Bike Tune-ups are important if you want to stay on the trails, roads or paths. Frequent bike tunes will keep your cables, brakes, bearings and chain in good working order.
But what are some other important things you should know about them?
Why Are Bike Tune-Ups Important?
A bike is made of many moving parts, including a chain, sprockets, and a mechanism to transfer the chain to the sprockets when you change gears. These parts need regular maintenance for proper alignment periodically.
How Often Should a Bike Be Tuned Up?
A bike should get tuned up at least once a year. Depending on the amount of use and wear and tear on the bike, you may need to tune it up more often. Proper bike maintenance and an annual tune-up will keep your bike in peak performance.
How Much Does a Bike Tune-Up Cost?
Most bike tune-ups are priced as low as $60 to as high as $250 depending on the type of bike you have and the scope of the work that needs to be done. Generally speaking, mountain bikes are more costly to tune-up, and a complete overhaul, as you probably guessed, costs more than a standard bike tune-up. But some shops also offer some intermediates.
A basic bike tune is usually for newer bikes and is the most inexpensive, usually between $60 to $80. Mountain bikes will be on the higher end of this range because they have more gears than a road bike.
A Standard tune-up is for bikes that are ridden often with regular wear and tear. These kinds of tune usually cost in the $100 to $160 range.
A complete overhaul tune-up will take care of every detail of the entire bike, and the price usually starts at $150 but can be over $250 depending on how neglected the bike has been.
At this point, you might consider buying a new bike, but most riders have comfortably broken in the bikes they ride. So a complete overhaul may be worth it for the bike you love.
Can You Tune-Up Your Own Bike?
If you have the right skills and the correct tools, then, by all means, save the money and do the work yourself.
Keep in mind that you need to understand what you are doing. If you make a mistake with something like the brakes, the consequence can be dire.
Can I Use Tools I Already Own?
Some things like rags and soap for cleaning are common household items. Most people who are handy at fixing things have Allen wrenches and open-ended wrenches in metric sizes along with cone and headset type wrenches, also in metric sizes.
A spoke wrench, chain wear indicator, and a bike repair stand are specific bicycle repair jobs. These items are not found in an average tool kit.
For a do-it-yourself tune-up, you also need a lubricant made for bikes that may not be in a regular tool shed.
Are There Tutorials Available?
How Long Does a Bike Tune-Up Take?
A bike tune-up can be quite a project depending on what needs to be done and if any repairs need to be made. The amount of time it takes also depends on your skill level.
If you take it to a bike shop, depending on how many other bikes are there, the tune-up should only take a couple of hours, if not less.
Has Covid-19 Affected Tune-up times?
Since Covid-19, tune-up appointment availability can be much longer than usual. It could take as long as two or three weeks to get an appointment.
Once you have the appointment, it can take two to three more weeks before you can take it in, get the maintenance, and get it back.
What Is Done During a Tune-Up?
What is checked and repaired during a tune-up depends on what type of bike you have and whether you want a basic tune-up or a major tune-up. Basic and standard services usually clean your bike and check for safety issues, as well as tire pressure. Premium tune-ups include a detailed inspection of every piece and often, part replacement, and a test ride.
A bike needs cleaning before a tune-up so that any potential problem with the bike components can show.
When cleaning a bike, use environmentally friendly cleaner and damp rags. Don’t use a lot of water. There are bike cleaning brushes that can aid in cleaning tough spots. An old toothbrush may work as well.
Frame and Parts Basic Safety Check
Once the bike is clean, the bike should be checked for any damage like cracks in the frame or damage to housing.
If you are doing your own tune-up, bring the bike to be repaired if you find cracks in the frame. If there is damage to housing, those should also be replaced.
Look at the rims for damage that may cause wobbles when riding. Inspect the sprockets on the wheels for breakage or looseness.
Check the tires for cracks and tire pressure levels. If the pressure is low and there are no cracks in the rubber, air up the tires to the correct pressure level. If there are cracks in the tires, you should invest in brand new tires.
A brake adjustment is important and usually necessary, especially if you ride in hilly terrain.
Make sure the brake pads are not worn down past the indicator line. Sometimes the brake pads need light sanding to clean up any brake glazing that occurs from the friction of stopping.
The brake pads should also be in proper alignment.
For cable-actuated brakes, look for a broken or frayed brake cable.
For hydraulic brakes, pump the lever. If it makes contact with the handlebar, it needs repairing. If you have to pump the lever a few times to make the breaks work, there could be air in the system.
Drivetrain Adjustment and Derailleur system
The teeth on the front and the rear derailleur, cassettes, and chainrings should be checked for damage. Use a chain checker to assess the wear on the chain.
If the chain needs to be replaced, you should also replace the cassettes because the two parts wear on each other. A new chain on an old bike cassette system can cause the chain to jump to a different gear without warning.
The cable housings and pivot points need to be lubricated. A lubricant made specifically for bikes should be used.
Be careful when lubricating — lubricant can pick up and hold dirt if it gets in places where it should not go. If you do spill the oil, clean it up with a little soap and water. Don’t get oil on your brake pads.
In my experience, you may need to perform a chain lube on a regular basis, not just at your annual tune-up.
Seat and Handlebars
Check the point where the handlebars meet the stem of the bike frame for cracks, as this is the most common place the creaks happen.
Look where the seat post connects to the seat post collar, inspect underneath the seat, and check for cracks in the saddle rails.
Nuts and Bolts
Another significant part of a tune-up that you may not think about is the nuts and bolts holding the bike together. These can loosen up over time.
Bolts should always be tight. Do not overtighten them, though. Some parts of the bike, like the seat and handlebar areas, may have a label stating the amount of torque needed to tighten the bolts fully.
The pedal gears don’t need to be checked as often as the rest of the bike parts. They are lubricated when they are installed. However, dirt can get into the gears over time, especially if you ride in dusty or muddy terrain. This can make it harder to pedal. This will probably not be included in a regular bicycle tune-up. Having pedal gears fixed may result in an extra labor charge.
When you are done with the tune-up, take the bike on a short test ride to ensure everything is still working properly. You may find you need a few more slight adjustments before you are safe to go on a longer ride.