Trouble-shooting in cycle maintenance

Trouble-shooting in cycle maintenance

If your bike makes noises or doesn't feel smooth when you ride it, these are signs that there is a mechanical problem somewhere. If your gears are slipping, or braking feels 'juddery' or if the bike just rattles, squeaks or creaks this list should help track down the cause before it becomes an expensive repair!

This isn't an exhaustive list - there's always something that doesn't quite fit the normal run of things. But here's a quick checklist to help you track down those annoying rattles and squeaks.

General

Bike rattles

  • Check all fittings for tightness - especially bottle cages, mudguards, carriers and lights
  • Headset loose
Bike squeaks
  • Oil chain, jockey wheels, grease pedal spindles
  • Cranks loose - remove and clean cranks before replacing and tightening
Saddle not tight
  • Check all components and fittings are securely fastened
Gear Faults

Chain comes off outside of chainring or won't go onto big chainring
  • Adjust high gear adjuster on front derailleur 1/8 of a turn at a time until gear change is fine
  • Chain line incorrect (needs dealer attention)
Chain comes off inside of chainring or won't go onto small chainring
  • Adjust low gear adjuster on front derailleur 1/8 of a turn at a time until gear change is fine
  • Chain line incorrect (needs dealer attention)
Chain comes off smallest rear sprocket, or won't go onto small rear sprocket
  • Adjust high gear adjuster (upper screw Shimano, right screw Campagnolo) 1/8 of a turn at a time until chain lines up with sprocket and problem no longer happens
  • Cable tension needs adjusting
  • Cable needs lubrication/replacement
  • May need new chain and sprockets
Chain comes off large rear sprocket or chain/rear derailleur catches spokes
  • Screw in low gear adjuster on rear derailleur (lower screw Shimano, left screw Campagnolo) 1/8 of a turn at a time until it no longer happens
  • Bent rear derailleur hanger (needs dealer attention)
  • May need new chain and sprockets
Rear derailleur does not change gear when selected, or changes two gears at a time
  • Indexing imprecise
  • Screw in low gear adjuster on rear derailleur (lower screw Shimano, left screw Campagnolo) 1/8 of a turn at a time until problem resolved
  • Cable tension needs adjusting
  • Cable needs lubrication/replacement
  • Chain needs cleaning and lubricating
  • Bent rear derailleur hanger (needs dealer attention)
Brake faults

Brakes sticking 'on'
  • Cables need lubricating or replacing
  • Brake lever pivots, calliper pivots or cantilever/V-brake pivots need lubricating
Ineffective brakes
  • Brakes need adjusting
  • Rim braking surfaces and brake blocks need cleaning
  • Cables need lubricating or replacing
  • On cantilever brakes, straddle wire length may be set incorrectly
  • Poor match of brake lever and brake type
Squealing brakes
  • Brake blocks need toeing in
  • Dirty rims or brake blocks
Brakes bind to one side
  • Cantilever or V-brake - arms need re-centering or with calliper brakes, calliper needs centering
  • Wheel incorrectly refitted to frame
Braking feels juddery
  • Loose headset - tighten and adjust headset
  • Dented wheel rim - you'll need a new rim
  • Dirty brake pads - check brake blocks for grit and clean them thoroughly
  • Loose brake or cantilever arm - tighten bolts

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