A Bit of Basic Bike Knowledge

Before getting your child on a bike, its useful for both of you to understand a little about how a bicycle actually works and some really basic maintenance. Working through this basic stuff together can also be a really great way to engage the curious or process driven child in the learning to ride project. It may also be a really useful way of demystifying bike riding if your child suffers from anxiety.

How a bicycle works

There are four main components to a bicycle: the frame; the wheels; the gears; and the brakes.

The Frame

The frame is essentially the big bit! It is the part of the bicycle that distributes the weight of the rider between the front and back wheels. It’s usually made of strong, light-weight materials such as hollow steel, metal alloys or carbon-fibre composite tubes, which are positioned into two triangular shapes. The seat of the cycle is located above the rear wheel, while the handlebars are attached to a shaft which attached to the axle on the front wheel.

The Wheels

The wheels are also made of a light weight material and are strengthened by interior spokes, which help to support the weight of the rider. Mounted on the wheels are rubber tyres which house inner tubes filled with pressurised air. The wheel itself revolves around an axle which is attached to the frame.

The Gears

Gears are little sprockets with teeth attached to the back wheel of a cycle and are linked to the pedals by a chain. Bicycles can have anywhere from one to 30 gears, depending on the intended use of the bicycle. The gears are usually changed by moving a shifting lever on the handlebars, and can help a rider to go faster on flat surfaces or alternatively help them to climb a hill.

The Brakes

Brakes use friction to stop a bicycle from moving. Depending on the bike, the brakes can be engaged either by squeezing a lever on the handlebars or pushing backwards on the foot pedal. When engaged, a cable is pulled taut, which closes the brake calliper, pressing rubber pads on to the wheel rim.

Basic Bicycle Maintenance

While major servicing best handled by bike mechanics at your local bike shop there is plenty you can do at home to maintain your bike. Before every ride it is important to do a quick check of the following:

  • Tyres: are they inflated correctly? Are there any obvious punctures, worn patches or cracked spots?
  • Wheels: do you need to tighten any loose nuts and bolts? If your wheel wobbles when you spin it, you may need to take it to a bike shop.
  • Positioning: are your seat and handlebars in the correct position? Do they needed to be tightened?
  • Brakes: is enough pressure applied to the wheel when you squeeze the brake levers or when you push back on the pedal? Check that the brake pads only hit the rims and not the tyre.
  • Cables and bolts: check that not none of the cables are frayed and that all nuts, bolts and screws that hold your bike together, are tightened and secure.
  • Chain: does your chain move freely and does it squeak? If so, you may need to apply some lube or oil.
  • Gears: run through your gears and make sure you can move between them without any problems.