Ask the Expert

How to Maintain Your Bike | Lily Zhang ’18, Student Bicycle Mechanic

It may be a small college, but that doesn’t stop students from zipping across the Green on their bikes to shorten commute times. Heavy use and unpredictable weather can exert wear and tear on a two-wheeler, which is where Dartmouth Bikes (D.B.), a student-run repair and rental shop, comes in. From its small operating space in the basement of Fahey Hall, the outfit helped earn Dartmouth its “Bicycle Friendly University” title in 2016. In fall 2017, D.B. rented out more than 40 bicycles and provided 150 maintenance appointments. Student mechanic Lily Zhang ’18 has been fixing bikes since her sophomore year. “I definitely came in not knowing that much about bike maintenance, but once you get going and work with your hands and think on your feet, you can do a lot with bikes,” she says. “They’re not really as complicated as most people think they are.” Here Zhang shares some tips.

Store it inside
“Long Hanover winters can take a toll. We urge people not to keep their bikes outside during winter or any bad weather, such as rain and humidity. The biggest issue is the rusting process—water combined with exposure to the weather and air just makes all the parts, such as your chains and your cables, rust. Any sort of pedaling will be really hard, and you won’t be able to brake or shift your gears.”

Tune Up
“People should get their bikes tuned up probably twice a year—just like a car, simple maintenance. Some people don’t realize that every time they ride their rusty bike they don’t need to punish themselves. It’s simple, and there are lots of videos online if you want to learn how to do it yourself. Oiling the chain and fine-tuning the gears and brakes so they function as you expect them to is especially important.”

Park Smart
“Bikes getting run over by larger vehicles is a huge problem. Sometimes, when snowplows come through, they’ll accidentally plow over a bike and destroy it. We salvage bike parts like a junkyard crew, and we do our best to use most of the parts. Snowplows also bury bikes beneath the snow, so you have that terrible rust problem again. Anyone who parks their bike in public should be aware that this can happen.”

Inflate
“A simple bike maintenance habit would be to keep your tires inflated. They help make riding less tiring and reduce the risk of pinching and popping the inner tubes. You can find the suggested tire pressure on the edge of the tire. And if you want to be sustainable, don’t buy a $50 department store bike. Invest in a nice bike. A higher-quality bike will last longer, work better, and you won’t be stuck with annoying maintenance issues.”

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