At this time of year, many children will be getting a bike from Santa, keeping that bike maintained, safe and stopping them getting damaged will be very important for both the safety of the child riding it and for the longevity of the bike. I’m sure we are all well aware the abuse a childs bike takes from being fallen off of, leant against walls, trees, bushes or just dropped on the ground. This can obviously have an impact on the bike, it can damage it, and make it unsafe to cycle, it is therefore very important that it is checked on a regular basis and any repairs that it needs undertaken as soon as possible to ensure many years of safe cycling.
Here are a few tips on how to keep the bike maintained and safe:
1. Always check the tyre pressure, making sure the tyres are hard will make cycling the bike a lot easier and if the child wants to have some fun and hop off curbs etc it will greatly reduce the chance of getting a flat tyre. If you’re not sure of the tyre pressure it will always be written on the side wall of the tyre.
2. Keep everything clean, a clean bike is a happy bike, the most important part being the chain, always ensure the chain is clean and oiled. Always use a bike specific lube and make sure any excess is cleaned off, the last thing you want is a splatter of oil all over their clothing!
3. Make sure the brakes work and actually stop the bike. This may seem obvious but is commonly overlooked, pull the brakes of the bike and roll the bike forward, if the bike moves then there is clearly an issue. This could be down to worn brake pads, so check the pads and make sure there is plenty of wear left in them. Another culprit is a stretched cable, all cables stretch over time and will then make the brake levers pull back further and not stop the bike. As a general rule the lever blade should pull back and stop halfway between resting point and the handlebar. If it is pulling too far, they will need adjusting, a quick adjustment is to unscrew the barrel adjusters on the levers, or you can also undo the bolt holding the cable in place on the callipers and pull the cable through before re-tightening the bolt.
4. Check the brakes are pulling evenly, you don’t want the front brake pulling harder than the rear as your child will soon be doing superman impressions flying over the handlebars! If anything, you should make sure that the front brake is softer than the back.
5. Saddle height will be very important, too low and it will be very hard to cycle, too high and stopping and putting a foot down becomes tricky. How high the saddle goes will also be down to how confident the child is on a bike, if they are very nervous you will need to keep the saddle lower so that getting a foot down on the ground after a wobbly moment is very easy.
6. Protect the bike, most children will just drop their bike on the ground and this can cause damage, you can purchase guards for the rear derailleur if the bike has gears that stops it getting damaged. Keep an eye on the pedals and the ends of the handlebars, these will get damaged from constant drops on the ground and could need replacing. Try and get grips with a solid plastic or metal end and not soft rubber, this will reduce the amount of damage done when the bike is dropped. Getting a bike stand is a great option as this means they are more likely to stand the bike up as opposed to letting it hit the ground.
7. Teach your child maintenance skills, it will help their confidence on a bike and will help them value it more. Try and show them how to do the checks, making sure the brakes pull correctly and pump up their own tyres, show them how to replace a tube when they get a puncture and teach them not to drop the bike on the ground.
If all these checks are done and the bike is kept maintained it will last years, it will provide safe and more enjoyable transport for your child and save costly maintenance if kept on top of.