Here is a simple guide to riding your electrically assisted bike without investing a fortune.
For things to last, you have to maintain them. This is true for your body, your couple, your home, your car, and, equally, your e-bike. The question is how you go about it, and it is the point of this article: to help you maintain your pedal-powered bike, and more specifically your e-bike, so that you can ride with a peaceful mind, having done the necessary verifications.
Note that these are basic rules that do not replace a visit to a service center. In fact, the latter will be an opportunity to learn a lot and benefit from the work of professionals who have the necessary know-how and equipment. Lately, the delays have been extending though. And while waiting for a potential big overhaul, you still want to ride. Hence the interest of this tutorial.
* Before any intervention, remember to use gloves. Some e-bike care products may be difficult to clean once on the hands and may be aggressive to the skin.
Taking care of e-bike tires
Inflating the tires
- Recommended equipment: electric pump with a pressure gauge
- Minimum equipment: manual pump with a pressure gauge
Tires are the only contact with the road. If they are not inflated enough, you will have to make more effort (your engine too, the autonomy will be weaker) and you risk a puncture. Damaging your rim is also possible. If overinflated, the comfort will be bad and you risk a blowout as well as abnormal wear. In short, a tire must be inflated to the right pressure. It is best to check the pressure before each major ride or, in the case of a bicycle, every week.
To do this, you need a pump with a pressure gauge that lets you know what pressure you have inflated your tires to or even a Xiaomi-type electric pump. This is a useful investment for other things like inflating balloons.
As for the right pressure, it is written on your tire: it is in fact a range that indicates a minimum and a maximum pressure. To make it simple: if you already weigh a lot and are loaded (backpack), then the ideal is to be a little below the max pressure. If you are lightly dressed and your weight is not high, then being just a little above the minimum pressure is fine.
- Tip 1: on wet ground or on paved areas with little grip, you will tend to ride with slightly less air in your tires (personally, I deflate them by 10% compared to the ideal pressure). On smooth, dry pavement, you can use the ideal pressure.
- Tip 2: in case of a puncture, carefully inspect the inside of the tire for any residue that could lead to another puncture right after the repair. Carefully, because you may find a glass shard, a nail, a screw… In short, something sharp.
Tires should not have any cracks or objects embedded in them. If they do, check the inner tube for damage. The tread should not be worn out. Don’t take any unnecessary risks.
Tire puncture and tube
- Recommended equipment: plastic tire lever (×3), pressure gauge pump, workshop stand
- Minimum equipment: plastic tire lever (×3), pressure gauge pump
Normally, changing an inner tube tire (not tubeless) is simple:
- Put the bike on a stand.
- Deflate the tire.
- Remove the tire with a plastic (not metal, to avoid damaging the rim) tire lever.
- Remove the wheel.
- Remove the tire and tube.
- Position the new tube correctly, remembering to remove the valve cap.
- Inflate the tube slightly so that it is correctly positioned.
- Put the tire back into the rim.
- Inflate the tire and check that the tire is perfectly positioned.
- Reassemble the wheel.
Some e-bike models have the motor in the front or rear hub. In this case, it is better not to touch it and to bring your e-bike to a service center. If you feel up to it, however, you can follow the above indications.
Read also: Selection of our favorite e-bike accessories to help you find the right gear for your needs.
Paying attention to e-bike lighting
There are two types of lighting: those for being seen and those for seeing. To be seen, basic LED lights are sufficient. As for seeing, you need powerful lights, easy to direct, proof against rain, mud, and other natural events.
- Tip: rechargeable models are more convenient, generally more durable (fully waterproof design), but less eco-friendly. But above all, you can’t just replace the batteries quickly when they’re dead. So choose battery-operated models with quality batteries like the famous Eneloop from Panasonic.
Before storing your electric bike, remember to charge your lighting if it is rechargeable. For battery-powered lights, keep a set of charged batteries with you.
How to hang your electric bike
- Recommended equipment: a bike stand for 30 kg (60-70 pounds)
- Minimum equipment: a rag big enough to turn the bike over
A bike stand is an essential element to maintain your e-bike. It is also called a workshop stand. Prices range from 60 dollars/euros for an entry-level model to 200 dollars/euros for a more expensive stand. Most of them fold up and are therefore easy to store.
The weight of a typical e-bike is around 20 to 30 kg (40 to 60 pounds), sometimes less than 20 kg. We advise you to check the maximum weight that the stand can support and to avoid being at the limit. Also, think about removing the battery to save a few kilos.
There is the traditional (but not ideal) free solution: put a large towel or a piece of cloth on the ground and turn your e-bike over on it. Your e-bike then stands on its handlebars and its saddle. Be careful not to tip it over though. I’m not a fan of this method for big and heavy bikes (for kids’ bikes, it is acceptable).
Cleaning e-bike frame
- Recommended equipment: a weak water jet, a sponge, soap, and a rag
- Minimum equipment: basin of water, rags (yes several), and elbow grease
Recommendation: don’t clean your electric bicycle with a Karcher (like the ones used in car washes), because the pressure will damage the seals and the powerful jet may push water into supposedly sealed areas. The best way is to use elbow grease, rags, and a basin of warm or hot water. If you can, use a low-pressure water jet (ask someone you know who has a garden).
- Tip: if the dirt has dried and is difficult to wash off with a hose, use a rag with warm water, but do not use cleaning products, as they may dry out the seals.
Cleaning the frame of an electrically assisted bicycle requires removing the battery unless it is under a protective cover. To clean electrical connectors, a little alcohol or vinegar on a rag is sufficient.
The connectors may be exposed to water. In this case, they must be dried immediately.
Taking care of e-bike chain
Cleaning e-bike chain
- Recommended equipment: specialized products – biodegradable if possible – and cleaning box or chain brush (avoid sprays, they are usually not targeted enough)
- Minimum equipment: degreaser (DW40 type), 2 x toothbrushes, rags
The cleaning of the chain is done in two steps: cleaning and lubrication.
For the cleaning, it is necessary to remove the particles stuck on it and to degrease the chain. There are systems to place directly on the chain that will do the necessary.
To avoid this expense, here is the trick:
Use two soft-bristled toothbrushes that are sprayed with degreaser and positioned around a link, then run the chain. It’s tedious but effective. It will remove most of the dirt. Then, degrease with a suitable product (WD40 or a biodegradable degreaser) and spray, being careful not to spray it on the brake pads (which don’t like it at all) or on greased areas.
Then proceed in the same way for the chainrings and sprockets.
Once the components are dry (you can use a rag to make that faster), proceed with lubrication. Lubrication is essential to any mechanical system.
If you have the budget, there are systems designed to clean the chain without removing the wheel. They can be found in traditional or specialized sports shops. Remember to use biodegradable products, because they will end up in your sink or washbasin. So avoid toxic products. Such cleaning systems are usually simple, effective, and fast.
Managing chain tension and wear
- Recommended equipment: chain wear tester
- Minimum equipment: your index finger
Check the tension of your chain from time to time. It’s simple: pull the chain off the chainring. If you see one of the teeth, the chain needs to be replaced.
There is also a tool that allows you to measure it by placing it between the spokes. It is called a chain checker.
Everything is specified in the instructions. But to put it simply, if the tool fits perfectly between the links, then the chain should be replaced.
Lubricating the chain
- Recommended equipment: cleaning/lubrication system
- Minimum equipment: clean rag, lubricant in a can (not spray)
Once your chain is clean, it must be lubricated. Forget the spray: the product lands everywhere, it is more expensive and aerosols are not the best from an environmental point of view. But above all, it can land on the brake pads: they hate it (they don’t like such things).
For lubrication, the ideal is to put a drop per link while turning the crankset. Then use a small rag to remove any excess.
Alternatively, your chain cleaning tool can also be used to lubricate chains. Simply insert the lubricant in place of the degreaser (having carefully cleaned and dried it first) and then use the same method as for cleaning.
Tightening the chain
- Recommended equipment: a torque wrench, a set of Allen keys, a set of flat keys
- Minimum equipment: a set of Allen keys, a set of flat keys
Tightening is fundamental! It is a question of the safety, comfort, and durability of your electric bike. We are usually lazy and yet, it is quick to do. On that subject, I can only advise you to buy a torque wrench (which can be found in any DIY store, but it is a bit expensive). This way, you won’t tighten your bike to death.
Tightening is a force applied to anchor different pieces. This force is expressed in Nm (Newton × meters, not “per meter”). Usually, the value is indicated on the parts. The point of the torque wrench is to apply just the right amount of force (beyond that, it is useless) thus avoiding any risk of breakage.
If you don’t have one, standard wrenches will do.
- Tip: use arm rotation, not wrist rotation, to get a better feel for when you think the tightening is right.
List of parts to tighten:
- Crank arms
- The child seat (the vibrations are important there)
Note: the pedals usually require a specific key, better go directly to a bike service center.
Taking good care of e-bike battery
Most electric bikes now use Li-ion batteries. The advantage of these batteries is the absence of a memory effect. You can recharge them whenever you want and not necessarily to the maximum.
E-bike batteries have a set number of cycles before they start to lose capacity. We estimate between 500 and 1000 cycles depending on the quality of the battery and especially the BMS (battery management system) which stops the charge when the battery is at 100% and stops the consumption when it is almost empty. This is due to the fact that Li-ion batteries do not like to be overcharged or completely discharged.
One cycle represents a 100% charge and then a 100% discharge. In other words, if you are at 50%, charge up to 100%, and then do the same thing, you will have used only one cycle.
So, if you store your e-bike for a long time without using it, having its battery charged to 50% will provide the most stable condition.
Don’t wait until you are at 10% to recharge. This does not make much sense.
For winter weather, the ideal is to remove the battery – if possible – and keep it at home at room temperature rather than outside.
E-bike brake maintenance is not to be missed
Taking good care of e-bike brakes is part of safety procedures. There are 3 types of brakes:
- Hydraulic disc brakes: pads clamp the disc thanks to hydraulic pressure. This is the most efficient system (although a bit heavy) offering the best endurance.
- Mechanic disc: the pads clamp the disc but the pressure is linked to the cable tension. This is not great at all.
- V-shape brake pads: very well known, these brakes have good endurance, and good efficiency if they are well adjusted, but above all, they offer a lighter solution than hydraulic disc brakes. Moreover, they are less expensive for the same range.
Recommended equipment: your fingers and eyes.
Checking the brake pads is a simple process: squeeze the brakes and if the gap between the brake lever and the handle of the bike is about 2-3 fingers, then the tension is good.
Second check: hang (or flip) the bike and spin the wheel. If there is no friction, the rim is not warped.) If there is, you will have to straighten or change the rim.
Checking the disc brakes is just as easy: you need to look at the pads and if the thickness is 1 to 2 mm at a glance, then they should be changed.
The adjustments or changes being more complex, we advise you to leave them to professionals as much as possible. That said, the Internet is full of tutorials but remember to test your repair before going out, it’s all about the brakes after all.
That’s it for these e-bike maintenance tips. We hope you will find them useful. Have a good ride!
Read also: E-bike brands, manufacturers, models, countries: complete list (560+).