The Art of Bicycle Maintenance

Our resident bike man, Marc Forster-Pert, gives us some tips on basic repairs and bike maintenance. Translations by Hoa Le. Photos by Francis Roux


The Chain


In a nutshell: A happy chain is a happy bike. You can clean it without getting your hands dirty or having to take the chain off. Do this about once a month.

What’s needed: A stiff wire brush, degreaser, chain lube, a rag, paper towel

Step One

1) Turn bike upside down and apply degreaser to the whole chain, rear cog/cassette/freewheel and chainring.

Step Two

2) Turn the pedals with your hands and make sure the chain completes two or three revolutions.

Step Three

3) With your wire brush, give the chain a good scrub, securing the chain with a rag so as not to get your hands dirty. Then revolve the chain as in step one, applying the brush first on top of the chain and then on the bottom.

Step Four

4) Clean with your rag repeating the chain revolution. Use your rag to wipe off the dirt around the chainring and rear cog.

Step Five

5) Apply chain lube to rear cog and chainring and repeat revolution process, making sure chain has been greased with the lube.

Step Six

6) Leave for five or so minutes, then wipe clean with a paper towel using the revolution method in previous steps. You’re now ready to roll.


The Brakes


In a nutshell: You need these to stop so it’s always worth getting them checked by a mechanic if you’re unsure. But, with one simple tool, you can have your brakes tightened in minutes. Advice below is for standard caliper brakes which you’ll see on most Vietnamese bikes.

What’s needed: An adjustable spanner (also known as a wrench)

 Step One

1) You’ll be able to see the cable that connects the brake lever with the brake caliper. Loosen the bottommost bolt to release the cable. 

 Step Two

2) Then squeeze the two parts of the caliper together to get the right tightness. The wheel should be able to pass freely without touching the pads. You want about half a centimetre gap between pads and the rim.

 Step Three

3) Once you have it in position, hold the caliper in place and use your hand to pull the cable fully though and re-tighten the bolt.

 Step Four

4) Check that the wheel runs freely. Press the brakes and test tightness. Make sure the pads touch the bottom half of the rim. 


A Puncture


In a nutshell: This is a common problem which can easily be fixed with your own hands.

What’s needed: A basic puncture repair kit, tyre levers, a small adjustable wrench, a pen and pump.

 Step One

1) Whoops! That’s a puncture, alright. First, use your small adjustable wrench to loosen the bolts of the wheel that attach it to the frame.

 Step Two

2) Insert a tyre lever into one part of the tyre and another a little further on. Gently, coax the tyre from the rim and remove.

 Step Three

3) Unscrew the nut that holds the valve in place.

 Step Four

4) Remove inner tube, pump up and listen for air to identify the puncture. Once identified, mark with a pen and release the air by pressing a release valve.

 Step Five

5) Use the metal tool to rub down the area and apply a liberal amount of glue to the area (enough to cover the area of the patch). Wait two minutes.

 Step Six

6) Apply the patch onto the glued area, press it down hard and make sure the edges are sealed. Wait five minutes or so until the patch has completely dried.

 Step Seven

7) Pump up the tube a little. Replace the tyre, leaving it half on and half off the rim. With the wheel lying on the floor, insert the inner tube valve into its hole and screw the nut back on.

 Step Eight

8) Then, with the inner tube housed within the tyre, stand the wheel up and use your thumbs to work the tyre fully into place on the rim.

 Step Nine

9) Finally, rotate the wheel, giving the tyre a tug to make sure everything is in place. Pump up, replace on the frame and make sure the bolts are tight in place with the wheel centred in the middle of the bike.


Tip: On a single-speed bike, make sure the chain is tight with little movement if you squeeze it.

Pull the wheel further back if it’s too loose.


Say it in Vietnamese


Here are some translations for when you get into trouble on the road:

Where is the nearest bike mechanic? Chỗ sửa xe gần nhất ở đâu?


I have a problem with my bike. Xe của tôi bị hỏng


I have a puncture. Tôi bị thủng lốp

I need a puncture repair kit. Tôi cần phụ tùng sửa xe bị thủng lốp

Can I borrow your pump? Cho tôi mượn cái bơm được không?

The brakes are loose/need tightening. Phanh bị lỏng/cần vặn chặt hơn

There’s a problem with the gears. Số của xe này có vấn đề

I need a new chain. Tôi cần xích mới

How much will that be? Hết bao nhiêu tiền?

When will it be ready? Khi nào anh sửa xong?



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