Did you just invest in a nice bike for your kid? Do you want to know how to maintain a kid’s bike, to keep it in top shape and maybe hand it down one day?
Hardtail Canada is collaborating with YYC MTB for a series of upcoming articles about kid’s bikes.
If you live in Southern Alberta, be sure to check out their awesome Youth Programs!
Now I’ll hand it off to Michael from YYC MTB:
Kids need a well tuned bike. They do not have the strength or dexterity to deal with equipment that is not running optimally. Knowing how to maintain a kids bike, or at least the basics, can go a long way to preserving ride quality and saving costs.
Check brakes for rubbing, and replace cables + housing yearly if the bike is used regularly. If you are unsure how to do any of these things, your local bike shop can help!
In this article we’ll cover: basic bolt check, adjusting the chain tension, adjusting the brakes, servicing the cables and housing, tire pressure, and washing your kids bike.
How to Maintain a Kids Bike
Basic Bolt Check
Regularly check the tightness of wheel fixtures, stem and bar bolts. Also check the crank bolt, as these have a habit of coming loose.
As it is a kids bike, they don’t need to be too tight. It is easy to strip the little bolts on a bike.
It is worth investing in a torque wrench if you are new to kids bike maintenance. Manufactures will have torque values for all fasteners.
Adjusting the Chain Tension
If you have a single speed, make sure the chain tension isn’t too tight. A chain with too much tension will rob some of the power put into the pedals.
While it may not seem like a big deal for an adult, a tight chain can have a huge impact on the energy level of a child. If your child is spending too much energy, they’ll lose interest quicker and will likely become more frustrated.
A good way to check chain tension on a kids bike is to spin the pedals backwards. If it feels stiff or you feel any resistance, the chain is too tight.
For more information about adjusting chain tension, check out this video:
Adjusting the Brakes
You want to make sure the brakes pull and return smoothly without much resistance. If your child has to use extra force to pull the brakes, not only will their hand fatigue quicker, but it may become a safety issue if they are not able to stop properly.
If the brake handles do not glide back and forth with little effort, the cables are likely corroded. Cable and housing replacement is a moderately difficult job if you have never done it. I will provide advice for this servicing in the next section, but if you are unsure, go to a shop.
Another important consideration for maintaining a kids bike is to check for brake rub. Often the caliper needs to be aligned if the wheel doesn’t spin freely or you hear rubbing between the rotor and the brake pads.
Kids are not that careful with their bikes. They will bend rotors and they will rub. This will rob power. Often a bent rotor can be bent back. If not, they are relatively cheap and easy to replace.
It is best to follow your manufacturer’s directions when adjusting mechanical disc brakes as they can be a bit tricky. Hydraulic brakes are pretty simple.
Check out this video for helpful advice:
If you are still unsure, take it to a professional.
Servicing Cables and Housing
These operate the shifting and brakes (if you have mechanical disk brakes). These are susceptible to corrosion and wear and need to be replaced regularly.
If cables are not moving freely in the housing, it can lead to poor shifting and increased effort to operate controls.
Again, what may not be a big deal to us can be a deal breaker for a child. If they do not have the power to pull a brake with a bit of resistance, they can’t stop.
Even new cable and housing can have too much resistance to for really small children. Sometimes working lightweight oil into the housing can help decrease the amount of force required to operate controls for really small children.
If you want a great resource for changing cables and housing, check out this video:
Check your tire pressure! Flat tires rob power. Kids need their bikes to be efficient — properly inflated tires go a long way.
Tires should not be rock hard. If you squeeze them they should have some give, like squeezing an orange. Having some softness means they’ll have more traction and will be less likely to skid if they brake hard.
For 2″ MTB tires, 20 PSI is a good starting range for kids. For plus size tires, start with 15 psi.
Washing Your Kids Bike
The first step to protecting your kid’s bike is to regularly wash it! Dirty bikes wear out faster.
Use a low pressure garden hose and some dish soap. Wipe the bike down after to avoid corrosion. This will also preserve the bike’s resale value when your child outgrows the bike!
Lube the chain regularly and check tire pressure before each ride. It is definitely worth having a professional mechanic look at the bike every season or 2 if your child rides regularly.
A mechanic can assess the state of wear on components and replace them when necessary. They will also assess the hubs and adjust critical bearings. Spoke tension and wheel trueness will also be assessed.
These are more advanced kids bike maintenance procedures and are often best left to the pros.
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