Folding Bike Maintenance: Explained in 9 Easy & Practical Steps
Certainly, it’s important that you do periodic maintenance of your folding bike. All types of bikes tend to get mismatched after a long period of use. Vibration, high impacts, and accumulated dirt can affect some important parts of the bike. If you don’t take corrective measures, sooner or later your folding bike will end up completely useless.
If it has been more than three months since the last maintenance routine you did, pay close attention. In this article you’ll learn several folding bike maintenance tips to prevent the most common mechanical failures.
A complete guide to folding bike maintenance
To extend the life of your folding bike, you must apply a periodic maintenance routine. If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry. Below you’ll find a step-by-step guide to keep the most critical parts of your bike in optimal conditions.
Cleaning & lubrication
Many people believe that washing a folding bike with a pressure washer is enough to keep it in an optimal condition. However, high pressure water can remove the external coating of the frame, exposing the metal surface to rust.
A deep manual cleansing is much more effective than a string of raw water at high pressure. Apply special cleaning products on the frame to protect the paint. Then, dry the surface and apply bike polish for a shiny and scratch-free finish.
The bike polish also works as a waterproof layer to prevent rust. Once you finish with the frame, you can focus on the chain.
Mud and other contaminants may accumulate inside the chain’s links. Over time, the chain may derail when the accumulated waste hardens. Also, abrasive particles may wear the chainring’s teeth.
In this case, it’s convenient to let the water run through the links until the contaminants become too soft and fall. Then, use a wire brush and a special chain cleaner to remove the remaining grime.
After that, use a cloth to dry the chain and remove lubricant residue. Finally, apply bike lubricant spray on the chain. Be sure to follow the product instructions for proper application.
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Check tire pressure
You must keep your bike’s tires with adequate pressure to move smoothly through any kind of terrain. So, before going on a trip, it’s necessary that you check the air pressure is fine. To do this it’s better to use a reliable dial gauge. Those pencil tire gauges commonly used in cars aren’t as accurate as dial gauges.
Before inflating, check the maximum pressure level indicated on the sidewall of the tire. It isn’t recommended to inflate at maximum pressure or apply more pressure than recommended. Overinflated tires could easily explode and transfer the high impacts to the bike’s frame.
Tires must be capable of compressing slightly to cushion impacts. In irregular terrain, it’s recommended to apply less air pressure so the tire pattern can adhere better to the surface.
Also, you must apply adequate air pressure according to your body weight. In general, the heavier you’re, the more air pressure you must apply.
Here’s a list with the required air pressure ranges for each tire type:
||Required Air Pressure (psi)
The higher the air pressure inside the tire, the lower the surface in contact with the ground. This allows higher speed and smoother motion. This is a rule of thumb for both regular or folding bikes. That’s why tires on road bikes need more air pressure compared to the rest.
Change the brake pads
The brakes are among the most important elements on any bike. Over time, brake pads tend to wear out, losing their ability to lock the wheels. The sound that the brakes generate gives you an idea of how they’re.
If you hear a long whistle and your wheels don’t stop immediately after the brakes are engaged, it’s time to replace the brake pads. If you want to save some extra money, you can do the replacement yourself. All you need is a bike maintenance stand and the required tools.
But, if you don’t have the available time to do it, you can take you folding bike to a repair shop. A good pair of good brakes can save your life while going down through a slope. So, don’t expect to suffer an accident to replace your brakes.
Look out for worn bolts and threads
Bolts and threads can wear out for many reasons – friction and rust being the most common ones. Before you start riding, make a visual inspection to find rusted and worn out fasteners on your folding bike.
Overtightening and under-tightening always has negative effects. In the first case, the excessive pressure applied by the bold wears out the thread. Usually, the weakest element is the first to wear out.
On the second case, a loose bolt tends to move too much with vibration. This excessive movement generates friction on the thread, causing wear. Finally, when the thread becomes completely flat, the bicycle breaks apart with the slightest movement.
Install the best suspensions
Suspensions help cushion high impacts, protecting some important parts of your bike and making riding experience more enjoyable. If you’re thinking of buying a new folding bike, you should consider buying a model with front and rear suspensions.
Usually, road bikes don’t have suspensions because they’re designed to move on flat surfaces. However, the riding experience can become torturous when there are too many bumps on the road.
Installing suspension on the seatpost is an excellent way to guarantee your own comfort despite the conditions of the terrain. If you don’t have money to install new suspensions, you could use wider tires to reduce the impact transfer.
However, installing new suspensions on your bike also has its negative side. Here’s a list with the cons:
- Increases the weight of your bike
- Makes your bike slower
- You’ll have to spend more money on future repairs
- Check the lamps
If you usually ride during nights, it’s essential to have functional lamps to see where you’re going and be visible to others. To check that everything is fine, turn on both front and rear lamps and keep them that way for several minutes. If nothing happens, you can continue with your trip.
However, if the lights are blinking or aren’t as bright as usual, maybe it’s time to change the bulbs. Doing this is very easy and will only take a few minutes. First of all, verify that you can disassemble the lamp. If you can, look for the necessary tools to get the job done. Usually, a screwdriver and tweezers are all you need.
If the lights came incorporated with the bike, follow the procedure in the instruction manual. Usually, the bulbs and the fuse are the most prone to damage. So, you just need to replace the damaged part in your case and that’s all.
But, if the housing is hermetically sealed, it’s better to take the lamp to a repair shop and let a professional do the work for you.
However, if you use one of those low-cost LED lamps, buying a new one may be a better idea than paying someone else to repair the one you have. Check the current price of your lamp and then consider which option is better.
Clean and polish the lenses
It’s also important to clean the lenses from time to time for optimal illumination. To do so, dip a dry cloth in soap and water. Remove the dirt stuck to the surface of the lenses.
Then, clean the cloth with plenty of water and then rub both lenses. Using 1000 grit sandpaper, rub the surface from left to right. After that, use a microfiber cloth to remove the remaining particles.
Finally, seal the surface with wax, rubbing from left to right. Do this until the lenses are bright.
Check your bell
The bells are as important as the lamps. They help you to be visible to some distracted pedestrian or driver. Most of the bike bells are easy to repair, so it’s a job you can do for yourself. Just make sure you have the required tools to get the job done.
As it happens with some lamps, some bike bells are hermetically sealed. In these cases, it’s better to go to a repair shop. Before making any decision, make sure the wiring is fine. Sometimes the cables may detach with vibration, so you just need to connect them again to make your bell work again.
After each ride, it’s recommended to remove the dust accumulated on the bell in order to extend its lifespan.
Check the wheels and steering bearings
Sooner or later, bearings tend to wear out with use. When that happens, you must replace them. Be sure to use the same bearing model that your bike brought from the factory. Opt for bearings from well-known brands and stay away from generic products.
Also, adjust the tension of the spokes periodically, so the wheels always move in straight line. Well adjusted spokes keep you folding bike in perfect balance. If the wheels are wobbling, they’ll constantly rub against the brakes preventing a smooth motion.
Repair the chain
Over time, the chain of your folding bike may loose, making pedaling more difficult. If that happens, maybe it’s time to change it. If you have the required equipment, you can also replace some links to not buy a new chain.
Replacing the links is very easy. You just need a chain checker, a chain splitter, pliers and a broken bike spoke.
The chain must always be in optimal condition. So, if you hear a strange sound when pedaling, it’s possible that the chain is wearing the chainring’s teeth. In that case, apply the necessary corrections immediately to prevent further damage.
Certainly, keeping a folding bike in perfect condition isn’t an easy task. It demands time, hard work and previous experience to maintain a cycle well and enjoy the benefits of cycling to the fullest. However, if you don’t have the required experience, you can start today to execute simple maintenance tasks such as cleaning and waxing the frame and filling the tires with air.
If you follow each of these folding bike maintenance tips, you can extend the lifespan of your old folding bike for many more years.