Good rules of thumb not already covered

  • If your bike is making a noise that it shouldn’t, it is trying to tell you something. Don’t ignore it. The longer you leave an issue the bigger and more expensive the problem will become. That rubbing chain is not only annoying, it is damaging your chain. And whatever it is rubbing against.
  • Most annoying ticks and other noises are because something is loose or not properly greased. Quite often it is your seat post or pedals. Another major culprit is the saddle. Make sure all threaded and clamped metal is greased and tightened to the recommended torque.
  • Before making adjustments to your bike, clean it and make sure it is lubricated.
  • Clean your bike with soapy water and a cloth or sponge. Pressure washing can drive grit into places it should not be and can strip out grease from places that it should be.
  • Invest in a bike stand to carry out bike maintenance and repairs. A decent stand will hold the bike at the right height and angle so that you can work on it comfortably. If you do not have a stand try to suspend your bike from something rather than turn it over. Turning a bike upside-down can damage anything in contact with the ground (normally brake hoods and saddle) and may affect adjustments.
  • If it’s threaded, grease it.
  • To check to see if your headset is loose, apply the front brake and rock your bike back and forth.
  • To check for give in your wheels and crank bearings, pull the wheel or crank side to side. If you feel a wiggle, your component needs an adjustment.
  • A squirt of wd40 (other brands are available) into outer cables can fix sticky braking or slow gear shifting.
  • If you need to take something apart keep a careful record of the order parts were removed so that you can put it back together in the right order. Taking photos on your phone can help.
  • If you need to remove your rear wheel shift gears onto the smallest cog. This moves the chain and derailleur as far out of the way as possible.
  • When installing new pedals note that they are marked left and right. Make sure to insert them into the correct side otherwise you will ruin your crank arms. Also note that the left pedal tightens anticlockwise. This stops it coming loose as you pedal. It helps me to think that I am tightening by turning in the same direction that I will be pedalling. Of course it is the opposite to remove pedals J
  • If you need to work near the chainset (for instance changing your pedals) shift the chain onto the big ring. If you slip you might give your knuckles a rap but you won’t mangle them on the teeth.
  • Sometimes you need to take your bike to an expert for repair or maintenance. This could be because of a lack of knowledge or a lack of specialist tools. For instance, the replacement of a bottom bracket might happen so infrequently that it doesn’t warrant the cost of the tool needed to complete the job.
  • Riding with cleats can improve your pedalling efficiency. But riding with worn cleats can be dangerous; they may release unexpectedly or stick in the pedal. Make sure you change cleats when the wear indicator tells you to.
  • You will fall off your bike as a result of riding with cleats. This is normally just when you have got used to them and have given up reminding yourself to unclip every time you stop. A good habit to get into is to disengage the cleat (but keep your foot in place, ready to click straight back in again) every time you come to a potential stop, such as an obscured give way. That way you can quickly put a foot down if necessary or click back in and ride on if not.
  • If you need to box your bike for travel then give the box a shake before you seal it. Note anything that is loose and secure. Now try again, pretending that you are a baggage handler and make sure it is really secure.
  • If storing your bike for a long period (shame on you) shift gear to the smallest cogs on the front and rear. This combination provides the least stress on your derailleur springs.

Kickstart your Lands End to John O’Groats planning

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Everything you need to know to get you started on your Lands End to John O Groats adventure is contained within these three books: a How To, a detailed account of riding the Google Map route for LEJOG and a ‘safe’ Route Book using GPX files.

Where to next?

The most popular pages on the site concern planning your End to End, including training for long distance cycling, thinking about the cycling equipment you will need, how to look after your bike, what you should be eating and drinking whilst cycling and how to create a route for Lands End to John O’Groats. Or you can read my own account of cycling End to End to get some idea of what to expect.

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