How to Tune Up a Bike

If you have been using your bike for all sorts of services and want to increase its efficiency or it has been lying in the store, and you want to start using it again, you have to ensure it gets back to its proper shape. What your bike needs is a tune-up.

While a bike mechanic will offer bike tune-up services to you and carry out the job excellently, you can also do it on your own with the proper guidance.

What is Bike Tune-Up?

A bike tune-up means getting your bike in the perfect shape, ready for usage. The level of tuning up your bike could range from a basic tune to a complete overhaul. There are different types of tuning up your bike, and the right one will depend on various things, like the extent to which the bike components are worn out, how you use the bike and the current state of the bike.

When tuning up a bike, various things are done, like cleaning off dirt, checking the gears for alignment and damage, inspecting the brake, aligning the frame and wheels, checking and tightening the spokes and bolts, and applying grease and oils to the moving parts.

How to Tune Up a Bike

Tuning up your bike is critical, and the importance of doing so cannot be overstated. You will need several tools for the job depending on how much work you need for the same. However, the essential tools you should have include rags, water, dish soap, chain oil, lubricant, air pump, tire pressure gauge, wrenches, and a repair stand.

When Tuning and Cleaning

To start with, disconnect the brakes and remove the two wheels of your bike. This will not only make it easy to clean the bike’s frame but will also make tuning up the wheels quicker. Use a cleaning tool like a rag to clean between the sprockets of your cassette or freewheel, and then wipe the rims, spokes, and hubs using a dry rag.

If you find it difficult to clean any of these parts, you could dip your rag in water with some soap and retry cleaning the parts. Remember, you should never use a water hose or harsh cleaners to remove dirt from your bike. The adjustments, also, should not be tight and should spin freely. If they are too tight, you should overhaul or adjust them as required.

Use a truing item to remove air from the tires and check the tightness of the spokes and the alignment of the two wheels, and if need be, make adjustments. Add air to the wheels with the correct pressure and leave them for a while.

Cleaning the Frames

Start by wiping down the components of your entire bike frame. You should start with the handlebar and work your way to the back derailleur if you want to keep your rag as clean as it can be. You can also dampen the rag with lathering water if need be to loosen any dirt.

Inspecting the Bike Parts

With your bike now clean, it is not a bad idea to inspect it entirely and look for any damages or cracks. If you realize there is anything wrong with the bike, be sure to take it to your mechanic for further assessment since it can be risky to ride a bike with cracked parts.

As you inspect all the parts of your bike, you need to pay special attention to the shift cables and brakes. If they have damaged housings or have frayed, it is time you replace them.

Lubrication

Apply some drops of a lubricant in the housings of the cable, including the shift components and the pivot areas found on your brake. Ensure your brake pads do not get into contact with any oil. Also, remember to wipe off any excess fat to prevent it from collecting dirt.

Bottom bracket and headset

Check the adjustment of the bottom bracket and the headset to make sure they spin smoothly and are not lose.

Brakes

Inspect all the surfaces on the brake pad and then get rid of the ridges with a razor blade. Make them smooth with sandpaper and clean the mess. If the surfaces are worn too much, replace them. You should also replace them when you start seeing metal poking through the surface.

Tightening

Check the bolts on your ride and see that they are tight enough, but do not be tempted to over-tighten. If you feel they are already compressed, leave them like that. Key essential areas you should check include the pedals, cranks, derailleurs, brakes, seat post, seat, stem, shifters, and levers.

Final Adjustments

Finally, reconnect the brakes and reinstall your wheels. Adjust the tension of the cables and brake pads as expected. Look for chain wear, clean the chain and use chain oil to lubricate. Afterward, adjust the back derailleur and move to the front one. It is now time to let the bike lie on the ground and get the seat position to its original place.

What is the Cost of a Bike Tune-Up?

The price of a bike tune-up done by a mechanic varies depending on various factors like the extent of a tune-up and the mechanic’s location. However, the average price of a basic bike tune-up is $55, while a complete overhaul would cost you $200.

This price is exclusive of the bike components which you will replace. When tuning up your bike, you might need to adjust the existing parts, while some occasions may demand you to replace them with new ones. So for the bike parts, you could set apart $25-$200. However, if your bike is among those expensive models, the parts will also be costly.

If you are an avid cyclist and you engage with your bike more than the average person, you may want to consider investing in some pieces of equipment so that you save money in the long run. Also, it would be best if you honed your skills on the essential techniques for carrying up a tune-up on your own.

If you carry out the tune-up on your own, you will save $50-$200, but you will still have to incur the costs of buying new parts. The tools needed for tuning up your bike are similar to those used by a mechanic; different sizes of wrenches, cleaning tools, lubricant, chain brush, floor pump, and spare tubes.

Basic Tune-up Check Points

If you are not planning to take your bike to a mechanic for a tune-up and are looking forward to performing a basic tune-up, there are parts you should be keen on. Below are some of the features.

  • Headset-ensure they do not suffer the test of dripping sweat every time you are riding to prevent them from rusting.
  • Gear cables- confirm that they are not weak and are not bent.
  • Pedals-the pedals might have lost bearings and worn cleats to prevent knee pain and other problems.
  • Freehubs- ensure your freehubs are not noisy when riding since this could indicate dirtiness or dryness.
  • Chain-lube and clean your chain regularly, and while at it, measure its wear.
  • Derailleur hanger- your derailleur hanger should be a straight failure, leading to an imperfect shifting.
  • Tires-you should always check tires to prevent potential punctures.

Signs Your Bike Needs a Tune-Up

Being proactive about maintaining your bike is important because it not only saves you money but also ensures you have a hassle-free ride. Below are signs that your bike is begging for a tune-up.

Squeaking

If your bicycle produces the sound of a songbird as you ride down the street, then it is time to visit a mechanic because bikes that are well maintained do not squeak. To do the least, you should lube and clean the chain using a wet weather lube if it has spring showers.

Difficulty in Braking

If your housing and cables need to be tuned up, the efficiency of the brakes will reduce. Your brake pads might be okay, but if you still find it hard to compress the brake levers, it is time for a tune-up and cable replacement.

Difficulty in Shifting Gears

If you realize your gears are not shifting as smoothly as they used to, it is time you go for a tune-up and change the gear housing and cables. Dirt, dust, and other contaminants might have preoccupied the housing hence reducing its effectiveness.

Visible Gunk

This is an unmistakable sign, but many ignore it. If your bike is filthy and you do not clean it, you are damaging the drivetrain. The easiest way to prevent mechanical failures and ensure your bike functions smoothly is by keeping it clean.

If you realize the drivetrain is leaving a grease tattoo on your calves every time you ride your bike, or if it sounds gritty, tune up the bike.

Final Thoughts

The most efficient way of keeping your bike well maintained is by giving it a little tune-up. This includes tuning it up occasionally and surprising it with a complete overhaul when need be. It does not matter where you are riding a top of the line brand or an old model you picked in the yard; tune-up your bike regularly.