Feeling a little lost when it comes to tuning up your bike? Check out our ultimate guide for tuning up and maintaining bikes for some tips to help you keep your bike in top shape.
How to Tune Up and Maintain Your Bike: A Comprehensive Guide
QUICK SUMMARY: Feeling a little lost when it comes to tuning up your bike? Check out our ultimate guide for tuning up and maintaining bikes for some tips to help you keep your bike in top shape.
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Staying up to date on maintenance is essential if you want your bike to stay at peak performance. However, figuring out how to tune up your bike can be challenging, especially if you’re not exactly mechanically inclined.
To help you out, we’ve put together this ultimate guide to bike care and maintenance. Up next, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of bike parts & maintenance so you can spend more time enjoying your bike and less time fixing it.
The Importance of Bike Care and Maintenance
A bike is a major investment. As a result, staying up to date on maintenance is essential if you want to keep your bike on the road and running smoothly for years to come.
In fact, skipping regular quick bike tune ups can wreak havoc on your two-wheeled adventure machine. While you don’t necessarily have to clean and lube your bike every day, cyclists that miss out on regular tune ups are more likely to run across issues like excessively worn brake pads, rusty chains, loose nuts and bolts.
Although most of these issues simply caused decreased bike performance, some can actually be dangerous, especially if they cause your bike to fall apart while you’re on the road.
So, plan to do a quick bike tune up at least once a month (or more if you cycle a lot) and be sure to complete a full bike tune up 1 to 2 times a year to keep your ride performing at its best.
How to Tune Up Your Bike
Tuning up a bike might sound challenging, but, with the right supplies and know-how, you can maintain your bike from the comfort of your own home. In this section, we’ll walk you through the basics of both quick and full bike repairs.
Essential Bike Maintenance Supplies
If you want to maintain your bike, you’ll need some tools to get the job done properly. Here are some key bike maintenance supplies to have on hand:
- Soap or bike cleaner
- Chain lubricant
- Spoke wrench
- Tire patch kit
- Bike repair stand
- Tire pump & pressure gauge
- Tire levers
- Pliers, screwdrivers & multitools
- Allen wrenches
- Bike chain cleaning device (optional but helpful)
It’s important to note that these supplies are more or less the minimum tools that you’ll need to do quick and full tune ups from home. However, some more complex problems, especially issues with your bike’s drivetrain, might require specialty supplies and advanced techniques that require a decent amount of experience to assess and fix properly. When in doubt, it’s best to bring your bike to a trusted mechanic.
Quick Bike Tune Up & Inspection
Quick bike tune ups and inspections should be a part of any cyclist’s routine. At an absolute minimum, plan to do a quick inspection every month (or weekly if you ride every day), just to ensure that you find and fix any issues with your bike before they become a major problem. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Clean Your Bike
Any good bike tune up starts with a full clean of your bike to get rid of any dirt and grime that might be clogging up your bike’s gears. Use plenty of water and soap (or purpose-made bike cleaner) and give your bike a good scrub.
2. Check for Flats
Once your bike is clean, fully inspect the tires to ensure that they’re in good working condition. Check your tires for flats and signs of low tire pressure so you can remedy these issues right away.
3. Ensure Proper Brake Functionality
For a quick tune up, all you need to do to check your brakes is to give the brake levers a good squeeze. As you do this, take a look at the breaks and ensure that they engage properly and with minimal resistance.
4. Inspect Your Bike Chain
Finally, give your tire chain a good once over with a bit of lube to help keep the chain shifting smoothly. However, be careful not to over-lubricate your bike chain as this can cause dirt build-up as you ride. To avoid over-lubricating your bike, have an extra rag on hand so you can wipe away any extra lube before you hit the road or the trail.
Full Bike Tune Up Checklist
While a quick bike tune up is essential for stopping small issues from becoming a major problem, every few months or so, you’ll want to set aside some time for a full bike tune up.
Well, a full bike tune up gives you the chance to ensure that each part of your bike is functioning properly. Of course, you certainly could do a full bike tune up every week if you have the time, but completing these 10 steps at least once every few months is usually sufficient.
Without further ado, here’s a step by step checklist to follow for your next full bike tune up.
1. Clean Your Bike Chain & Frame
As we’ve mentioned with quick bike tune ups, cleaning your bike is essential. To start your full tune up process, take the time to give your bike chain and frame a full wash down and scrub to get rid of any dirt, grime, and abrasive particles.
2. Inspect Your Tires for Flats & Proper Pressure
As soon as your bike is clean, take a look at your tires. Inspect them for signs of punctures, holes, or simply worn-out treads. Then, check for proper tire pressure using a dedicated pressure gauge.
3. Look for Loose Wheel Spokes
Your next step in the bike tune up process is to inspect your wheels for any loose spokes. If you happen to find any, simply tighten them up slightly using a spoke wrench.
But, don’t tighten your spokes too much, or you might affect the truing of your rims. Truing of a bike wheel is the process of changing the tension of the spokes to ensure alignment of the rim and the brake pads. This process can be quite challenging to do properly, so you may need to bring your bike to a mechanic if you notice that your spokes are very loose.
4. Check Brake Performance & Brake Pads
Just like with a quick tune up, during a full tune up, you’ll want to check your bike’s brake performance. Squeeze both brake levers and ensure a smooth braking action. Also, inspect your brake pads and replace them if they’re starting to get thin.
5. Replace Fraying Cables
As you check your bike’s brake performance, take a look at your brake and shift cables. If they look frayed or generally worn out, go ahead and replace them to prevent any mishaps down the line. While replacing your brake and shift cables, you may also want to lube the cables for increased performance.
6. Ensure Your Bike Seat Is Attached Properly
Bike seats have a habit of loosening up over time, which can be problematic if your seat falls off in the middle of a ride. Save yourself the future headache by inspecting the bolts on the bottom of your bike seat and tightening them if needed.
7. Inspect & Maintain Your Bike Drivetrain
Even though you’ve already washed your bike frame, you’ll want to be sure to give your bike’s drivetrain a good second scrub using a rag and some degreaser or by using a dedicated chain-cleaning device. A stiff-bristled brush and degreaser is also a solid option for cleaning your bike’s cassette.
One your bike’s drivetrain is squeaky clean, apply a generous amount of lube. Just don’t forget to wipe off any excess lube to avoid grime build-up down the line.
8. Look for Cracks in The Bike Frame
Although they’re not common, cracks in your bike frame are a major safety concern. So, take a few seconds to carefully inspect your bike frame for any cracks or signs of structural instability. If you notice something that doesn’t look right, consider taking your bike to your mechanic for more advice.
9. Ensure Proper Pedal Rotation
While your bike is propped up on your bike stand, take this time to fully play with your pedals to see how they rotate. If you have time, remove your bike chain and see how the pedals rotate when they can move freely. Ideally, they should be able to move without any side to side movement or resistance.
Additionally, you can fully remove your bike pedals, clean them up, and lubricate them if you want to go the extra mile.
10. Check Gear Shifting Performance
Your last step before you hit the road? Check your bike’s gear shifting performance. Simply shift through all of the gears to ensure that the chain doesn’t skip. If you notice that your gears are skipping, you may need to adjust the alignment of your rear derailleur using a hanger alignment tool.
Need to Know Bike Parts & Maintenance Tips
In addition to regular tune ups, you’ll sometimes find that your bike needs a bit of extra TLC, especially when you have a flat tire or worn-out brakes. Here’s what you need to know.
How To Fix A Flat Bike Tire
Knowing how to fix a flat bike tire is a must for any cyclist. Thankfully, it’s a fairly straightforward process with just 5 simple steps:
- Remove the wheel from your bike
- Take the tube off of you bike wheel
- Identify the hole or tear that caused the flat
- Place a patch on the puncture or rip
- Put the tube and wheel back on your bike
How to Fix Brakes
Bike brake pads sometimes need slight adjustments or even a full replacement. If you need to replace your bike’s brake pads, do the following:
- Take the wheel off your bike
- Unscrew the bolt that holds your brake pads in place
- Remove your used brake pads
- Clean the brake area to remove any grime
- Replace your old brake pad with new ones
- Put the wheel back on your bike