5 Skills All Bicyclists of All Levels Should Know

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Image taken from Frances McKay Illustration

Checking your bicycle can help prevent any untoward event that could happen every time you bike.
When you know how to install a certain bike part, you gain insights on what it can do and not do, and this knowledge helps you consider what you can do too with your whole bicycle.

Bicycling sure is fun whether you’re riding in urban streets or up in the mountain. But there will come a time when your bicycle will give up on you and you will have to fix it somehow. Since a bicycle is made up of many moving parts, any one of them is bound to break eventually. What you don’t want to happen is that your bicycle will choose to break in an unfamiliar environment where you don’t know anyone or there is no one to help you fix it. All bicyclists should have some skills in fixing or maintaining a bicycle so that he or she would be able to fix the bicycle and continue to ride back home.

 Here are 5 skills that all bicyclists of all skill levels should have at least basic knowledge:

bike maintenance for dummies

 

1.Maintain a clean bike

For many bicyclists, a clean bike is their least concern. A dirty bike is like a badge to be proud of since it shows that the bicycle is being used, and maybe abused, in all its good sense. But when we say a “clean bike” here, we are referring more to the act of cleaning it. We give importance to this fact since it is while cleaning the bicycle that we can actually examine its parts and discover flaws in some parts that should be replaced.  A clean bike demonstrates the fact that you have gone over its parts in such a way that you are able to see them as they are and not covered with mud and rust. Cracks or defects could hide behind hardened dirt that have accumulated over time and if you have neglected your bike long enough, then you could be surprised on one sunny day that you are biking,  to find yourself kissing the road because you crashed due to failure of an integral part of your bike.

          What it means and what it can do for you:

When you clean your bike, you get to touch and feel it and thus you get to know how each part is made and what its functions are in relation to the other integral parts.  It is important that you realize they are there to propel you on the streets safely and properly. A clean bike means you give value to your bicycle and that you also give value to yourself.

bike components

Image from here

2.Install basic bike components

Not everyone is bicycle tech savvy and only a few bicyclists would know or even care to know how to install basic bicycle components. You don’t need to know how to assemble a whole bicycle (it's really not that complicated) and put together all the parts but at least you should know how to install or replace the parts that usually break down often, especially when not maintained properly. These parts include wheels (except truing since this needs a special tool), handlebar, shifters, derailleurs, front and rear lights, and brake components.

          What it means and what it can do for you:

This is an important skill since it provides bicyclists with ideas on how the whole bicycle works together, what its limitations are and its overall usefulness. When you know how to install a certain bike part, you gain insights on what it can do and not do, and this knowledge helps you consider what you can do too with your whole bicycle. Having good or better individual parts can contribute to a good or better whole bike and if you make sure that each part is installed properly, then there is no reason to doubt the integrity of your whole bike. We said basic and thus it needs basic skills. But if you find yourself lacking even the basic skills and unable to do it, better leave it to the professionals in your local bike shop.

bike doctor

3.Check bicycle before you go

Even if you are in a hurry, this is one skill you should be practicing every time before you go with your bicycle out in the streets. It only takes two to three minutes or even less if you are already quite familiar with your bicycle. You can google how to check your bicycle before you ride and see thousands of results and they will all be right.

          What it means and what it can do for you:

Checking your bicycle can help prevent any untoward event that could happen every time you bike.  A simple, even cursory inspection can mean a lot in preventing accidents.  However, it will always be best if you can check them with your hands and whole body as doing so can show you if your bicycle is actually in good riding condition. You can then take steps in adjusting/repairing/replacing the concerned part or parts before you actually ride. You should be comfortable, wheels don't wobble and are inflated to the right pressure, and check also that  you are neither hungry nor thirsty because if you are, no matter how perfectly conditioned your bike is, you might not arrive at your destination at all.

garfield repairing bike

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4.Fix a flat tire

Fixing a flat tire involves getting your hands and knees dirty, especially if you do not know how to do it properly. It also implies that you have some tire repair kit, a pump, and the right tools to remove the offending wheel from the frame. Again, google how to repair a flat tire for the proper steps and you will not be led astray.

          What it means and what it can do for you:

Without a flat tire repair kit, you could be stranded for hours waiting for you ride companion to catch up with you (if you are fast and was way ahead of them) or you could end up waiting for the SAG vehicle (if your group has one for the ride). In any case, you would have the worst experience in an otherwise wonderful ride out in the countryside or a fun ride on the city’s streets. This is never good for anybody and worse, you could lose your love of bicycling because of it.

bike knowledge

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5.Ride straight/Turn correctly

This is easier said than done and indeed, many bicyclists fail and fall during a ride, whether on trails or in the urban jungle, because they haven't taken the time to learn and apply these two related skills. 

          What it means and what it can do for you:

Having these skills and practicing them in every ride means you are a predictable bicyclist and thus too, a safe one. Riding straight entails having the correct sense of balance – no zigzagging or sudden swerving to either side. Turning correctly involves signaling properly and scanning the traffic all around you even before you make the actual turn. It will help if you have a rear view mirror but since it is not a standard accessory in most bicycles, you need to practice scanning and proper signaling each time you turn. There is no need to say that these skills are life savers in all occasions when you are on the road.

There are many more bicycling skills that you need to possess even before you put yourself on top of a bicycle but the above-mentioned skills are paramount if you want to arrive at your destination and be back home safe and sound each time you ride your bicycle. We will include them in the coming articles about safe bicycling.

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One key to riding safe is to ride predictably as what we say in our article Being a Predictable Bicyclist on the Road.  Read it to gain more insight into what more skills you need to be safe on the road.  We have a list of 5 Types of Bicyclists You Want to Ride With Anywhere just in case you want to ride and you are thinking of who you are going to have as ride buddies.

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