Whether you enjoy riding road bikes or mountain bikes, proper maintenance is critical to the life of your bicycle. Failure to do so will reduce the quality of your ride and cause elements of the bike to break down from time to time. In the end, the bike won't last as long and you'll be forced to purchase a new bicycle sooner than you might like. That is exactly why you need to do what you can and perform a regular bike tune up.


man holding sprocket

It really comes down to how often you use your bicycle and where you ride your bike. It's more about mileage than actual days. When you're tunning up the bike on your own, you can do it whenever you like and service each individual area of the bike as needed. If you are a regular bicycle user where you ride your bike multiple times per week (such as riding it to work) it is recommended to do a complete servicing every three months. However, there are certain areas of your bike you'll want to tune up more frequently, so going a bit further with your bike tune up is necessary.


Before you take your bicycle out for a ride, you should always check the air in the tires. You don't need to physically test the air pressure every single time, but test the give. If your fingers sink at all when squeezing, you should put air in the tires. The rubber should be tight, otherwise when you put the full weight of your body on the bicycle the tires will depress further, which not only makes it more difficult to ride but it places more pressure on the inner tubing while also increasing the chances of your tire to press and crack along the seams.

With your bike tune up you should apply a lubricant to the chain roughly every twenty-five miles. This helps keep the chain running smoothly. Over time the chain will dry out. You don't want dry, unlubricated metal running on dry, unlubricated metal. This causes friction which slows you down and increases the chance of the chain breaking or freezing up.

Do not apply something like WD-40 to the bike chain. This might clean off gunk initially but it will eventually dry out the chain faster. Instead, use a bike chain lubricant made specifically for the kind of bike you have (mountain, road, or hybrid).

Everything else on the bike you can follow the regular bike tune up schedule of once every three months or so.


The climate where you ride will have an impact on the frequency of your bike tune up. If you live in the desert such as Arizona, New Mexico, southern California, parts of Texas and other regions where it is dry and dusty, you will want to lubricate your bike chain more frequently. This is because dust will collect and corrode the chain. The same is true if you go mountain biking off roading in dirty areas. You should always clean off the bike after a long ride and then apply the lubricant.

If you live in a cold weather climate, purchase a lubricant made for colder climates. This way, it is less likely to freeze or cause other problems while in use.


man fixing his bike tire

Your bicycle is a machine. While it's powered by your muscles and doesn't rely on energy from a motor, it still requires similar maintenance to a motor vehicle even if not as extensive. Performing a bike tune up doesn't need to be difficult. Each time you perform it you'll find it's easier and faster. It also helps you get to know your bike. Riding your bicycle is just part of knowing the feel of your bike. By performing the bike tune up yourself you'll see the workings of the bike, discover what causes problems and learn to see exactly what makes your bike run smoothly and what may be a precursor to a repair.

Some basic supplies you'll need include:

  • Cleaning rags
  • Water
  • Soap
  • Brushes
  • Lubricant
  • Bike stand

Make sure the rags you use are clean. You don't want to scratch the bike with hard dirt and stones in the rags. You also don't want to push dirt back into the bike chain or around the brakes, which can cause other problems while you're riding.

As for the bike stand it isn't necessary to have such a stand, but it does make certain maintenance easier. When it comes to changing tires and tubes, it will be simpler to have a bike stand available. However, you can make do without one if you don't have the money.


selective focus photo of bicycle part

Bike maintenance doesn't need to be tricky or difficult. It will take time getting use to, but after a few bike tune ups you shouldn't have any problem putting in the corrections and ensuring your bike is always running at peak efficiency.


person holding the chain for bike tune up

Outside of putting air in your tires, this is the area you'll spend the most time focusing on. This is because it collects dirt and, if anything goes wrong, the entire bike stops working.

As long as you clean your bike chain every 25 miles this should be straight forward. Flip your bike upside down (or place it on a bike stand) and slowly turn the peddle backwards. As the chain moves, apply a degreaser to the entire chain. Once it's covered, continue turning the peddle but hold a rag gently around the chain. This allows you to clear away dirt, dust, and the old lubricant.

Once you have it clean, apply a new lubricant to the chain. Make sure to do this slowly and work the lubricant into every link. If your bike chain is extra dirty, or if it's been a while since you cleaned it, you might be better off using a chain cleaner.


close up photo of cassette for bike tune up

These rings will collect dirt and old lubricant. It also affects how smoothly the bike shifts gears. You'll want to use a brush and clear away all the old gunk. From there apply a degreaser as you turn the bike pedal and wipe the junk away. It should look brand new when you're done, so don't stop wiping it down until it's clean. You also must floss in between the gears with a thin rag to break up any debris hiding in there. You should notice an improvement in the shifting after you do this.


two men riding the bike

Move to the lever pivots and apply a small amount of lubricant here. This will help the brakes to run smoothly (which is helpful if you've noticed the handles sticking).

Along the cables, check to see how the cables are holding up. If the cables are breaking down, you will need to replace them. This shouldn't be an issue as long as you keep the bike out of rainy conditions. Look over the pivot points of the brakes and apply a small amount of lubricant here. This is right around the wheels and pulleys. Check to make sure nothing is binding. If you find dirt clogging the derailleur assembly, you'll want to clear it out and apply a drop of lubricant.


bike tune up cleaning

Most of your attention will focus on the chain and brakes. However, you also want to look over the wheels. If you notice the wheel is cracking around the edges, it means you're riding the bike on under-inflated tires. Once this starts it's impossible to turn back the clock on your tires and you will eventually need to replace them. It isn't an immediate issue as long as there is still tread on the tires, but if the tires are running bald you need to replace them. If you don't you run a greater risk of puncturing the inner tube.

If you're constantly changing the tubes, it's because the tire has run thin and is no longer protecting it from external elements. You should also wipe down your bike after a ride to prevent dust build up (especially if you live in the desert) and dry the bike if you were out in the rain. This will prevent rusting. Never leave your bike out in the weather if possible. Always bring it inside to protect the gears and to maintain the chain and the bike's structural integrity.


man with bike facing the mountain

Performing a bike tune up every three months is ideal for proper maintenance. This way, your bike will run smoothly for years to come. While you will need to regularly replace your bike chain and both the tires and tubes from general wear, the frame of your bike will remain strong. The more you put into your bike the more you'll get out of it. So instead of letting your bike go, perform these basic bike tune up suggestions and you'll significantly extend the life of your bike and your overall enjoyment.

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