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3 things to do in 21 minutes to keep your bike in tip-top shape

Bike maintenance

Your bike does so much for you. It deserves your attention! These bike tune-ups are easy, fast and necessary for keeping your bike in top-of-the-line shape.

1. Clean your chain

The complicated way:

Remove the chain and soak it overnight; disassemble and clean each roller with a cotton swab; and something else involving pipe cleaners and a toxic solvent.

The easy way:

Buy a chain cleaner such as Park Tool’s Cyclone Chain Scrubber ($30; and fill it with Pedro’s Oranj Peelz Citrus Degreaser ($11/16 ounces; Attach the device to your chain, turn the crank 15 revolutions, and let the brushes scrub away grime (shown). Remove the chain cleaner and wipe the chain dry with a clean rag.

No chain cleaner? Spray Finish Line Speed Degreaser ($12/17-ounce can; onto the chain, focusing on small sections at a time (it evaporates quickly), and wipe clean with a dry rag. Apply lube when you’re done.

2. Adjust your brakes

If your brake lever reaches the handlebar before it stops your bike, either your pads are worn or your cables are stretched. Worn pads should be replaced—but that’s another story, and you want to ride now, so do this to get by.

Turn the barrel adjuster on the brake caliper (where the cable enters the brake) clockwise one click at a time, testing your brakes after each adjustment. If you reach the last click and still haven’t solved the problem, turn it clockwise until it stops, loosen the pinch bolt (where the cable goes into the caliper) and pull a small amount of cable through (shown).

Tighten the pinch bolt and repeat the process until you get the right amount of tension.

3. Smooth out shifting

What good is a clean chain if it jumps around and skips gears? Loose cable tension is the likely culprit. With your bike in a repair stand, shift to the smallest cog. Turn the barrel adjuster on the rear derailleur one-half turn clockwise (shown). Then, as you rotate your pedals, shift once.

If the chain doesn’t jump to the next cog, make another half-turn. If the chain starts to jump two cogs for every one shift, you went too far. Back it down a half-turn. Don’t turn the barrel adjuster more than halfway at a time. You may end up with too much tension, which will make your shifting just as bad or worse than when you started.

This article orginally appeared in Bicycling.

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