5 Low-Cost Bike Maintenance Tips for Frequent Riders

More often than not, those living without shelter or recovering from homelessness also experience issues with transportation. Due to the costs of buses and taxis, and the inconvenience of walking long distances in harsh weather, bicycles tend to be the most feasible form of transportation for many people.

With that being, it’s important to note that bikes used frequently, and which spend a lot of time outdoors, tend to age faster due to weather and debris. Regularly maintaining your bike will help prolong it’s life, and will save you from spending as much money on parts and tools. To keep your bike in good shape for a longer period of time, consider some of these suggestions. 

Keep Your Bike Clean

A bike that is stored outdoors is more prone to rusting, and riding it often can cause debris and grime to build up quickly. To prevent debris and grime from damaging your bike, it’s important to clean your bike as frequently as possible.

The most affordable way to keep your bike clean is with a bucket or bowl of water (warm water works best if you can access it), degreasing dish soap (can be found at Dollar Store locations), rags and/or an old toothbrush.

Begin by flipping your bike upside down for an easier cleaning process. Next, mix some soap and water in the bucket or bowl. Then, drench the rag in the soap and water mixture and begin wiping away the grime and debris on your bike’s rear derailleur, chainring, and chain. The easiest way to clean a bike’s chain is by wrapping the rag around the chain, holding the rag in your hand, and spinning the pedals backward so the chain can move through the rag. You’ll know it’s working by all the black grime that wipes off onto the rag!

After giving your rag another good soak, feel free to start wiping down the bike frame, handlebars and spokes. If you have an old toothbrush on hand, try using it to reach smaller, harder-to-reach areas.

Keep Your Bike Chain Lubricated

Similarly to the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz, a bike is a large piece of metal with parts that need oil to work properly. If you find yourself having to frequently replace your bike chain, experiencing difficulty switching gears, and/or dealing with a squeaky bike, chances are your bike chain could use some oil lubrication!

After cleaning and drying your bike off, the next step is to properly lubricate your bike’s chain. A good bottle of bike lubricant can go a long way, and is a great investment if biking is your main source of transportation. For more information on bike lubricants, and which type might be best for your bike, click here.

If you currently don’t have the funds to afford bike lubricant, a great alternative is sewing machine oil, which can be found for a few dollars at discount stores like Walmart. For a short term fix to lubricate your chain and cables, try a tad of cooking oil! Bottles of cooking oil can be found pretty inexpensively at dollar stores and grocery stores.  Cooking oils should only be used for a short period of time because they do not have the same durability, moisture-resistance, and rust-prevention capability that bike lubricant has.

To lubricate your bike chain, deposit a small drop on the top of each chain link as you slowly backpedal for a few revolutions. Next, grab a dry towel and wipe off any excess lubricant on the chain; avoiding to wipe off the excess lubricant can attract more dirt to your chain. Now, enjoy your smooth ride!

Bike Fenders for Rainy Weather

Biking in Eugene-Springfield’s rainy weather can be frustrating, especially when it’s your only way of getting around. For smoother cycling commutes during the long, rainy season, we suggest investing in some affordable bike fenders. Fenders on your front and rear wheels will help keep water from splashing up at you, and longer fenders can prevent dirt from getting into your chain and gears.

Affordable bike fenders can often be found at BRING, located at 4446 Franklin Boulevard. BRING is a nonprofit organization that sells an array of recyclable objects for builders, artists, mechanics and more. Contact BRING with your questions at (541) 746-3023.

Another great place to find inexpensive bike parts is Eugene Bicycle Works, located at 455 W. First Ave. Eugene Bicycle Works is part of a non-profit called the Center for Appropriate Transport, and is great for those who aren’t against digging through a pile of bike parts to find the perfect fit. Also, if you’d like to work on your bike but don’t have the tools, Eugene Bicycle Works also has options available for borrowing tools and renting work space for a small price. Have questions? Contact Eugene Bicycle Works at 541-683-3397.

Make Your Own Tube Patch Kits

If you ride your bike a lot, you know that a flat tire can happen in an instant, which is why it’s important to carry a patch kit as often as possible. Frequent riders tend to use patch kits often,

so they can sometimes be inconvenient to keep on hand. With a few simple items, you can make your own supply of patch kits and worry less when the next flat tire comes along.

Click here for a step-by-step tutorial on how to make affordable tube patch kits in bulk using old inner tubes, a small container of contact cement, sandwich bags, and sand paper. Please be sure to read all safety precautions before starting this project.

Know How to Fix a Bike Flat Without a Patch Kit

There’s nothing worse than having your tire go flat miles away from your destination! If you ever find yourself in a situation where you don’t have a patch kit on hand, you can always try this trick of using leaves, grass, and string (or an eyeglasses strap) to fix your flat tire. Check out the video below!

Protect Yourself

While maintaining your bike is important for your transportation needs, what’s most important is your safety. Below are a few things to keep in mind before hitting the road:

  • Always wear a helmet. Every year, 900 people die in bicycle accidents and 75 percent of those deaths are due to brain injuries. Eighty-eight percent of all brain injuries caused by bicycle accidents could have been prevented by wearing a helmet.

  • Keep your body, hands and feet protected, especially when bicycling in cold weather. Hands and feet get the coldest if they are not properly protected. To avoid frozen hands and feet, you’ll want to make sure to wear warm, waterproof gloves and shoes. If you don’t have appropriate clothing, free clothing services are offered by First Christian Church, the Eugene Mission, White Bird Clinic, Adventist Community Center, St. Vincent de Paul and Eastside Faith Center. For a complete list of phone numbers and locations visit whitebirdclinic.org/resources.

  • If you tend to do a lot of nighttime bike riding, it’s important to make sure you have bike lights. Bike lights make it easier for others to see you, and for you to see what’s around you. Not only is it safer for yourself and others, but it’s a law in Lane County. Good quality bicycle lights can be pretty expensive, so before shopping for new bike lights, we suggest checking some of Lane County’s many St. Vincent de Paul stores or Goodwill stores beforehand.

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