Innovative Energy Engineering

Bicycle Maintenance

A bicycle has many moving parts exposed to dirt and water and it needs frequent maintenance and adjustments. The good news is it can be done by almost anyone with simple tools and materials.

Shop Supplies

Over time and as projects require more tools are needed. the basics include:

What not to do

Don't overdo it. Some people advocate clean-soaking chains, spray-cleaning sealed cartridge bearings and more. I doubt there is a benefit and accidental damage and under-lubrication are likely, decreasing service life. Even worse, some people advocate water-based cleaners. If the cleaner actually cleans the wear surfaces, it leaves a microscopic water film and prevents lubricant from fully covering all wear surfaces. To solve that some people advocate baking the cleaned chain in an oven. If you want to go through all that trouble, knock yourself out while I ride my bike.


Lubricants reduce friction, wear and prevent corrosion. So-called "wet" lubricants or oil stick to the surface and are not easily washed off. But dirt can stick easier to those lubricants as well. "Dry" lubricants attract less dirt, but wash off faster. Oil lubricants can flow or wick to the wear area (example: rollers and pins in a chain are not accessible and require an oil). To keep oil in place it often suspended in a soap or other component (grease). Viscosity of grease is very high and it needs to be applied directly to the wear surface (example: hub bearings).

Many expensive products exist and manufacturers promise a lot for a 50 ml bottle for $10. On the other hand the Internet is full of claims how home brew oils, chainsaw or engine oil and wax are a cheaper and better alternative. Lubricants are designed for varying applications and not all are suitable for bicycles. For example motor oil is used in engines that are not exposed to water and dirt. It is designed with a detergent to be pumped to carry suspended combustion products to the oil filter. None of those design criteria prevail in a bicycle (at least not a bicycle the author has seen). Our recommendation is quite simple and inexpensive:

Example Maintenance Schedule

Road conditions (snow, rain, dirt, off-road etc.) and high mileage will require higher frequencies. Special equipment such as oil-dampened suspension require additional maintenance

After every ride:

Monthly (or as needed)

6 Months


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