What does a bike tune-up include?

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We all know that the versatility of a contemporary bike cannot be underestimated. It offers a whole lot of alternatives including fitness, transportation, recreation, competition and even employment. Riding a bike frequently comes along with a plethora of health benefits such as leg strength, enhanced cardiovascular performance, mood enhancement, balance and coordination and weight management.

If you happen to live in seasonal climates, chances are your bike lies dormant in the course of winter and only comes out during spring. But before resurfacing for your first cycling of the spring, it’s prudent to set aside a few minutes to get your bike at its best for the terrain. Bicycle tune-up is the surefire way to get your bicycle roaring again on the road. If you are having reservations about the nature of work involved in tuning a bike, you need to relax, because we have made tuning up your bike a stroll in the park. This basic tune up tips will go a long way towards ensuring an efficient and risk-free ride all season long. Let’s drive through:

Get your bike clean

The first step in getting your bike ready for the road is cleaning it up. Just like a car, cleaning your bike elongates the shelf life of its parts. How do you do this? You might ask. First, you need cleaning aids like detergent. A basic biodegradable cleaner will suffice, or any detergent that you swear by. You’ll also need an old towel and toothbrush to clean hard to reach parts. Thoroughly clean everything including the chain, frame, chainrings, derailleurs, brakes, peddles, seat and cassette. At all times, try to be economical with water. Remove the seat post, which is the tube that connects the seat to the frame of the bike. Lubricate it with bicycle grease after cleaning and attach it back. Grease is preferable to oil because it doesn’t dry out quickly and will insulate the seat tube from rust.

Inspect your bicycle wheels

Your bicycle rims firmly hold the bike tires in position and offer smoothness and stability during rides. Without rims, your bike wouldn’t move since rims enable steady contact between the road surface and the tires.

So, how do you inspect your wheels? First, get the wheels sparkling clean using a dry clean cloth and rubbing alcohol. Examine the rims for dents, nicks, scrape or any damage. Next, up, inspect the wheel by simply lifting up one end of the bicycle and spinning one wheel at a time. The wheels must spin seamlessly with no sign of wobbling.

Inspect bicycle wheels

Damaged rims pose a great risk as they can lead to uneven wearing to break pads and tires, and this only reduces their longevity. Additional, uneven tire wear almost always result to flat or blown tires, which is a risky situation for a rider. If the denting or any damage is significant, ensure to replace your wheel immediately. You can fix a wobbly rim, but it’s best to seek the services of a bike repairer for efficient service. Doing it yourself can make the already bad situation worse if you do not know exactly what you’re doing.

Examine your brake system

Breaks are important accessories of any bike since they give the rider control over speeds. Speed control is vital to avoid accidents along the way. Brakes also offer the bike rider great maneuverability when turning, riding up and downhill or dodging obstacles and debris. So, a thorough inspection is vital to ensure there is no single glitch.

To tune up your break system, inspect the brake pads. Brake pads are rectangular like rubber elements that come into contact with the metal tire rim.  Just like car brakes, bike brakes wear out with time and must be replaced. You can evaluate if your pads are wearing down evenly by use of a flashlight. Get your brakes adjusted immediately you discover a ridge or other uneven wear tendencies. If too much wear is manifested, replace the pads completely.

The next step is to press the brake lever on top of your handlebars as you examine the brake pads.  They need to strike the rim simultaneously. If they do not, suffice to modify your brakes using the brake arm tension screw that is situated at one of the brake lever arms adjacent to the tire. You may discover too much sagging of the cables when applying your brakes. Remedy this by rolling out the barrel adjuster at the extreme end of the lever (just where the brake cables find its way into the housing) in order to add up the tension to the cable, enabling the brakes to react rapidly.

Examine Bike Brake

Photo credit: Bike Radar

Your breaks may fail during riding. You need to devise a way to stop the bike. The good idea is to direct the bike uphill. Better still, you can direct the bike on rough surfaces or onto the grass.  If you manage to bring the bike to a stop, just walk along with your bike home or call a friend or family for a lift. But ensure you take the bike to the repair shop before hopping onto it again.

Check the drivetrain

The chains, paddles, derailleur, chainring and wheel cassette make up the drivetrain. The derailleur is the component which instigates the chain movement. It pretty much determines the smoothness or roughness of your ride. Wheel cassettes consist of every little tooth situated in the middle of the wheel.

The drivetrain is an essential component of your bike since it shifts all the energy generated by your legs to the rear wheel. The shift of energy offers the force that propels the bike.

To be able to hack this tune up, you need a bicycle stand or a partner. Raise one side of the bike and spin the wheel just the same way you did when inspecting the wheel. Only this time, you need to shift all the gears, which should be easy and smooth. Now do a thorough inspection of the derailleur, chain rings, chain and cassette for any damage like dents, missing teeth, scrap or excessive wear. You must be aware that small chain rings wear down quicker than large chain rings. Also, be in the know that chain rings are the most replaced element of any bike drivetrain.

Check drivetrain of your bicycle

Photo Credit: Vital MTB

If, in the course of inspection and adjustment, you find that shifting isn’t smooth, head to the repair shop for the derailleur adjustment. Again, trying to adjust this problem yourself if you have no idea what you’re doing will only make the situation worse. The fact that chains are the first bike accessory to go to the drivetrain calls for replacement each 2,000 to 3,000 miles. Staying with a chain too long without replacement results in faster wear out of other drivetrain components.

Incorporate lubricant

Incorporate Lubricant to your bike regularly

Photo Credit: Cadence Cycling

Oil lubricant is by far the best for coating the chain and other drivetrain components, enabling them to function with greater efficiency and durability.  Lubricant, in addition, assists to prevent grime and dirt accumulation, thus beefing up the functionality of moving parts.

How do you lubricate your bike? Apply the lubricant uniformly on the chain while slowly and steadily rotating the pedals in the anticlockwise direction. Also, ensure to lubricate movable parts of the derailleur, any cable exposed and the pivot point situated on the brake lever. Wipe away any excess lubricant using a clean, dry rag, especially in the chain.

A well-lubed bike optimizes performance by allowing smooth braking and shifting. Minor rust spots may also manifest on your drivetrain components. Get rid of the rust spots by rubbing with steel wool. A golden rule of thumb when working with steel wool is to wear protective gloves to insulate your skin from splinters caused by steel wool. However getting rid of rust from the chain is an insurmountable challenge. A replacement will be in order.

Inspect the tires

Inspect Bike Tires

Photo Credit: Performance Bike

Tires are normally fitted with the rims to insulate them and enhance their functionality. Tires are a source of friction with the ground surface for your bike, allowing you to glide through a wide range of surfaces such as gravel, pavement, and dirt. On top of that, they bond with the ground to absorb any shocks, giving you a smoother ride.

To do this, examine your bike tires for tears, splits, or cracks, especially, the sides that don’t come into contact with the ground.  Also, inspect the tread for any uneven or too much wear. The brake pads must also be in correct alignment and ascertain that they haven’t devastated the tires. Tires are not expensive, so if you have any reservations about your tires, it’s ideal to replace them.

Inspect the cables

Cables are manufactured using tightly coiled metal wire insulated in a plastic casing. Cables link up the breaks and shifters situated on the handle bars to the brake pads and derailleur. Cables that are tethered to the shifters help in the movement of the chain from one gear to the next through the derailleur. Cables tethered to the brakes, on the other hand, assist in bringing the bike to complete stop when using the handlebars on the lever.

Bike Cable Inspection

Photo Credit: Made Good

What do you need to do? Examine the cable plus the rubbing housing surrounding for rust, cracks, looseness, and crimps. New cables typically optimize the performance of the bike by enabling smooth shifting and braking. Worn out cables must be replaced immediately. Unless you’re skilled enough, the task of changing the cables can be overwhelming and time-consuming. If you constantly ride your bike, a yearly changeup of your cables would be prudent; otherwise, a 2-3 year plan would be okay.

All these tuning up boils down to one thing: you have earned a license to glide your bike through the spring and summer with utmost safety and without glitches. If you’re new to riding a bike and considering the pursuit, ensure to wear a helmet. If you plan to cover long distances, it would be advantageous to carry along food and drink items. Whether you’re planning a long or short distance ride, following the rules of the road will insulate you from many variables.

My name is Dion Lewis. I’ve been cycling since my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions. In my college life, I took a part-time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally. Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or bike gear.

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