Cycling | Cycling 101

What Is A Bike Tune Up?

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working on road bike

After riding your bike for an extended period of time, it’s always good to give it a tune up to make sure everything is in operable condition. A tune up is something you can do at home with a little time, patience, and the right tools. Whether you do the tune up yourself or not, we always recommend you take your bike to a certified bike shop to make sure everything is properly re-assembled so that you don’t run into any dangerous situations.

Most people know that it’s important to tune up your car every so often but for the average bike rider or cyclists, it may not be common knowledge that a bike requires the same amount of care. When you’re younger just riding a casual bike it’s probably not common for you to take your bike in for a tune up.

So, when people transition into cycling as a hobby when they get older, they feel a bike just works. However, after riding your bike for 6 -12 months and putting thousands of miles on your bike, things get worn down from wear and tear or just need adjusting.

So, when you think about it, it makes sense that some parts may need adjusting or replacing. In this article, we’ll go over the major items you should be checking to make sure your bike stays in the best possible condition.

Properly maintaining your bike will cost you a bit of money, but it will save you money in the long run, since you won’t have to replace your bike as soon. The better you maintain your bike the longer it will last you.

Cleaning Bike

The first step to maintaining your bike is cleaning it. Keeping a clean bike keeps dirt from getting into areas that can wear down performance, it keeps rust from building up, and it keeps your drive train running smoothly.

Leaving your bike dirty will cause rust to form on your bike and just overall hinder the performance of your bike. If you live in areas where it snows or freezes and salt has been added to the roads. The salt can destroy bearings and metal components just like on a car. So, in areas such as these, it’s worth cleaning your bike even more often.

While I am discussing cleaning your bike with your bike tune up every 6-12 months. In reality, cleaning your bike is something that should be done whenever it gets dirty but at the very least you should clean it when you tune up your bike.

Keeping a clean bike will definitely save you money so that you don’t have to replace your drivetrain, brakes, bearings, or even your bike any more than necessary. Cycling is an expensive sport in the first place so saving money wherever possible is nice.

Headset

bike headset

The headset bearing on your bike can become dirty and caked with grit. You’ll want to remove your stem and drop the fork thru. After removing the fork, you’ll want to clean the bearings and the inside of the frame. You want to make sure you get all the old grease off and then before re-assembly, you want to make sure that you apply new grease so that the components work properly. This will give you smooth steering movement and a newer bike feel.

Bottom Bracket

The bottom bracket bearing is the next thing on our list to check. You want to make sure that your pedals spin smoothly. If your pedals don’t spin smoothly, it may be time to replace your bottom bracket bearing.

A bearing can be explained as a mechanical part that reduces friction between two objects. In this scenario, the bearing reduces friction between the spinning of the pedals and the frame/bottom bracket.

Seatpost

The seat post is something that is commonly overlooked when it comes to maintenance because it’s not a “mechanical” aspect of the bike, but an improper greasing routine of the seat post can cause the seat post to stick to the frame. This will cause you to destroy the seat post when attempting to remove it.

In order to avoid this, you should remove the seat post and properly grease the seat post and the inside of the seat post cavity on the bike.

Chain

chain adjustment on road bike

Your chain is a very important part of your bike. Having a dirty or dry chain can make shifting and riding feel clunky or rough. Some people replace their bike chain as a whole when they do a bike tune up, but for the average rider, you don’t need to replace your chain during every tune up.

As long as there’s no damage to your chain. We recommend cleaning your chain with a good degreaser and getting it properly lubed with good chain lube.

If you do decide to replace your chain, just make sure you check to make sure it’s the same length as your old chain, so, you can have a smooth ride.

Cables

Cables are one item on your bike that can really be worth replacing on a regular basis. When your cables get dirty or wear over time, your gear shifting and braking quality can be hindered greatly.

Changing your cables can make your bike feel like a completely different bike. Your gear shifting and braking will be way smoother and your overall riding experience will be elevated.

Bar Tape

bike with drop bars in sunset

If you’re going to be changing out your cables, you’ll need to or at least you should replace your bar tape. It’s very common for bar tape, especially if it’s white, to get ugly and dirty over time since you put your dirty hands on there while you ride.

From the aesthetic alone having dirty old bar tape is an eyesore. When you replace your bar tape with new clean tape, your bike will look like new and combined with the rest of the stuff on this list your bike won’t just look like new, it’ll feel like new.

Overall

Maintaining your bike is a long and tedious process. For an experienced bike mechanic, these tasks may only take a short while, but I know for me, this could take me many hours to do everything on this list.

Personally, I just take my bike to a bike shop for my tune ups but cycling gets expensive so saving money anywhere you can is nice. Just make sure that you know what you’re doing if you do the maintenance yourself.

We recommend having a bike shop do your tune up if you’re inexperienced because improper bike maintenance can be very dangerous. However, if you want to tune up your bike yourself, you can take your bike to a shop after to have them double check your work. This will save you a ton of money and you’ll be more in tune with your bike since you know the intricacies of how it works.


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