Last month we covered the difference between the Handcycle and the racing wheelchair. This month we are going to be looking at some very basic guidelines on how to maintain your Handcycle. You have to remember that the chances are that you might be fair distance away from home when that dreaded flat tire or mechanical failure may happen. I’ve always believed that prevention is the best method to avoid any unforeseen incidents.

Start off by ensuring that you have a well-stocked spares kid on your bike. You can purchase those at any major bike shop. Ensure that you have at least two spare tubes, tire levers and either some CO2 canisters or a small hand pump. It’s also a good idea to have a good multi tool in there as bolts do loosen over time – especially on our bumpy roads!

Give your bike a quick look over before or after each ride depending of what you have time for. Take a good look at the following:

Tires

Your tires are very important – probably the most important part to keep an eye on. Keep your tires at the recommended pressure as indicated on the tires. You’ll roll faster and be less prone to pinch flats. The traditional high-pressure pumps are hard to operate from a wheelchair. So if you can, spend some cash on an air compressor. It will allow you to get your tires to the desired pressure without calling for assistance and you can use it on your wheelchair tires too. Inspect your tires for cuts frequently – especially the side walls.

Brakes and Gears

When you get a new bike there will be some stretching on the cables - both gears and brakes. You will notice after around two weeks that the brakes are not as sharp anymore and the gears might start skipping. This would be a good time to take it to a bike shop for a tune up. After that initial tune up check your gear and brake cables often for any visible signs of wear and tear. You will notice when they’re getting ‘sticky’ and that would be the sign to change them you can change them. Keep an eye on your brake pads and replace them when they are getting worn out. Give your brakes a firm squeeze before most rides to make sure they are still effective. No brakes can be a real problem when you’re strapped into a recliner and heading for a tree!

General 

Try to clean your chain around once a week. You can get hand held chain cleaners that let you clean the chain while it’s still on the bike. Add your choice of degreaser and spin away. Remember of course to give it some lube afterwards. Not too much as that will attract grit. Remember that you will need to replace your chain AND cassette once the chain has become worn. Your local bike shop would be able to advise you when the wear on the chain has reached that point.

Try and give the bike a good wipe down once a week to keep it looking good and this also gives one a chance to check to see if all is good with the frame by checking for metal fatigue cracks and if any bolts and nuts are loosening up.

I also like to tighten up the upholstery straps when I’m doing this and if there’s time will remove the foam inner and give the upholstery a spin in the washing machine. It does get its fair share of sweat and can harbour some interesting cultures of bacteria!

If you have cambered wheels, i.e., anything more than 0 degrees on your rear wheels, it’s worth checking for toe in and toe out as this can affect your rolling. It rarely needs adjustment, so this is more for the peace of mind that you’re rolling without unnecessary resistance and getting the most out of your tires life span.

Inspect your rubber dampener for any signs of wear. It’s the black rubber that connects your fork to your frame and helps in keeping the bike going straight. It’s a good idea to keep one or two of these in your spares cupboard at home.

 If you’re mechanically minded it’s worthwhile trying to maintain your own bike as much as possible. It saves you money and the inconvenience of hauling it off to a bike shop every ten minutes. But if it’s not your thing, then find a bike shop you like and get to know the people who work there and let them get to know your bike. They can then give it the love it needs so your bike can love you back when you hit the roads.

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