Building and Maintaining Your Commuter Bike

20140907-182952-66592380.jpgAs primary bike mechanic, Mr PoP is giving his thoughts today on bike maintenance for your daily-rider!

It’s been great having Mrs. PoP ride her bike to work every day .  She is less stressed, healthier, and wealthier, which is a pretty incredible trifecta. Behind the scenes I’ve also been having a ton of fun learning how to tinker with and maintain her trusty Jamis commuter bike (we call her Go-Go!), and turn her into a true commuting machine.  Quick Note – the links below may go to Amazon! I get my stuff through there if the LBS (local bike shop) doesn’t have the right tools.


What Makes a Bicycle a Good Commuter?

When we began this experiment Go-Go was pretty vanilla – aluminum frame, relaxed riding geometry, 7 speeds. We ended up upgrading her in three main areas:

  • cargo handling,
  • weather resistance, and
  • tire quality.

For cargo handling we went with a basket on the front.  This has been an OK decision but lately I’ve noticed that the steel basket is starting to wear into the aluminum frame; in 2015 we will probably upgrade to some panniers or maybe a rear rack. Weather resistance was probably the single best upgrade.  We bit the bullet and got high-quality SKS fenders in the spring.  (Mrs PoP – my tush is so much drier now after riding through puddles!)  Lastly, we upgraded to kevlar tires so Mrs. PoP wouldn’t get any more flats on the way to work.   All told these 3 upgrades were probably about $200, but we expect them to last for many years.

photo 1

basic maintenance kit


Must Have Tools

I can be a bit of a tool junkie sometimes (Mrs PoP – Sometimes?  You should see the number of tools in our garage!), but compared to car a bicycle requires far fewer hand tools.

Here are pretty much the only  specialized tools that I use to maintain Go-Go.  If you’re just starting out, I recommend getting a bicycle stand/clamp, some chain cleaner and chain lubricant, a chain cleaning tool and a set of allen wrenches. Everything else you can purchase or borrow along the way as the need arises.

I buy Park Tools in general (they are professional grade tools, and will last a very long time), but actually built my own bike clamp that allows me to hold Go-Go (or my own bike) in a vice that’s attached to my work bench in the garage.

photo 2

Our DIY bike stand!

The clamp itself is made from two wood blocks that are pressed together with a pipe clamp which in turn fits into my vice. (Mrs PoP – the foam tubing to prevent scratches and give a tight fit was actually left over from when we replaced our water heater last summer.  Reduce, reuse, recycle!)  When I’m not using it the clamp stores easily hanging by the pipe from a peg on the pegboard, and I think it was about $15 in total. Here is a pic that you can click to blow up for more detail!


Online Resources

Youtube is always your friend here, but my favorite site by far is that of Sheldon Brown. Sheldon was putting bicycle repair content on the web for years before anybody knew what a blog was up until he passed away in 2008. His good deeds live on as the site is an absolute treasure trove of bicycle repair information. RIP Sheldon!


Final Thoughts

Bike repair and maintenance is fun! If you don’t consider yourself handy or much of a tinkerer, that’s ok, it tends to be very forgiving. Local bike shops are a great resource, and you have a fantastic sense of accomplishment after the job is done. If you’re used to working on cars, you’ll be amazed at how inexpensive parts are, and at how much easier it is to work on than your average grocery getter.


Any other bike maintenance tips or questions?

20 comments to Building and Maintaining Your Commuter Bike