Unlike traditional bicycle maintenance, e-bikes require a little more TLC because of the abundance of delicate parts around its frame.
With more possibility of wear-and-tear from riding a minimum of 20 mph (32.19 km/h), some e-bike riders may need to pick up essential mechanical skills to stay safe while protecting their investments.
The most essential parts of your e-bike are the ABC’s: air (in tires), brakes, and chains. These parts must be maintained frequently to avoid potential injury. An e-bikes gears, chains, and frame need a proper clean and lubrication on a weekly or monthly basis, so keep supplies like rags, degreasers, and lubricants in your tool kit.
To understand what parts need careful maintenance, why that is, and how to accomplish some more difficult mechanic tasks – read on.
Before you examine specific parts, ensure you safety check both the bike and gears before rides, and create an easy-to-stick-to maintenance schedule.
Check These E-Bike Parts Before Every Ride
It’s essential to check your tires, headset, wheels, and brakes before every ride. It’s common for e-bike riders to hop on their bikes every single day, assuming that it’s in the same condition that they left it in. A quick safety check could save your life.
Make a habit out of doing the following checks until it becomes second nature. It’s rare, but even experienced and frequent cyclists have left a quick-release loose every now and then. Be sure to do another check every 200 miles (or 2 weeks), so minor problems don’t become major.
- Inspect tires for cuts or wear and inflate to manufacturer instructions
- Check the headset by pushing on the front brake and jiggle the handlebars back and forth as if you’re turning. A knocking or moving headset needs to be tightened immediately. To better confirm a rickety headset, put your fingers on the junction of the frame and headset and rock the bike frontwards and backward.
- Tug on the quick releases on both wheels gently (don’t yank it to the point they come off). Tighten down the quick release if you notice and loose bolts.
- Utilize the brakes by rolling the wheels at less than 8 mph (5km/h) to avoid an accident in case the brakes fail. Brakes should engage fully and keep wheels from moving.
- Spin the wheels after picking up the front end of your bike, then the back end. The wheel should never brush up against the brake pad.
Every 200 Miles or 2 Weeks
- Inspect the chain for rust and lubricate these parts if you notice excessive grinding, squeaking, squealing, or you have difficulty pedaling (on a pedal-assisted e-bike). If you live in a humid or wet climate, you should lube the chain every week or 100 miles.
- Check the brake pads; first in the rear, then in the front. Most pads have tiny grooves in them, which act as a way to stop the bike at high-speeds. If there are no grooves visible, get a replacement immediately, or the brakes could fail.
- Don’t forget to check the cleats on your shoes, because they help grip the pedals.
- Remove wheels and gently wipe down the frame of dirt and oil while checking the e-bike for imperfections like paint chips or cracks.
Road Tool Kit Recommendations
Keep a tool kit with you the size of a fanny pack or smaller located on your bike or on your person. These tools will help you perform quick maintenance incase you’re far away from home, or can’t make it to a mechanic shop in the next hour.
1 Inflation tube that fits the wheels on your bike. It’s not just the size that’s important here, but the width of the Presta valve (standard tubes for bicycles).
1 Patch kit to repair tubes or wheels quickly.
1 Small pump for your wheels. I prefer a hand pump and a CO2 inflator.
2 CO2 cartridges that fit your specific pump.
2 Tire levers.
1 $20 bill for emergencies.
Home Tool Kit Recommendations
While the road tool kit will have only necessities, your home tool kit will have everything else needed for complete maintenance. The below tools are necessary for any e-bike upkeep you’ll need to do in the future.
1 Multitool Allen Keys for crank bolts and other bolts.
1 Multitool Torx Keys for the star shape heads usually found on the handlebars.
1 Tire and shock pump for your home tool kit specifically. Although you already have a small pump for your wheels, a larger pump can instantly fill your tires once the cylinder is pumped. A shock pump can adjust air pressure to avoid sag and encourage a more comfy ride.
1 Lubes like WD-40 spray, but the drip is better because the lube won’t spray on your pants.
1 Contact cleaner or degreaser, which dries all of the water off your bike after washing it. A contact cleaner is useful for gears and chains prone to rust, while a degreaser takes excess grease off the same components.
1 Chain breakers are great for breaking off the rusted or unusable chains on your e-bike. You can also invest in a chain checker, which tells you the remaining life left in a chain. However, this isn’t necessary – but it is handy if you ride your e-bike frequently, or your chains are prone to snapping. If this is the case, lubricate these parts more.
1 Quick link pillars quickly unsnap chain components and snaps them on just as fast. It’s really helpful if you often tear your hair out replacing chains.
1 Cable cutters cut through outward and inward cables quickly.
1 Chain whip holds onto the chain cassette to keep it in place while replacing the drivetrain. A freewheel removal tool helps you remove the whole cassette off of the body – so use both tools in tandem to make your life easier.
3 pairs Nitrile gloves protect your hands against oil and grease.
Some other bonus tools include tire leavers to remove stubborn tires, torque wrenches, so you torque screws to product recommendations and a decent wrench.
Stick to City Sidewalks to Avoid Heavy Damage
E-bikes are separated between two types of terrain: rough trails and leisure. Most e-bikes are geared towards leisure activity because consumers use these to go to and from work. Mountain bikes are useful for rural communities where cars are expensive or inaccessible.
Similar to a traditional bike, e-bikes are capable of cycling up steep hills for an extended period with the proper battery and motor (750w minimum preferred). These bikes are available at hardtails or full suspension. The full suspension is better for rougher ground. If you’re interested in biking on rugged trails, your e-bike will show more damage quicker.
Leisure and City:
All e-bikes can function spectacularly on flat land or in a cityscape because they were initially designed for this purpose. Since e-bikes ride better on a flat surface, damage on your bike will be minimal as long as you don’t ride over potholes or deep cracks. Leisure and city e-biking will protect the components’ long-term.
How to Properly Store Your E-Bike
Storing your e-bike correctly can help extend or preserve its lifespan. E-bikes are best stored in a cool, dry place, away from frequent temperature changes and high humidity. Store e-bike batteries partially share and separately from the e-bike if you’re doing so long-term.
The ideal temperature for storage is between 32 to 68F (0 and 20C). If you’re in the middle of a cold snap and don’t have a heated garage, stick your e-bike inside your apartment or home. Once temperatures dip below freezing, the components and oil will freeze with it.
Always clean your e-bike before removing the battery or storing it long-term. A build-up of water, debris, and salt are natural, but paint can peel off in a short amount of time if it sticks to the frame during storage.
How to Safely Clean and Lubricate Your Bike
Cleaning your bike frequently is the most important aspect of bike maintenance. A dirty or greasy bike could start to erode the rest of the components, which will lead to costly repairs. However, if you clean the e-bike with incorrect products, you could as do permanent damage to your battery, motor, or wheels.
Before you start cleaning your bike, ensure that you have the following supplies:
- Cleaning rags: You don’t need anything fancy. Ripped up shirts or face cloths are good enough to soak up oil, grease, and wax. Useful for general drying and cleaning.
- Water: Be careful with water, and never use a high-pressure hose to rinse off or clean sensitive bearing systems, your motor, or battery.
- Brushes: Toothbrushes are helpful for hard-to-reach places, but a short bristled long brush can buff and scrape off dirt and debris off large surfaces.
- Soaps and Cleaners: Diluted dishwashing soap is cheap, yet effective for getting rid of grease and grime. Be sure to avoid using soap on chains without lubricant.
- Lubricant: There are two types of lubricant, dry or wet. I prefer dry because the lube won’t whip on your pants while biking, but only use it if you live in a dry climate. For humid or wet climates, use wet lube as it’s less likely to rinse off during a rainstorm.
- Degreaser: Use a bike specific degreaser to clean up the chain. Dispose of all solvents properly because they can damage the environment.
How to Prepare E-Bike for Cleaning
Once you have your supplies, check the e-bike manual to see how much water it can resist. Every e-bike comes with an IP rating that measures how much rainwater the e-bike can withstand and how much jetting water it can sustain when cleaning.
When browzing for e-bikes, you’ll likely find bikes certified for IPX4 or IPX5. At this certification, the product is suitable for splashing water (4) or jetting water (5). At both of these ratings, you can ride your e-bike in the rain without suffering permanent damage. This also means you can use gentle water to clean off dirt and debris.
Next, take down the display if necessary. If it’s permanently attached, you can place a water-proof poly-film to protect it against soap and water.
Always remove the battery, even if the manual says it has protection against short-circuiting. It’s better to be safe than sorry because a new e-bike battery can cost over a thousand dollars. Place it away from the cleaning area, preferably in your home or where water won’t reach.
It’s better to turn the e-bike upside down and place all the weight on the seat and handlebars. Use a towel or poly-film to protect these areas because they’re likely to be soaked in water during cleaning. You don’t need to remove your tires.
Start washing your e-bike with water only, then scrub with a cloth or brush to remove the dirt. Use the toothbrush for small places like chains or in between smaller areas. If the water gets in the battery compartment, don’t worry – they’re designed with a space to drain a small amount of water.
While the bike is still wet, use a bike degreaser to clean the drivetrain (chainrings, chain, derailleurs, cassette). Don’t wash it off right away. Let it settle for 5-10 minutes then wipe the excess off with a wet cloth.
Finally, tackle the brakes. The disc brakes are a sensitive component, so only use a disc brake cleaner and not the dishwashing liquid as these can seize up the brakes.
After cleaning the e-bike, dry all components with a dry cloth (unless you used a degreasing or lubricant solution on that component). Never let the e-bike dry on its own, because humidity will make it look dirtier. The battery compartment must be completely dry before installing it back.
6 Important Maintenance Tips
Although going to a mechanic is one of the first things to consider if a problem occurs, there are many basic bike maintenance skills you can learn and perform at home. The following are some essential maintenance tips that will prolong the life of your e-bike.
Keep Drivetrain Well Lubed and Clean
A lot of e-bike enthusiasts compare cleaning your drivetrain train to changing your engine oil – and for a good reason. Lubing your chain ultimately extends the life of your e-bike, similar to how oil does in your car. If you go too long without changing it, your bike/car will breakdown.
Clean your drive train at least twice a month if you ride an average of 200 miles every two-weeks. However, if you keep to sunny weather and paved roads, you can get away with cleaning it once a month. For muddy or wet climates, clean it more frequently (once a week or more if you ride your bike to and from work in the humidity/rain).
Keep in mind that cleaning the chain can take a while if you’re inexperienced. If you’re in a hurry, take a wet tag without soap and wrap it around the chain. Turn the pedal backward, so it cleans the components.
Ensure Nuts and Bolts are Tight
Tightening the nuts and bolts on your e-bike is a simple process that takes minutes – but it can save your life. You wouldn’t want your handlebars popping off what you’re riding in traffic. Maintain a tight bike to increase performance, avoid severe wear, and for your safety.
Take your torq keys, Allen keys, or wrench and tighten all of the nuts and bolts throughout your bike. Do a weekly check, but always pay close attention to a rattling or rocking sound. These sounds could indicate a loose screw.
Check the manufacturers’ warranty before tightening anything on your e-bike to ensure you have the right torque specs. Over-tightening could cause severe damage, while vehicle under-tightening could result in a loss of performance. For carbon parts, use a torque wrench that’s set to the appropriate torque level for carbon parts, or they won’t be at the proper level.
Check Tire Pressure
Every three of four days, if you ride your e-bike daily, check the tires’ pressure. Since e-bike wheels are so thin and small, a lot of air escapes from the bike tubes in a matter of days. It’s essential to pump your tires between 80-120 psi for optimal performance but, check the manufacturer label before going any higher or lower.
Keep a good floor pump in your home with an air pressure gauge, so you can accurately pump up your tires. Tire pressure is dependent on more than one factor, such as tire size, body weight, type, riding conditions, and road surface. As a rule, the wider the tire, the lower the pressure.
Remember: a small difference in tire pressure can affect handling and comfort. Sidewalks and roads perform better on low psi, while rough terrain requires higher psi.
Check the breaks every time you ride without fail because general wear and tear could prevent the brake cables or discs from functioning. Not only will checking the brakes protect yourself from harm, but other riders and pedestrians will benefit from your safety precautions.
First, test the brakes by rolling the wheels at less than 8 mph (5km/h) to avoid an accident in case the brakes fail. Brakes should engage fully and keep wheels from moving. Then, look at the brake pads for general wear and tear. While you’re at it, ensure the pads toe-ins touch the braking surface first when engaged.
Disc brakes take more effort to keep clean. Make sure the rotors avoid contamination from dirt and debris to maintain maximum performance. Use brands such as Muc Off (one of the best disk brake cleaners) or WD40 for lubrication.
After riding your e-bike for an extended period, you’ll notice that your gears don’t shift as quickly or as smoothly as they used to. If the derailleurs and cables aren’t damaged, you can re-index your gears to improve on your e-bikes’ shifting ability.
Find your bike’s barrel adjuster. It’s usually on the rear derailleur, or by the shifters. Next, determine if your cable needs a tightening. Turn the pedals as you change gears, and watch if the chain moves easily between the cogs. If it doesn’t, tighten the cables.
Finally, adjust the cable tension by turning it clockwise to tighten, or counterclockwise to slacken. The barrel adjuster will click as you turn, with every click consisting of a quarter-turn. As a positive, if you’re using an electronic shifter, you likely won’t have to reindex the gears.
Some components are too damaged for maintenance and require a replacement. The following are standard components that you should check regularly. Replace any of these components immediately to avoid severe injury or damage to your e-bike.
- Chain: A common component that needs a replacement every 2000 to 4000 miles. They may need a replacement sooner, depending on the weather. A chain checker will give you an accurate description of the wear. For example, if the chain stretch is above 0.75%, you should immediately get a new chain.
- Tires: Depending on the terrain you ride on, these may require more frequent replacing. Tires typically last around 1000 to 2000 miles. You likely have to track your tire miles manually, but others have an indicator on the frame. If you take great care of your tires, you can get away with a maximum of 4000 miles – but nothing more.
- Cassette: Every time you replace your chain – check the cassette. A cassette needs to be replaced with every second chain replacement, so they last a total of two chains. If gears are skipping, the cog is worn out. Unfortunately, once the cog is worn, you’ll need to replace the entire cassette.
- Brake Pads: Never skimp on your brakes because you could seriously injure yourself or other riders/pedestrians. They don’t require replacement often, which is why cyclists overlook them. If you see no grooves in the brake pads, that means its way past due for a replacement.
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