What’s different about maintaining a cargo bike?This is a major question from many of our customers, and with good reason. After all cargo bikes can look utterly different from a conventional bike, so surely they must be very different to maintain. Right? Well, not quite. Fortunately for us, they’re still just bikes at heart and by-and-large use the same parts and require similar maintenance, with some key differences.
Wheels. Because these bikes are built to carry large extra loads they require very stout wheels to hold up to the extra weight. To keep the wheels in tip-top shape you’ll want to make sure that your mechanic is checking your spoke tension during regular servicing to ensure they stay balanced and strong.
Tyres.All of our cargo bikes come with high-quality, puncture-resistant tyres from stock for good reason, you want as much good rubber under your bike as you can get to keep you in control and flat free. When it comes time for new tyres though you’ll have a huge variety of options to choose from but you pay for what you get in the world of tyres and its a critical area not to skimp on.
Brakes.Hydraulic disc brakes are a staple on all of our cargo bikes and while you don’t need to do anything special with them on a day-to-day basis you’ll want to make sure they get bled when you do your regular servicing. It’s usually an extra fee on top of a tune at about $40 per end. Even if your brakes feel good when you bring it in, the fluid in the lines become contaminated as you ride and is worth replacing regularly before an issue arises mid-ride. Additionally, when its time for new brake pads we’ll generally recommend you get a metallic compound pad as they provide greater stopping power for heavy loads and last longer than the organic compound alternative.
Drivetrain.Many people are surprised at just how quickly a drive train can wear on a regular bike. Now add a big load of cargo and an electric motor running through the same gears and you can imagine that it becomes a fairly regular piece of maintenance. Fortunately staying ahead on replacing your chain can drastically increase the life of your drivetrain. Any mechanic worth their salt will always be keeping an eye on these parts when you come in for service. However, given that parts wearing doesn’t always match exactly up with your service schedule you may want to make some friends with your local bike shop and pop in to have your chain checked every few months. It takes two seconds and can save you from a lot of maintenance down the line. We typically see drivetrains being replaced every 2000km on electric cargo bikes.
The key to a happy cargo bike starts with simple at-home maintenance that keeps your steed in good shape between servicing. Here are the four main parts of good home bike care.
Keep your bike covered.Wherever your bike lives at night should be out of the elements. While splashing through the rain as you ride about is no big deal (and even a bit fun) letting your bike sit wet overnight or for extended periods will rust out key componentry quite quickly. This is extra important for cargo bikes because storage can be a bit tricky for larger models. The best move is to keep it under a roof whether that be in the garage, on the deck, or in the shed. If none of these are an option for you then grabbing a good water-proof covershould be your next move.
Keep your bike clean.Dirty bikes wear through their consumable bits much more quickly than clean bikes. From grit on your gears to sand in your cables to mud on your brake pads, these little abrasives rapidly speed up wear. All it takes is a quick spritz from a garden hose and a wipe down with a clean rag to remove the muck, there’s no need to get too fancy with cleaning agents or pressure wash your bike. These, in fact, can actually cause more problems than they solve.
Keep your tyres well-aired.Many people don’t realize that even a perfectly good inner tube can lose 10% of its air over the course of a week of riding. So a week or two without checking your pressure can be the difference between happy riding and a pinch flat or wearing out your tyres more quickly. This goes doubly so for a laden cargo bike. You can check your tyre’s range of recommended inflation and aim for the higher end for your cargo bike. For wheels from 1.75"-2.3" wide we recommend inflating to 50-75 psi (depending on your specific tyre) for a laden cargo bike.
Keep your chain lubed.A good rule of thumb is to lube your chain every time you check your tyre pressure, about once a week. This will keep your bike shifting smoothly and will reduce drivetrain wear, especially on electrically powered bikes pushing heavy loads. Just wipe the old lube and grit off your chain with a rag by backpedalling the bike, apply the lube directly onto the chain (no need to get the other parts of the drivetrain), let it sit for a minute then wipe off the excess lube. Easy as!
Above we covered some of the key differences between maintaining cargo bikes and regular bikes, but one thing that doesn’t change is the need for regular servicing. Now if you live here in Wellington you can always drop your ride with our cargo-specialist mechanics and rest assured that your bike will be well looked after. But if you’re out of town you’ll want to remember to have your bike serviced about every 3-6 months with depending on your use at your local bike shop, and keep the above points in mind when discussing a maintenance plan with the mechanics. If you ride 10-15 km every day with a load here’s what a good service schedule would look like.
3 Months.Quick service: drop by the shop to check chain, tune shifting, check brake alignment, check tyre wear. 6 Months.Full-service:drop the bike off for a basic service, replace your chain, check wheel tension, bleed brakes, check brake pad wear, check tyre wear. 9 Months. 1 year. Bike birthday! Drop off the bike to replace all worn out consumables (chain, cassette, cables, tyres, grips, etc), bleed brakes, true wheels, check electronic systems.
Now, your mileage may vary with this schedule depending on how much you ride and how much cargo you regularly carry. If you’re a little mechanically inclined many of the regular inspections can be done at home with very minimal tools, however, we do recommend getting a second set of eyes on your pride-and-joy at least once every 6 months. A little regular servicing can go a long way in preventing any surprises down the road.