Top 5: Ways to improve your bike for free

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Nobody likes riding round on a complete bag of poo. But with the price of beer going through the roof and everything but our wages following suit, sometimes an old turd is all we can afford. But that doesn’t mean it needs to feel like an old turd. All you need is some time, effort and elbow grease. Without spending any money at all you can get almost any bike looking and feeling like a million dollars. Ok, maybe not a million dollars. You might have to spend a few quid. But if a few quid is all you want to spend there are some dead simple ways to improve your bike. And here are our top five… 

Give it a wash

I’ve never been one for washing myself too often. A quick squirt of Lynx Africa every couple of days is all you really need; there is absolutely no need to waste all that water by showering every day, once a month is more than enough. When it comes to your bike though, you can never spend too much time cleaning it. With a bit of elbow grease and the right techniques, you can soon get even the rattiest looking bike looking reasonably respectable. A few quid’s worth of decent detergents, a bucket of warm water and a sponge is all you need to improve your bike. If you’re not one for getting the spanners out and doing any genuine maintenance on your own bike and you can’t even be arsed to give it a bit of a spit shine every once in a while, don’t be surprised when something falls off it, or it breaks down. You’ll quite often spot minor problems when you’re wielding a scrubbing brush. And problems caught soon enough are usually an easy fix. Left too late, they usually aren’t. 

Alfred Westermeyer/Red Bull Content Pool

Bleed your brakes 

For some reason, this seems to be one of the most neglected forms of bike maintenance going. And it’s one of the easiest. Air in your brake lines will fuck up both the feel and power of your brakes. But it only takes five minutes to remedy, and it’s free! Ok, you might have to top the brake fluid up a bit, but it’s only a tenner a tub (or £20 if you want pucka racing stuff), so why not treat yourself. In fact, whilst your at it, why don’t you bin off the horrible, black sludge that’s in there. Go on, refresh the whole lot. Quite often it’s as old as the bike. If your not confident enough to do it yourself, that’s fine, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to get someone that’s competent to do it for you. And it’ll definitely be worth it. 

Check your tyre pressures 

This is another dead easy one, and this time it is actually free, once you have a pressure gauge. Oh, and a pump. Tyre manufacturers spend years (and millions of pounds) developing tyres that work really, really well as long as they have the right amount of air in them. So it’s worth making sure you are in the ball-park. For some reason, getting tyre-pressure info direct from manufacturers is like getting piss from a stone. Probably because it doesn’t just depend on the tyre. The bike, the road surface, and the way you’re going to ride it, all make a difference. Tyre retailers tend to be fairly helpful though, so ask the question next time you buy some hoops and make a note of it. And don’t just think that when they are set, they are set; the more you check them, the better. Valves, beads and spokes (on some bikes) all have a tendency to loose air over time. Having the right amount of air in your tyres will definitely improve your bike.

Mine Kasapoglu/Red Bull Content Pool

Set your suspension up 

Most modern bikes might come with a degree of adjustability in the suspension. That’s not to say that most modern bike owners are brave enough to start faffing with their settings. The dark art of suspension can be a little bit daunting. That said, as long as you make a note of everything you change, you can always put things back to where they were, if you don’t like it. So what have you got to lose? You might think your bike handles perfectly, but I’m telling you now it doesn’t. No bike handles perfectly; there is always compromise, even in a MotoGP bike. So when your bike rolled off the production line (or when the last owner finished fiddling with the adjusters), it’s doubtful that it was set up perfectly for you; your weight and riding style. If you can afford to pay an expert to help you out, that’s always your best bet. But if not, it’s worth spending a bit of time reading up on the subject of suspension and seeing what happens when you tweak the odd knob on your forks or shock. It’s another sure-fire way to improve your bike. As long as you don’t try and do too much at once, and you always remember to write things down, you shouldn’t go far wrong. You might end up exactly where you started, with no discernible improvements to be had. Or you might find you transform your old banger into the best handling bike you’ve ever had.

Adjust and lube your chain 

If you’re more of a shaft drive kinda guy, or you’re only into belts, you can skip this one. But since the vast majority of bikes these days are chain driven, we thought we’d include it in our top five ways to improve your bike. Even though we all know that we should all be lubricating our drive chains as often as possible,  sometimes after a ride all you want to do is have a beer and a wank, isn’t it? But your dry throat and your boner can wait, because that un-lubed chain, that’s covered in salt and rain water, is going to go rusty in five minutes if you don’t sort it out. And if it’s really bad, for fuck’s sake give it a clean before you lube it. But if everything is nice and dry, a good helping of decent chain lube will be all it needs. Whilst your lubing your chain, it’s worth checking to see how baggy it’s got and adjusting it a little if needs be. At best, a slack chain will fuck your sprockets. At worse it’ll jump off the sprockets and rip some big holes in your leg and/or crank cases. Remember, look after your chain, and your chain will look after you. Now go and have a wank. 

Predrag Vuckovic/Red Bull Content Pool

3 Responses

    1. 2nd this. I have had my suspension setup for my weight by a pro. But I still don’t know what will do what with a few clicks here and there… help

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