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DIY Bike Tune-Up

Man performs a bike tune-up on his bike's rear casette.
Perform a regular bike tune-up that will increase the life of your bike and make it safer to ride.

A bike tune-up is required to keep your bike in good working order and to ensure a safe ride.

See below for a guide to bike tune-up and general maintenance.

Cleaning your Bike

Cleaning is an essential part of a bike-tune up. It is important to clean a bike’s drivetrain, brakes, body frame, pedals, seat and seat post. Many of the smaller parts can be cleaned with a soft rag and a small fine brush, such as a toothbrush.

Bike chains are prone to getting particularly dirty. With the bike on a stand, clean the chain by holding it with a towel and rotating the pedals backwards. If the chain is very dirty or greasy, use a degreaser and a fine brush to clean in between the links. Wipe the chain free of the degreaser before re-lubricating. To lubricate the chain, slowly rotate the pedals counter clockwise while applying small drops of lubricant. Wipe off any excess lubricant.

Use gentle dish soap to clean the frame of the bike. Mist the bike with water using a spray bottle. Hosing down a bike will cause water to get trapped in parts of the bike where it can cause rust.

Wheels

The metal wheels on a bike are also called the rims. Damaged rims can cause uneven wear to tires and brake pads. Check your wheels by propping up the bike and spinning the wheels to see if the wheels rotate smoothly and in a straight manner. During your bike tune-up, If the wheels look at all wobbly when spun, take your bike into a bike shop to be repaired.

Brakes

Always keep an eye on the overall integrity of your bike brakes. Check your brake pads for alignment, uneven wear and excessive wear. If brake pads are out of alignment, they will not come into contact with the rim in the proper place. This should be fixed by a bike mechanic in your bike tune-up. If the brake pads are worn down or worn unevenly, buy new brake pads. Have the new pads installed and adjusted by a bike mechanic if the old pads were wearing unevenly.

Tires

Bike tire pressure should be checked regularly. When pumping up a tire, use a bike tire gauge and refer to the recommend psi on the sidewall of the tire.

Always check the sidewalls of your tires for slits, tears and cracks; and check the tread for excessive or uneven wear. If you find any of these issues replace your tires immediately; they can cause a tire to blow-out while you are riding. As long as your rims are in good shape it is not too difficult to change your own tires.

Drivetrain

A bike’s drivetrain consists of the rear wheel cassette (multiple levels of spokes on the back wheel), derailleur (unit by rear wheel which moves the chain when changing gears), chain, chain rings and pedals.

Much of a bike’s drivetrain, especially the derailleur, is complex and fragile. We suggest getting your bike tune-up by a professional. But, you should check that all of these parts are in good working order. This entails checking them for damage and testing that your gears change smoothly. You should also regularly lubricate the moving parts on the derailleur.

Cables

Bikes have cables that connect to the shifters and brakes. Inspect your cables for dirt, rust and breaks in the protective plastic hosing. Cables are typically replaced about every 3-4 years by a mechanic. To keep them from rusting, apply lubricant to any sections that are not protected by the plastic hosing.

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