In the main series page that this article is a part of, I covered the reasons that you should be caring for your e-bike yourself. Shops might not be available in many smaller towns, especially in the United States. Or, if you’re like me and like to go far from where people live on adventure rides, you’re truly going to be on your own. Taking tools along is great, but if your bike develops problems from a lack of basic at-home service, your chances of getting stranded or being inconvenienced go way up.
In this article, I’m going to cover some of the basic preventive e-bike maintenance that almost anybody can do themselves at home.
Caring For Your E-Bike: Normal Bike Components
While e-bikes are bigger, heavier, and faster (with electric assist) than most regular bikes, they’re still bikes, so most of the maintenance is regular bike maintenance.
The first thing you need to do is clean the bike up from time to time. Mud, dust, little rocks, and other things can cause problems. Rinsing the bike down and/or giving it a wash helps take care of these issues. Most e-bikes come with waterproof or at least water resistant electronics, so you’re not going to destroy the motor, controller, etc.. However, it’s probably a good idea to remove the battery before washing. Degreasing the bike with soap and water can help keep grease out of the way as you move on to inspect it.
As the video above shows, go along the bike in a letter M to check vital bicycle components. This gives you a way to systematically check everything, and leave nothing behind.
Start with the front wheel. Move and wiggle the wheel to see if there’s play in the front wheel bearings. Inspect the tire for dangerous wear or cracking. Check the brakes and replace the pads or rubber if needed. Check the sealant in the bike’s tire or tube (depending on whether it’s tubeless). Inspect the spokes and rim of the wheel, looking for damage. For bikes with rubber brakes that grab the rim, this is particularly important. Also, spin the wheel to see if it is bent at all.
Next, move up to the handlebar. It has bearings, too. Check for play or other signs that replacement may be needed, or grease them if that’s needed. Also, check all stem bolts (bolts keeping the handlebars on) to see if they need tightening. Check your shifters and brake levers for looseness or adjustment. If your bike has handlebar tape, check it out and replace it as needed.
Next, move down to the crank. It has gears that need inspecting for wear and bending. There’s also a set of bearings you should check for play, and regrease as needed. This helps keep you from getting a pedal failure. Check everything for tightness while you’re at it. Finally, the derailleur (the thing that moves the chain to other gears if you have one up front) and the pedals themselves should be inspected.
Next, move up to the seat and seatpost. Make sure everything’s clean and tight so that you don’t come off your seat during a ride.
The final step, in the back, is where things get complicated, but it’s really just a combination of what you did to the front wheel area and the crank area. Check bearings, teeth on gears, and every other moving part for too much wear, loose or stuck bearings, and anything else that could be a problem, like rear brakes.
I didn’t go into great detail on what to do if any of these parts are broken, but there are YouTube videos covering every conceivable bike repair. You’ve probably also got local shops and rider groups in your area with people who would gladly show you a bit about repairing the bike. Or, if you don’t want to mess with it, drop it off with a bike mechanic.
Whatever you do, the inspection is vital, and it’s not something you can have a bike mechanic do frequently unless you live with one!
Caring For Your E-Bike: Electrical Components
E-bikes have a few things that require a little more inspection.
One big thing you need to do is check any external wiring for damage. Some e-bikes run all of this through the tubes, but more affordable ones tend to have at least some wiring running along the outside of the bike that could take a hit on a ride or rattle its way loose. Check along every wire and make sure the jacketing and insulation (the rubber or plastic on the outside) is intact. If you see bare wire anywhere, you need to replace the wire or seal up the hole in some way. Rubber cement, glues, or electric tape can help for minor abrasions, but for serious kinks and deep wear into the metal, you’ll need to replace the wire or a segment of it.
Also, check every electrical connection that’s exposed. These can rattle loose during a ride (this has happened to me before) and cut off your ability to use the bike’s electric functions. Tighten these up, replace any broken connectors, and in some cases throw some tape over any water-resistant connectors that look like they’ve got gaps. Even so, adding some tape to connectors can keep them from coming loose if that’s ever been a problem for you.
Finally, look at the screen, buttons, electric motor, and controller. If any of these seem damaged or aren’t working like they should, see about replacing them or getting them checked out. The electric motor might be in the hub of the rear wheel or it might be between the pedals and help turn the crank of the bike. Wherever it is, inspect it along with the regular bike components. Also, if your bike has a throttle, make sure it isn’t damaged or worn. There’s nothing less fun than a throttle that won’t work, except one that won’t turn off!
Some Final Thoughts
This might sound complicated, as I just spent 1,000 words yammering on about it, but once you’ve done it a time or two, it isn’t really a big deal. Following the M pattern and then following the wires can go pretty fast because most of the time, you’ll find nothing wrong, or only 1 or 2 things. Caring for your e-bike isn’t rocket science, and is something almost anyone can do.
Featured Image: The running gear on my Snapcycle R1 e-bike.
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