Bike Maintenance Schedule
This entry was posted on March 4, 2016.
Keeping on top of regular bike maintenance is an important task for all riders. Paying proper attention to the wear and tear on your bicycle may seem like a chore at times, but the smooth riding and years of dependable service you will get from a well-tended bicycle is well worth it.
Knowing what bike maintenance tasks should be done when can be confusing to many riders. This tutorial will help to explain the basic procedures that you may want to do and the timing for them.
Be aware that these recommendations will vary depending on the rider; cyclists who ride in wet or muddy conditions should probably service their bikes more regularly, while casual cyclists who ride less frequently can scale back the frequency of basic maintenance. Many of these operations are simple and can be done by novice riders, while others are more complex. If you feel overwhelmed, your local bike shop will be able to provide all the maintenance services described here.
Before every ride
When you pull your bike out and get ready for a ride, take a moment to check some of the critical components of your bike.
- Check your tire pressure by pressing firmly on the wheel. With experience, you will be able to know by feel when you need to put a bit more air in your tires. Low air pressure can lead to flats, so take a moment to keep your tires filled up.
- Check your brakes by squeezing them tightly. They should engage fully and firmly. If not, you may need a brake adjustment. Don't ride with bad brakes! If your brakes need adjusting, consult our brake adjustment tutorials.
After every ride
At the end of a long ride, usually the last thing you want to do is work on your bike, but taking a minute to check your chain is worth your time. A clean chain will greatly extend the life of your bike and keep your next ride smooth.
- First, clean the chain by passing a rag over it gently to remove water, dirt, and dust.
- Re-lube the chain if necessary. This is good to do immediately after a ride -- rather than right before -- so the lube has time to settle and spread.
Every month or three
Over a period of weeks or months, basic bike components can jiggle out of alignment and begin to cause trouble. Over this time period, watch for these common maintenance issues:
- Make sure your wheels are "in true" (rolling perfectly straight -- not corkscrewing to one side or the other). Truing a wheel is a relatively easy process, so you can fix slightly wobbly wheels at home by adjusting spoke tension with a simple spoke wrench. Truing stands are also available to help you identify the problem spokes. If you're not being successful, take it to mechanic.
- As you begin to experience noisy or less-than-smooth shifting, you need to check and adjust your rear derailleur or front derailleur. Keeping an eye on this and making slight adjustments every few months will help you avoid any major shifting mishaps in the middle of a ride.
- Check the bolts and screws all over the bike to make sure none are loose. Tighten any loose items so you don't drop them on the road.
- Check the cranks (the arms of the pedals) to make sure they are tightly attached. Tighten them if necessary. Depending on the type of crankset you have, this process can be a little complex, so consult a guide or an expert if it isn't obvious.
- Clean the drivetrain of your bicycle. Use a rag or brush and bike cleaning fluid to remove all grime and lube, then dry the parts and re-apply lubrication. While you are at it, clean any dirt or mud from the rest of the bicycle.
- This is also a good time to re-lube your cables and brake pivot points, and to check the brakes for wear and alignment. If necessary, adjust the angle or spacing of your brake pads or replace them entirely.
A year or more is the time frame over which real problems can begin to develop on a bicycle and potentially go unnoticed. Hard riding or cheap components cause problems over time, so over the span of a year or more, keep an eye out for these common issues:
- First, inspect the chain for stretching. Chain stretch can prematurely wear out sprockets and chainrings. Check your chain using a ruler or tape measure. Measure the length of 12 links pairs, which should add up to 12 inches exactly. Be precise: any measurement greater than 12-1/16 inches means it is time to replace the chain! Consult our guide to installing new chains.
- This is also the time to look over the chainrings and sprockets (commonly called the gears). If the teeth are becoming pointed and sharp, it is time to replace them, as well.
- Every year or so, take the time to grease the nuts and bolts on your bike to make sure nothing gets stuck in place.
- If you ride hard and often, one year is usually the lifespan of cables and housing. Take the time now to replace these parts; your safety could depend on it.
Every 3-5 years
Over a longer time period of several years, look out for the following issues:
- Replacing your chain is almost assuredly needed after several years of riding. This process is easy, and a new chain costs little money.
- A couple of years of riding may wear down your tires, so examine them for thin spots, cracking, abrasions, cuts, or other problems and replace them if necessary.
- You will likely need new bar tape or grips after a few years of cycling. Installing new handlebar tape is easy, as well. We explain the process in this helpful tutorial.
- You may need to replace the bottom bracket of your bicycle after years of riding. This critical component requires some knowledge to remove and replace, so consult with an expert before moving forward with this procedure.
- If your bike seems less zippy than in the past, you may need to grease your bearings. These parts make the wheel spin smoothly, and sticky bearings can really slow down a ride. The process takes a bit of knowledge, but your local bike shop can help you with this one too.
If you follow these basic maintenance instructions, your bike will be rolling smooth and handling like a dream for years to come. It is well worth your time to make sure your bike is in tip-top shape.