The basics of home bike maintenance

  • Sadie’s Bikes along the canal in Turners Falls repairs and sells used bicycles. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Nik Perry outside Sadie’s Bikes along the canal in Turners Falls. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Owner Nik Perry and Jody Shannabrook work on bicycles at Sadie’s Bikes in Turners Falls. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Nik Perry trues a bicycle wheel at Sadie’s Bikes in Turners Falls. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

For the Recorder
Published: 6/16/2021 12:37:47 PM

Just prior to the pandemic, statistics showed there were over 1 billion bicycles in the world, with a bicycle being produced every four seconds and one being purchased every two seconds, according to That’s a lot of bikes.

Nik Perry, local mechanic and owner of Sadie’s Bikes in Turners Falls, offered tips and advice on how to prolong the life of a bicycle and possibly enjoy riding even more. While there is a time and place to bring your bike into a shop for professional help, Perry said there is plenty you can do at home (and on the road) to improve your experience.

Perry said while he was in college working on a sculpture degree, he had to use a bicycle a lot. All that use led to a lot of trips to the local bicycle shop for repairs.

“One day when I was in the shop, it just came over me and I said, ‘I will mop floors, I will do anything if you will train me to be a bike mechanic,’” he recalled.

Perry got his chance and spent the next 12 years perfecting another kind of art. Yet, Perry said his years working in other shops “was lackluster in regards to the culture of bike shops in general.” He observed most shops catering primarily to white men on the higher end of socio-economic status.

“From my perspective, unless you were a white male, the industry didn’t make good decisions for any other demographic,” Perry said. So, he decided to open his own business that was inclusive to all with a focus on education. “I just saw how most shops weren’t willing to go in deep if you were a woman, for instance,” he said.

In terms of maintenance relating to the value of your bike, Perry said folks have to keep in mind that bikes purchased from outlets such as Walmart and Target are going to be of poor quality to begin with.

“I try to be realistic and compassionate with people. Not everyone has lots of money to spend on repairs, but with a bike like that, I let people know any fix I make is likely to only last a week or a month at best. I try to be sensitive,” he said.

Basics for home bike maintenance

“The No. 1 most important thing you need to have is a tire pump. The tire is the cushion that separates you from the road,” said Perry.

He explained that every tire has markings on the side labeled with the PSI (pounds per square inch) that it should be inflated to.

“There is a minimum and maximum you can inflate your tires. A little less than the PSI and you will have a more cushioned, less bumpy ride. But your tires will wear out faster,” he said. Keeping the tire at the recommended PSI will make it harder and you will be less likely to have a flat.

Another important step in bike maintenance is keeping it clean.

“Dirt and grime on a bicycle is essentially a wrench in the gears. The mechanical system is degraded,” said Perry. He described a rider going through a mud puddle and thinking the dirt is just on the tires. But in fact, the dirt and grit will “migrate” to all the other functioning portions of your bike such as gears and brakes. “You are essentially introducing a wearing agent to the system,” he said.

Perry suggests spraying your bike down periodically with a 10-to-1 solution of Simple Green, and then hosing down the bike, preferably in the sun so it can dry more quickly. Most critical is to “never, ever use any type of power washing hose or system to clean the bike,” Perry said, adding there are areas of every bicycle that are purposely packed with grease, which itself needs to be maintained. It is also important to use a diluted solution of Simple Green, otherwise you will strip the paint seal from your bike. Then dry your bike well.

“Use old rags, socks, whatever to really wipe, floss and scrub. You can use an old toothbrush to get into some of the crevices,” he said. Again, be careful of the spots where the grease is packed.

Fixing flats, the basics

Perry emphasized that it takes most people a good deal of time to be comfortable with fixing a flat tire, especially while on the road. Sadie’s Bikes offers intensive workshops to help people learn.

“The class is about an hour and a half. I try to come up with ways to help people fit learning and bike maintenance into their lives,” said Perry. He suggests, for example, once you learn the basics of flat repair to “practice 50 times while watching a movie or something on Netflix.”

Simple steps to fix a flat

■Remove the wheel. The front wheel is generally easier as it isn’t connected to the gear/chain system. For the rear wheel, Perry advises placing the gear setting at its lowest, being careful to clear the chain and rear derailer.

■Once the tire is off, use a tool called a tire lever to separate the tire from the rim to remove the tube. Perry said you should always carry a spare (appropriately sized) tube, tire lever, rim tool and a small bicycle pump with you while riding.

■Place a small amount of air into the tube and place it in the tire. Then put the tire back on the metal rim.

■Remount the tire, being careful it is centered well and not rubbing on any other part of the bike.

■Lastly, pump up the tire. Perry said it’s best to have a bigger tire pump at home for ease of use. The smaller pumps you would carry with you on a bicycle are effective but take a bit more effort and time to use.

Cleaning your chain

From personal experience, I can say that it makes a vast difference in having a smoother, faster ride when your bicycle chain is properly maintained.

“A chain is a bunch of moving parts of metal on metal moving across one another,” said Perry. He recommends only using oil specific to bike chains such as T-9 Boeshield.

“Never use WD-40 on your chain,” he said, noting that generally lubing your bicycle chain should happen about twice a year or “when you start to hear it squeak.”

■Place your bicycle upside down outdoors or hanging from a bike rack. Coat the chain liberally.

■Let the oil sit on the chain for “five minutes to two hours. You could coat your chain and go to the movies and finish it when you get back,” he said.

■“Wipe all the excess off. You want to get between all the plates of the chain,” said Perry. He added that if you leave a lot of excess lube it will attract dirt and grime that will end up in your gears, degrading your system.

■To clean off the oil, you want to have a way to pedal the bike and wipe with rags (at the same time). “It should be very dry when you are done and this will take upwards of a half-hour,” Perry said.

When it is time for a tune-up (about once a year), repairs or a new bike, Sadie’s Bikes is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.

Sadie’s Bikes will be moving to another location from 43 Canal St. as the property owner, Curtis Sherrer, is looking to open a cider tasting room in the location for Third Eye Cider. Perry said he wanted to be very clear his business is not closing, just looking for a new location in Turner’s Falls.

“We are fully functional, stocked and ready to continue offering our bicycle services before, during and after the move,” he said, noting he really wants to stay in Turners Falls. “I want to be a familiar face in this community.”

For more information, call 413-475-3429 or visit

Cris Carl is an avid local gardener, licensed therapist and certified herbalist. She is an experienced journalist who has written for the Recorder for many years. You can reach her at


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