A bike with good tires, with the right amount of air in them, is easy to pedal, unlikely to get a flat tire and a pleasure to ride!

Remember, this is only a check list.  Most of these repairs and adjustments will not and should not be necessary every time you go for a bike ride.  But, you should never take a bike out if any of these repairs are needed!


Check and be sure that your wheels are “true”.  A true wheel doesn’t wobble from side to side as it spins.  All spokes must be snug and in place.  Although you can replace broken spokes yourself, it’s a good idea to let a bike mechanic true your wheel and make the necessary adjustments whenever a spoke is replaced.  Wheels that are out of true are hard to pedal, don’t allow your brakes to stop you well, and may even collapse.

You should also clean and lubricate the chain.  A dirty or rusty chain can be the cause of very expensive repairs.  A quick chain cleaning can be done with a can of spray type penetrating oil and some old rags.  Spray and wipe the chain several times until the grime is removed.  Also wipe excess dirt from all the gears.  Now, re-oil the chain with light oil (not penetrating oil this time).  Next wipe off all oil from chain and gears – enough will remain to lubricate your bike and too much oil only attracts dirt.  Finally, dispose of all oily rags in a tightly closed container.

Be sure that the gears are working properly.  The control cable that connects the shift lever to the derailleur must be kept in proper adjustment.  Also, the limit adjustments on the derailleur must be set properly.  If the gears are not working properly, take your bike to a mechanic for adjustment.  He has the right tools and knows how to make the correct settings.  Once adjusted, most shifters will give the correct settings.  Once adjusted, most shifters will give long, service free performance.

Check the “head set” (the bearing where the front fork and handlebars join the frame).  If it wobbles, your bike won’t handle well in emergency situations.  See yearly maintenance for adjustment.

Also give your bike a complete going over and tighten all loose nuts and bolts with the correct size wrench.


The Drive Train

The chain and gears are the heart of your bicycle. Whether you have a single speed or a multi-speed bike, the chain transfers your pedal stroke to the rear wheel and makes your bike go.  This drive train is open and exposed to rain and grit.  A chain has over one hundred pivot points.  When they get full of dirt, your chain actually stretches and gets longer.  This stretching does not allow the chain to mesh with the gears as it should.  Pretty soon the gear teeth are rounded off, the chain slips and your wonderful bike loses power and efficiency.  If you discover this problem soon enough, you can replace your chain at a modest cost.  If you wait too long, both the chain, crank gear and “free wheel” (rear wheel gears) will need replacing – this could be expensive.  But wait!  This whole problem can be reduced by properly cleaning and lubricating your drive train often.

The easiest way to clean your chain and gears is to turn your bike upside down.  Place several old newspapers under it, this job is a little messy.  Thoroughly spray chain and gears with a penetrating oil.  Be sure to get each chain link and gear wet.  Slowly turn pedal crank while spraying.  Then wipe all the parts dry with a rag.  Now repeat the process again – be sure to dry all parts, this removes the dirt.  Next, lightly coat your chain with light (thin) oil.  Turn the crank arm and shift your bike through all its gears.  This will oil all the moving parts.  The next step is to wipe off all the oil.  The visible oil will only gather dirt and quickly gum up your chain and gears again. The oil still inside the chain is what is important.  The inner oil lubricates the many pivot points on your chain and this prevents chain wear and stretching.

The final step is to wipe any remaining oil from your bike, pick up the oily newspapers and place them and all oily rags into a covered metal trash can.  Put them in a can that will be emptied soon, so there will not be a danger of fire.

Your drive train should be cleaned several times a year depending on how and where you ride.  Trail riding and riding through mud or in the rain will make it necessary to clean your bike more often when if all your riding is done on paved roads in dry weather.

The Bearings

Besides your drive train, the other moving parts of a bicycle that need servicing are the bearings.  It is an important part of bicycle ownership to keep the bearing cones of your bike lubricated and in good adjustment.  Not only will riding be easier and more fun; it will be safer too. There are bearings in the hubs of both front and back wheels, in the “bottom bracket” (crank), the “head set” (steering) and in the pedals.  You should know how to inspect for “drag” and “play”.  Drag is unnecessary rubbing or binding that keeps the part from turning freely.  Play is too much looseness which causes wobbling.  Both are bad for your bike. Either can cause the parts to wear out or make riding hard and unsafe.  With the correct tools and a little instruction, you can adjust most of the bearing cones in your bike at home.  Yet, no one should attempt to service a cone bearing unless he has a clear idea of what he is doing.  Special care must be taken with loose ball bearings to make certain that none are lost.  Only loosen the cone bearings enough to apply a little grease – NEVER COMPLETELY REMOVE THE ADJUSTING CONE NUT – YOU MAY LOSE A BALL BEARING!  Use these pictures and instructions to learn how to maintain your riding machine in top condition.  Never attempt to overhaul your bike unless you completely understand what to do and have someone to help guide you in the right direction.

Servicing the Head Set

  1. Use a large adjustable wrench to loosen the large “lock nut” at the bike “head” – where the handlebar stem goes through the top of the frame.
  2. Loosen the “adjusting cone nut” that is located under the “lock nut”/The “adjusting cone nut” looks like a big washer with small ridges on it or it may have small notches for a screwdriver blade. Use your fingers or a screwdriver to turn it.
  3. Apply a small amount of grease – not oil – to the ball bearings.
  4. Tighten the “adjusting cone nut” until the fork turns freely without drag or wobble.  Use your fingers or a screwdriver to turn it.
  5. Next, re-tighten the “lock nut” against the “adjusting cone” with a large adjustable wrench.
  6. Finally, turn the fork to check for wobble or drag. It may take several tries to get this adjustment right.  It is important to be fussy; take your time and get it right.  Once properly adjusted, a head set will give many months, or even years of service.

Servicing the Bottom Bracket (pedal crank)

  1. With a large adjustable wrench, loosen the large “lock nut” where the pedal crank goes through the frame.  It may be threaded either right hand or left      hand.  Be sure to turn in the correct direction!
  2. Loosen the “adjusting cone nut” that is located under the “lock nut”.  To do this, place a screw driver in the notch at the edge of face of the cone and turn the cone.
  3. Apply a small amount of grease – not oil – to the ball bearings.
  4. Tighten the “adjusting cone nut” until the crank turns freely without drag or wobble.
  5. Next, re-tighten the “lock nut” against the “adjusting cone” with a large adjustable wrench.
  6. Finally, turn the crank to check for wobble or drag. It may take several tries to get this adjustment just right.  Take your time and be fussy.  Once properly adjusted, a crank will give many months, even years, of service.

Servicing Front Wheel Bearings

  1. With a thin, open end wrench, loosen the “wheel nut” on one end of the axle.
  2. Loosen the “Adjusting cone nut” that is located nearest the hub (the bearings are under this cone).
  3. Apply a small amount of grease – not oil – to the ball bearings.
  4. Tighten the “wheel nut”.  Be sure the other “wheel nut” on the other end of the axle is also tight.
  5. Spin the wheel and check for drag or wobble.  It may take several tries to get this adjustment just right.  Be fussy; it’s important.

Servicing the Rear Wheel Bearings

If your rear wheel spins with drag or has play, take it to a shop to have the bearing cones adjusted.  This job requires special tools and knowledge.

Servicing the Pedals

  1. Lay the bike on its side and spin the bottom pedal. Apply oil to the pedal next to the crank and spin again.
  2. If the pedal binds or wobbles, it should be replaced.  Only a very expensive pedal is serviceable.
  3. Turn the bike over and repeat steps 1 and 2 on the other side.

Other Lubrication

  1. You should clean and lightly oil moving parts on brake calipers.  Be very careful not to get any oil on the wheel rim!
  2. A drop of oil will also keep your bell in good repair.


A few tools are needed to service and maintain a bike. Some are basic tools that are usually found in the home. Others are special bike tools that may be purchased at your local bike shop.

  1. Extra spokes – be sure that they are the right length for your wheel.
  2. Patch kit – read all the instructions.
  3. A spoke wrench – used to tighten or to replace a broken spoke.
  4. Bike wrenches.  The wrench pictured will fit the bottom bracket and the head set nuts.  Other wrenches may be needed for the wheel cone nuts.
  5. Oil can.  Grease is also needed.  You can buy a small tube at the bike store.
  6. Pliers – handy in many areas.  Don’t use to tighten nuts!
  7. Tire irons – needed to repair flats.
  8. Adjustable wrench – will fit most nuts.
  9. Screw driver – Should have a flat blade and Phillips screw driver.
  10. Bike bag or bike trunk to keep tools for repairing your bike.  The bike bag can also hold an extra tube.

Other Handy Tools

  1. Allen wrenches.  These six-sided wrenches work like a screw driver to tighten special bolts (usually needed on more expensive bikes).
  2. Chain tool is needed to remove the chain from a bike with a multi-speed derailleur system.  Single speed bike chains have a “master link”.  These chains may be removed from a bike by prying open the master like with a screw driver.
  3. Tire pump and a tire gauge is needed to inflate tires.
  4. Spray type penetrating oil is used to clean parts and bearings.


A clean bike is a pleasure to ride and something to take pride in.  It is also more agreeable to work on a clean bike. After cleaning and oiling the chain, remove loose dirt and grime from the frame with a damp rag.  Car wax works very well to polish and brighten the metal frame of a bike.  Car chrome polish works well to clean the handle bars, wheel rims and spokes.  If your bike has hand brakes, care should be taken to remove excess wax from your rims!


Repairing a flat tire is the most common type of bike repair.  Even with properly inflated tires and good tread, you will get a flat tire sooner or later.  Fixing a flat is one task you must master to be a true biker.  Here is a step by step procedure to follow for sure, quick flat repairs:

  1. Using either a wrench or the wheels “quick release”, remove the wheel from the bike.
  2. After the tube is completely deflated, use tire irons – NOT a screw driver – and carefully pry one bead off the rim until you can remove the tube by hand.  Be very careful not to pinch the tube.
  3. Carefully  check the inside of the tire for possible flat causing debris.  You may find a nail, a thorn or a piece of glass in the tire.  Be careful not to cut your finger while removing material from tire. If flat was caused by an underinflated tire pinching the tube against the rim, there will be no foreign matter in the tire, but there will be two small side          by side slits in the tube.  This type of puncture is called a snake bite – the holes resembling fang marks.
  4. Locate the hole in the tube.  If you can’t see a hole, inflate the tube and place it in a tub of water (watch for air bubbles).  If no water is    available, hold the inflated tube under your chin to feel for an air leak or try to listen for the escaping air.
  5. Use a bicycle patch kit to repair the hole.  First deflate the tire.  Then roughen the tire’s surface in the area of the leak with the sand paper in your patching kit.  The patch will hold better against a rough surface.  Now apply a coat of blue and immediately wipe it off.  This will clean the area. Then apply another coat of blue and let it dry    completely.  When the glue is dry, remove the backing from a patch and place it over the hole. Press the edges down firmly to ensure a good seal.
  6. Before replacing the tube and remounting the tire, make sure the rim strip is in place and not twisted or damaged.
  7. Put a very small amount of air in the tube so it will hold its shape and not twist.
  8. Dust the inside of the tire and the tube with talc or baby powder.  This will enable the rubber parts to slip and slide a little, making mounting of tire easier.  Your hands will smell good too.
  9. Insert the tube into the tire.  Insert the valve stem into the valve hole in the tire and mount one tire bead.  Be sure that the tube stays inside of the tire.
  10. Starting from the valve, work in both directions, a little at a time.  Remount the remaining tire bead. The valve should stick straight out and not lean to either side.  Be very careful not to pinch the tube.
  11. Use tire irons (not a screw driver) only if needed to mount the last part of the tire.  You should finish opposite the valve stem.
  12. Check for the tire for even seating when it is fully mounted.  Check the valve stem, it must be straight.  Inflate the tire about one-third full     and check around the rim for even seating again.
  13. Deflate the tire.  This allows the twists in the tube to straighten themselves.
  14. Reinflate the tire to correct pressure (should be stamped on tire wall), replace wheel and go for a ride.

Here is a link to download a Bicycle Inspection Form. In order to complete this topic you will need to actually use this form to inspect your bike.

Download the form by clicking here.

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