The Parents Guide to Kids Bike Maintenance
Like all mechanical objects, bikes have consumable parts that need to be replaced every now and then. You can help extend the life of the components on your bike by doing some simple checks before each ride.
What is the Basic Maintenance of a Kids Bike?
Firstly, a three step overview of bike maintenance. We like to use the ABC method. It's a great one to get the kids involved with - it really does make bike maintenance as easy as ABC!
A is for air:
All inner tubes naturally lose some air over time, even without punctures. Check you have enough air in your tyres before setting off by using your thumb and forefinger to squeeze on both sides of the tyre (this gives a much better indication than just pushing on the top).
The tyres should feel fairly firm. All tyres indicate a range of pressures they can take on the sidewall (typical ranges for our bikes are 35-65 PSI). It's a good idea to invest in a pump with a pressure gauge so you know how much air you're putting in when you need a refill!
B is for brakes:
Being able to stop safely is important! After some use, cables stretch and brake pads wear down, meaning the brakes might not work as effectively as they once did.
Double check your brakes by first squeezing the right-hand brake lever and trying to roll the bike forwards, then squeezing the left-hand brake lever and trying to roll the bike backwards. If you find you're having to squeeze the levers right to the bars in order to stop the bike, it's best to get a mechanic to sort them out!
C is for chain:
Check it hasn't fallen off. Then check if it's sufficiently lubricated. You can do this by running your finger over the top of the chain.
This should make your finger a bit oily, but if your finger comes away dry, it's time to get the chain oil out! For British weather it's best to use wet chain lubricant, which is a bit thicker than dry lube and doesn't wash off in the rain.
Pour a few drops along the top of the chain whilst pedalling backwards to make sure you cover the whole chain. Then dry off any excess by holding the chain lightly with a rag and again pedalling backwards.
Following these steps will help ensure your child's bike stays in good nick for longer and will make for a safer and more comfortable ride. It's also very empowering to know more about your bike and feel confident that everything's in working order!
How to Wash a Bike
Regularly washing your bike will help keep it in good condition and reduce the chance of damage to its components. Here are some steps to get give your bike a quick clean and keep it sparkling:
- Spray the bike down with a hose. Removing as much visible dirt as possible from the tyres and frame.
- Apply degreaser onto the chain & mechanism. Allow it to soak for a few minutes then clean off the dirt with a clean toothbrush or a drivetrain brush.
- Use a fresh sponge or soft-bristled paint brush to clean the rest of the bike with a few squirts of washing up liquid in a bucket of water.
- Let the bike dry in the sun or dry it with clean clothes.
- Apply bike lubricant to all the moving parts and chain system. Leave it for 5 minutes then wipe away excess bike lubricant.
- Rub bike polish on the frame with a dry rag to make it shine
How to Clean a Bike Frame
To clean your bike's frame, first give it a good hose down to remove large chunks of dirt. Avoid using super high pressure as you don’t want water getting into the bearings.
You can then give it a close up clean with a sponge or soft paint brush soaked in water and washing up liquid, or use a bike cleaning product. After this you should dry the bike.
Finally you can add some polish with a dry rag to make it sparkling clean.
Cleaning Your Child’s Bike Wheels
Maintaining clean wheels will make the bike safer to ride for your little one. Get a bike brush or a sponge and give the tyres, spokes, hub, and rims a good scrub. Spin the pedals occasionally as you go and wipe excess dirt off the chain. You can then dry the wheels off with a clean cloth.
How to Check Bike Tyre Pressure
To check your kid’s bike tyre pressure the easy way, just pinch both sides of the tyre and check that it feels firm. If it gives way and feels soft then you should get the bike pump out.
To check the actual psi of a tyre, you will need a pressure gauge, or a pump that comes with an inbuilt gauge. When you connect this to the bike tyre valve, you will get a reading of the psi. The side of the tyre will show the recommended psi - be sure not to exceed this.
How to Pump a Bike Tyre
Before you get pumping, double-check the side of the tyre for the psi range. There are two types of valve on bikes, Presta or Schrader. Make sure you have the right pump for your valve; most pumps work on both.
Firstly, unscrew the valve cap. If you have a Presta valve you will then need to additionally unscrew the locking nut at the top. Now attach the pump and inflate the tyre between the minimum and maximum psi level.
How to Replace a Chain on a Bike
It is unlikely that the bike chain on your current kids bike will wear out before it is time to exchange. You can reduce the chances of this happening by regularly cleaning the chain. If the chain does break or is excessively worn you can get it fixed at a local bike shop or have a go yourself.
To replace it yourself, you will need a chain removal tool and a new bike chain. Use the tool to push out a link of the chain until the chain breaks. Then feed out of the cassette and the derailleur. You can then measure the new chain against the old to make sure it is the right length.
Then it is time to thread through the new chain, attaching it onto the smallest sprocket and chainring. Thread it through the front derailleur cage, then place the other end over the rear cassette, and thread it carefully through the rear derailleur cage.
If the chain does not have a master link, use your chain tool to connect the chain with the pin included. You may have to snap off the protruding end with pliers. If using a master link, insert half of the master link onto each end of the chain, and use a master link tool to snap the link into place.
Frequently Asked Questions About Kids Bike Maintenance
Do kids bikes need regular maintenance?
Your child’s bike should not need regular maintenance if it is handled correctly. You can help to keep it in good condition by giving it a scrub down after a muddy ride, and giving it a full wash every couple of months. Also, be sure to store it in a dry safe place, safe from the elements.
If the bike is getting regular use, we also recommend applying a thin layer of bike lubricant to the drive chain at least once a month.
What PSI should bike tyres be?
If you are unsure what psi your bike tyres should be, it should be written on the sidewall of the tyre. The lightweight kids bikes we supply typically have a range of 35 - 65 psi. BMX tyre pressure can sometimes be higher, some going up to 100 psi. It is important to keep the tyres adequately inflated to reduce wear and make riding easier.
How do you service a kids bike?
To give your kids bike a quick basic servicing, you can follow these easy three steps. If there are any issues that lie outside of these points, it's best to take the bike to a mechanic.
- Check the air in the tyres. If they do not feel firm then pump them up.
- Check the brakes by squeezing the right brake and trying to roll the bike forward, then doing the same with the left brake and trying to roll the bike backwards. If you have to squeeze the brake all the way to stop, we advise seeing a mechanic.
- Check that the chain is sufficiently lubricated. If not, apply more as stated above.
When you exchange a bike with Bike Club, we will fully service the bike your turn in so that it can become a reBike and be enjoyed by another child. Also, if you order a reBike from us you can have peace of mind that it has been fully serviced by expert mechanics.
If you keep the bike longer than 12 months we would recommend getting a bike mechanic to carry out a service.
How long should a bike last a kid?
A kids bike will usually fit your child well for a year or two. This of course depends on how quick your child grows; we know how sudden growth spurts can be!
This is why at Bike Club you can exchange your bike at any time for a delivery fee. However, balance bikes can be exchanged for free after 12 months, and after 18 months for all other bikes.
At what age should a kid get a bike with gears?
There are gear bikes such as the Frog 52 that are appropriate for 5 and 6 year olds. When to introduce your child to gears depends on their individual progress as they learn to ride. It may be too complicated for an older child who is just learning. However for a 6 year old that is riding a first pedal bike with confidence, adapting to a gear bike is a great next step.
Affordable Kids Bikes with Bike Club
You can sign up to Bike Club and get your child a premium kids bike at an affordable monthly rate. You will be able to exchange your current bike at any point for a larger one. All the bikes we supply have been rigorously checked by our own team of mechanics before they are send out. As part of the circular economy, we aim to reduce waste and provide a sustainable option for parents looking to get their kids on two wheels.