25. How to Tune Up Your Bike

No matter how often you ride you should give your bike a tune-up at least once a year.

IMPORTANT: Nuts and bolts on your bike should always be tightened to the manufacturer's specifications.
How to Tune Up Your Bike
DVD Vol. 1 DVD Volume 1
This video is available on DVD

Today we'll learn how to tune up your bike, which I'd recommend doing at least once a year, or even every few months if you ride every day. Since I can't demonstrate every step of the procedure while keeping this video short, I'll give a general overview and cover each step further in separate tutorials. You'll notice below that I've written out all of the steps and included links to related tutorials. I'll be adding new links as future videos are uploaded.

Depending how much work is needed you'll need a several tools for this job. Most importantly you'll need:

Wheel Cleaning and Tuning

First disconnect your brakes and remove both wheels. This makes it easier to clean the bike frame and tune-up the wheels. Clean between the sprockets of your freewheel or cassette using a rag or a proper cleaning tool. Using a dry rag, wipe down the hubs, spokes, and rims on both wheels. If they are difficult to clean dip your rag in some mildly soapy water and try again. Never use harsh cleaners or a water hose to clean your bike. Check both hub adjustments to make sure they aren't loose and that they spin freely. Adjust or overhaul them as necessary.

If you have a truing stand, deflate the tires and check the alignment and spoke tension of both wheels and adjust them as needed. Inflate both tires to the recommended pressure and set them aside.

Frame Cleaning

Now wipe down your entire bike frame and components. I usually start at the handlebar and work my way to the rear derailleur in order to keep my rag clean as long as possible. Again you can dampen your rag with soapy water if needed to loosen up any tough grime.

Frame and Parts Inspection

Once clean it's a good idea to carefully inspect the entire surface of your frame for any hairline cracks or damage. If you notice anything you should take it to your local shop right away for further assessment, as it can be dangerous to ride on a cracked frame. Inspect all of your components as well, paying particular attention to the brake and shift cables. If they are frayed or have damaged housings, now is the time to replace them.

Lubrication

Now apply a few drops of some light lubricant to the inside of your cable housings and all of the pivot points on your brake and shift components. Avoid getting any oil on your brake pads, and wipe off any excess so that it doesn't collect dirt. Here's a video that demonstrates cable lubrication.

Headset and Bottom Bracket

Check the adjustment of both your headset and bottom bracket to make sure they aren't loose and spin smoothly.

Brakes

Inspect all of your brake pad surfaces and carefully trim away any wear ridges with a razor blade. Resurface them with rough sandpaper to clean up road grime. You should replace the pads if they are worn past the indicator line, or if you can see metal poking through the surface. Watch the brake tutorials.

Tightening

Now check all of the bolts on your bike to make sure they're tight, but be careful not to over-tighten. If they already feel tight enough don't force them any tighter. Important areas to check include your handlebars, levers, shifters, stem, seat, seatpost, brakes, derailleurs, cranks and pedals.

Here is a bicycle torque specification guide from Park Tools.

Final Adjustments

Now reinstall the wheels and reconnect your brakes. Adjust the brake pads and cable tension as needed. Clean the chain, check for chain wear, and then lubricate it with chain oil. Then adjust the rear derailleur first, and the front derailleur second. Now place the bike on the ground and adjust your handlebar and seat position if needed.

Test Ride

The last step is very important. Take your bike on a thorough test ride, running through all of the gears and testing the brakes. Most of the time you'll have a few minor re-adjustments to make before your bike is fully ready to ride.

Tags

Related Links

Discuss this topic in the Help Forums

08/01 Melted Handlebar Grips?

Hello,

My handlebar grips for my bike have this melted look and feel. The grips are really sticky and they stick to my gloves and hands. It feels really nasty, to be honest.

I've been trying to get them off my bike, but it won't budge. I've started cutting it off with a box knife, but it is really difficult to cut through it. I've managed to get some of it off, but it isn't enough. I feel this would take quite a couple of days to fully remove.

Are there any solvents or chemicals that will dissolve the handlebar grips? They're rubber as far as I can tell... Read more >>

07/26 Weird noise on Coaster Breaks Cruiser Bike

When I pedal, there's no noise, when I brake there's no noise, but when I stop pedaling, there's this noise:



I opened up the back hub and sprayed it with WD-40 and it already had a bunch of grease on it too.... Read more >>

07/18 Bike Repair Help for Novice

Hi guys, So my housemates for my birthday decided to buy me a bike as my work is quite far and buses and owning a car are far too expensive for me. However it is very much a bike bought on a student budget and needs some fine tuning and I was wondering if you could help me. I am a complete novice at everything bicycle related and am posting on here to see if I could fix these issues instead of taking it to Halfords and having to pay quite a bit for the repairs.

I have been browsing around this website for a while and there are a few threads which seem to be talking about what I n... Read more >>

07/11 Bar wrap

Been noticing something in this years Tour, the pros bars seem more padded than mine - I use fizik tape.  Apart from Paris Robaix, do the pros double wrap their bars, or is there a more padded tape available?... Read more >>

07/09 Been Away for a while.... Update on Overhauls

Been away for a while.... But wanted to post that the assistance You Folks gave on the Overhaul-ing of the ~1980 Peugeot U09 and ~1970 Gitane Gran Sport Mixte is a resounding 100% Success story!

Bar and Seat repositioning made the posture and comfort level increase;
New cables and improved brake pads made it stop better;
New bearings and seats made it roll better!
Cleaning/Adusting/New cables for Derailleurs and sprockets made it work correctly, and improved cosmetic appearance, too!   I did have to epoxy glue the plastic front Derailleur mount on Gitane, as i... Read more >>

07/07 Loud clicking noise when peddling uphill in larger gears

Hi everyone! I have a problem which I can't seem to figure out.  Recently my rear-gears have been making a VERY loud clicking sound every rotation of the peddle. This only happens when I am in one of the 6 (out of 8) larger gears in the rear, AND I am going uphill and putting a decent amount of force on the peddles. All other times everything is smooth.

So I put my bike upside down, checked to make sure nothing was loose, and tried manually rotating the peddles with my hands in these larger gears.  Nothing, it doesn't make a sound, and everything looks un-bent.

Now... Read more >>

07/07 Throaty Whine or Low Pitch Whistle

I need advice on a maintenance issue.

Ok, I am not a novice rider, but not a hard core rider either.  Normally I have had someone nearby that could or would help with minor maintenance over the years, so I know nothing.

The bike is essentially new.  Due to military obligations it was ridden a couple of times after purchase and then packed, stored, shipped, stored again and then packed and shipped again (purchased in '11).  I am now in Saudi Arabia and want to ride it around the compound to and from work/store.  

I had the tubes replaced since the ones... Read more >>

06/16 Bike Rides Harsh An Crash'y

Hi all,

I am looking for some inspiration really which way to take this either to continue or scrap this in favour of a 29er.

I have a bike that I have cobbled together over a period of time it used to be a kona cindercone frame I upgraded the front forks to sid's thinking it would make it ride a lot nicer and it still crashes over everything like it a rigid.

I was offered a nice Cube Reaction GTC pro carbon frame so I got it and it still rides harshly, I done some research to find that sid's even when at the specific weight setting run hard so I now run ... Read more >>

06/16 books/videos

I'm new here so please forgive the dumb questions I will eventually
ask. Is there anything definitive available on changing out complete
groupsets. I see some things but was hoping for something that
would include info on the tools needed to complete a project.
thanks
Randy... Read more >>

06/08 Fitting my girlfriend on a mountain bike

I'm having trouble trying to adjust my mountain bike to my girlfriend's size since she is 5,1 and I am 5,7 inches what can I do to make it where she can ride it and it's a 24x1.95 in set of tires... Read more >>

05/21 Repair after vandalism

Hi everyone, I recently had someone vandalize my bike. Not sure if they were trying to steal it or not, but it did get damaged. I want to repair it myself, as I don't think it would be too complicated. Just wanted some help with the part names.

First, the part that keeps the handlebars on the bike is missing - any suggestions as to what that part is called and where I can find a suitable replacement?

Also, the cables to the gear shift was also damaged. The thumb shifter itself is in one piece, just the cables were damaged. I think the brake cables are also damaged. ... Read more >>

05/21 Need some info on my new bike

Hello everyone, i got a Specialized 27.5" Pitch Sport 2015 and i was looking to replace all the unsealed ball bearings on the bike with sealed bearings (cartridge type?) like on the wheels, bottom bracket, and head set. I'd like to get a quality bottom bracket, a quality head set, and quality sealed bearings for the wheels. The problem is, is that I don't know what to buy. I dont know if my head set is a threaded, tapered or whatever. Yes, im new to all this so im trying to learn, but thats why i know nothing, lol... I'd appreciate any help you guy's can give me. Thanks

Kevin... Read more >>

04/29 Bike won't work

My sons bike works fine if the
front fork / handlebar is reversed
but will hardly move at all when is
it is turned in the right direction -
I know nothing about bikes - is
something simple?... Read more >>

04/28 Preparing bikes for the summer

Hey all,

I run my early college high school's bike share program, and I'm worried about this summer. Despite the Dallas heat, we might have to leave the bikes locked outdoors until school is back in session. The bikes are $100 Wal-Mart single speed bikes, and some are rusted in various places. What can I do to make sure the bikes can survive the summer?... Read more >>

04/27 I need suggestions! Components

We just got a bike from our uncle that he won at a storage locker auction. Its a Giant Revel. I believe its the original Revel. It has a front disc brake, but it was missing the caliper assemble. The rear brake a standard brake with pads. The rear derailer was broken along with the front derailer. They are the Shimano FD-TX51 and RD-TX55. The front shifters/brake handles are both Shimano, but are different and are in rough shape.

So, I need to replace the front and rear derailer, front brake caliper, and the shift/brake mechanism. Can anyone direct me in the proper direction for ... Read more >>

New Thread
How to Tune Up Your Bike
Repair Guide / Help Forums

Free Email Updates: