What is a Bicycle Tune Up?

cables-and-gears

When was the last time you went to the bike shop to get your bicycle tuned up? Do you actually know what is a bicycle tune up and what is included in the maintenance service you pay for?

Tune up costs can quickly add up over the year and many cyclists don’t even understand exactly what a regular bike tune up includes.

What most cyclists don’t know is that most (if not all) tune up is very easy to do with just a couple of tools.

In this article below, you won’t only find everything that’s included in the tune up of a bicycle – but also how to perform some of the most basic tune up all by yourself!

What is a Bicycle Tune Up?

what-is-a-bicycle-tune-up

Before taking an old bike on the road, you have to ensure it’s in good condition. Regular bike maintenance will help you keep it in the best shape, road-ready, and error-free in the long run.

However, after a prolonged use, your bike will need a tune-up.

Some riders may not know what a bicycle tune up is. However, it’s not hard to understand and I believe that everyone should know about it.

It is a procedure to maintain your bike and keep it in the road-ready condition. Every bike tune up is similar and these are the most common steps of the process:

  • Cleaning oil, grease, and dirt off the bike
  • The derailleurs and gears are evaluated for alignment and damage
  • Rakes may be inspected for grip and wear
  • The drive chain may be evaluated for kinking and stretching
  • The tires are checked for swelling, cracks, and wear
  • Tension adjustments are necessary for several cables
  • The frame and wheel alignments are evaluated
  • The spokes of wheels are evaluated and tightened as per need
  • Seating pols and headstocks should be checked for undesirable movements
  • Make each bold and nut tight to ensure the stability of this bike when riding
  • Suitable greases and oils are applied to different moving parts

Most riders usually take their bike to the local bike repair shop to get even the basic tune up done. However, sometimes, your bike won’t need a maintenance, and yet a simple tune-up can be done by almost anyone – so there’s really no need to spend money on a simple tune up.

Down below, you can find out the detailed steps of the process so you can do a basic bike tune up yourself!

Bike Cleaning

bike-cleaning

Before starting a tune-up procedure, you have to clean your bike and remove dust and dirt as it will help you to evaluate your bicycle. Moreover, cleaning can increase the life of bike components too so you shouldn’t skip this step.

For this step, feel free to use biodegradable cleaners, a dry towel, and a toothbrush. All you have to do is dip your towel in water and wipe down the bike for stubborn stains. You can use a toothbrush to remove dirt smudge in unreachable places such as cogs.

However, try using less water in the process and remove dirt from all components of the bike.

In particular, pay attention to the cleaning of brakes, seat, frame, chainrings, drivetrain, frame, and pedals.

If possible, try to remove seat post and apply some grease, let it drty, and attach the seat post again. It’s recommended to use a high-quality lubricant.

Important Tools

tools

For successful and comprehensive bicycle tune-up, you will need some tools. Here is a list of tools you will need for bicycle tune-up:

  • Screwdrivers
  • Mini-pump
  • Pliers
  • Tire levers
  • Wrenches
  • Chain tool
  • Bike stand
  • Grease
  • Multi-tool
  • Chain whip

Getting them all ready instead of having to search for each one of them during the tune up can help you speed up the process and increase your work efficiency!

Evaluate the Cables

cables-and-gears

Cables are designed with strongly coiled wires of metal inside plastic housings. These cables connect gear shifters and brakes on handlebars to brake pads and derailleur. These cables allow you to control brakes and shifters so it’s important to pay close attention to them.

These cables are linked to shifters and help in the movement of the chain between gears through a derailleur. Evaluate the cable because a rubber coating can have cracks, rust, crimps, or it can just get loose from prolonged use. If you spot a pretty worked out or a damaged cable – you should replace it. Otherwise, you might regret it afterward.

If the cables are in a fairly good condition, still make sure to adjust and tighten loose cables.

After making the cable tight, squeeze a lever to evaluate if the line is in its right place. A brand new cable needs more adjustments than the used cable – but it’s not hard to replace a cable.

If you need any help replacing the cable – check out our DIY Bike Maintenance 101 post!

Check the Wheels

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Wheels are the only contact point of the bike with the road, and often times, they end up damaged as a result of regular use. Check if the wheel is moving freely, check if there are any wobbles, and also check whether the wheel is contacting the brake pads.

Several wheels have instant release levers located at the center. If you find a problem with the sideway, immediately adjust the bearings’ external tension on a wheel.

To find the loose bike spokes, I highly recommend using your fingers to quickly run through the spokes.

Loose spokes have to be tightened with and broken spokes are best replaced as they can give your wheel a wobble.

Lastly, make sure to inspect tires for flat spots, tears, and cracks. You have to replace any worn-out tire and you should always keep a recommended pressure in your tires for the best rolling efficiency.

Evaluate Brakes and Gears

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Brakes and gears are essential components of a bike and it’s important not to skip them during the tune-up procedure. Make sure to coax the gear for an even adjustment. It is vital to ensure the right alignment of brake cables and arms as their position must be correct to firmly stop the wheels.

Sometimes, brakes need adjustment after alignment; therefore, sand them to the perfect size.

Remember, noise can indicate that pads are hitting the rim too low or too high. Sanding these pads may ensure their right position. Picking up fine sandpaper for this job is the best way to go.

Lubricate and Clean Drivechain

clean-drivetrain

If you’re using your bike on a regular basis, you will want to re-check your drive and chain to ensure that your bike is well lubricated at all times.

Chain lubrication won’t only increase the efficiency and smoothness of your rides – but it will also prevent your chain from causing friction and causing damage to other components.

The drivetrain is essential to transfer the power generated by a rider to back wheels.

Before inspecting the drive chain for possible damages, you have to put it on its stand. Carefully inspect the drive chain for dirt, scrapes, dents, extra wear, and damage. Make sure to clean smudge on the chain and use grease to lubricate it.

If you need help with this, check out our Park Tool CM-25 chain cleaner review & tutorial out!

Conclusion

How many times do you get your bicycle tuned up? Even the most inactive riders usually get their bike tuned up just before the beautiful Spring weather.

I used to take my bicycle to the shop for even the smallest difference in shifting sound. However, once I took the time to learn how things work – I quickly found out that I was able to do most of the tune up by myself with the tools I have in my garage.

I didn’t know what is a bicycle tune up at first, and I did a lot of guessing. However, the DIY bike video course helped me do everything from the most basic tune up tasks to even more complicated repairs.

diy-bike-repair-bonus

Therefore, if I was able to do it by myself – I believe that everyone should give it a try. The least you could do is get your bicycle in tune.

What do you like the most about your bike after receiving it back from the shop?

Feel free to leave a comment or a question down below, and I’ll do my best to answer all of your comments and questions to help you out!

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