Have you ever wondered why there are old bicycles that are very durable and can last for many years? Meanwhile, why many expensive bikes will all bells and whistles might be broken down after just a few weeks of cycling?
The key to durability and endurance lies in how you use your bike. Do you periodically clean it? Have you tuned it up before? If the answer is “No,” it is high time to learn how to tune up a bike!
What Does It Mean To Tune Up A Bike?
You cannot start your tune-up process if you do not understand what it means to tune up a bike.
In general, bicycle tune-up is simply cleaning, adjusting, fixing, and upgrading your bike to better performance and making your riding experience greater.
You may turn up your bike at home by yourself or bring it to bicycle shops for a more professional service.
The term “tune-up” is similar to experts and any bike shop all around the world. However, riders who are new to cycling may not have learned about it yet.
In general, depending on your bike’s condition, you can decide how to tune up your bike.
For example, if your bike is still well-running and its components are new, just clean it and lubricate some parts like the drivetrain to make it last longer.
In case your bike is used on challenging terrains or not maintained for a long time, I will highly recommend you to overhaul it completely.
For more information about bike tune up, let’s watch a helpful video on:
Tools Needed To Tune Up A Bike
To tune up your bike, you will need some necessary tools. Each level of bike tune-up will require different bike tools. Here are some suggestions for a particular tune-up.
Tools for cleaning and lubricating
Remember that when you clean your bicycle, never use harsh detergents and water jets since they can wear out or even deform the bike frame and other parts.
Instead, it would be best if you used dish soap, water sprays, and rags that could clean every corner of your bicycle.
To handle stuck components, you will need some chain lube and lubricants. I will recommend you to go to light lubricants such as the Tri-Flow.
Tools for routine bike maintenance
Bike maintenance is one of the must-have steps in a tune-up. Depending on the bike condition, you can service your bike in many ways. For example, you could change the brake pads or fix your flat tire as well.
You will need a set of Allen wrenches to remove some parts of your bike effortlessly for this process. Besides, some bike tools like tire levers, floor pumps, and tube patches will be beneficial.
Tools for brakes tune-up
The braking system is the one that you should add to your tune-up checklist since it can directly affect your safety when riding.
There are several tools that will be useful when you deal with brake tasks, including 6-12mm open-end wrenches, Allen wrenches with the size from 2mm to 5mm, and needle-nose pliers.
Don’t forget to wear latex gloves to protect your hands. Again, cleaners like denatured alcohol and rag are required if you want to clean bike brakes.
Tools for drivetrains tune-up
To tune up your drivetrain, you need some tools that could help you remove and install the drivetrain’s parts easily.
The two most essential things you should have are an Allen wrench set with a length range from 2mm to 12mm and a Torx wrench set.
In addition, other bike tools like needle-nose pliers, chain pliers, crank arm puller, the pedal wrench could help you tune up the drivetrain more effectively.
Tools for wheels tune-up
Maintaining bike wheels will make your riding experience more comfortable and efficient. With this component, you do not need many tools to tune it up. Here are several bike tools that you need for wheel tune-up.
You could start your work with 13mm, 15mm, 17mm cone wrenches. Then, use a spoke wrench to remove spokes. One thing that you should keep in mind is that the spoke wrench comes in various sizes, so make sure that you choose the right size.
Other tools you need are a truing stand, dish tool, spoke tension gauge.
For more information about tune and maintain your bike, let’s watch a helpful video on:
How Often To Tune Up A Bike
In general, you should tune up your bike at least once a year. The best time to do a bicycle tune-up is in the spring. Like all other machines, your bike will most likely deteriorate after winter due to harsh weather and heavy rains.
If you own a mountain bike that has to roll on tough terrains, you can tune up your bike two or three times a year. It is also necessary for riders who use bicycles every single day.
Actually, it is entirely possible to proactively tune-up your bike by relying on some specific signs.
For example, if your bike makes unpleasant noises when rolling or it is difficult to change the speed gears, it is time to service and tune-up your bike.
Steps To Tune Up A Bike
You can definitely tune-up your bike by your own process. However, to save time and make a bike tune-up as easily as possible, the following steps can be helpful for you.
Step 1: Cleaning
The first step that you have to do when tuning up your bicycle is cleaning it. Never underestimate stains, as they can quietly ruin your bike.
I highly recommend you clean the bike wheel first. You should remove the wheels before starting to clean. This step is not required, but it will be very beneficial for the next parts of your tune-up.
After removing, you could use a wet rag and dish soap to clean the wheel cassette, spokes, rims, wheel hubs, and sprockets.
Next, clean your bike frame. A useful tip that I usually do when cleaning the bike frame is starting from the least dirty areas like handlebars and then to the places where there is more dirt. As such, you do not have to spend too many cleaning tools to clean your bike.
Finally, don’t forget to clean other parts of your bicycle like the chain and drivetrain.
For more information about how to clean & degrease your bike, let’s watch a helpful video on:
Step 2: Lubricating
Lacking lubricants is one of the most popular reasons for many bike problems. If you do not lubricate your bike regularly, it cannot work well.
Each type of bike will suit different lubricants.
For example, if you have a road bike or a city bike, Teflon-based lubricants will be the ideal option for you. It could help your bike run smoothly without attracting dirt on the road.
For those who ride a mountain bike or a dirt bike, wet lubricants are more suitable than dry lubricants.
You should drop lubricants to all chain links, brakes, run gears. Then, use a rag to clean excess lubricants to make sure that your bike will not get dirty.
Also, you should keep the brake pads dry since if you add any oil to this component, it will collect much dirt.
For more information about how to lubricate your bicycle chain, let’s watch a helpful video on:
Step 3: Adjusting and fixing
After cleaning and lubricating your bike, you should adjust its components to fit your body better and make your rides more comfortable.
We will start with the bike wheel. You should adjust the wheel hubs first. If they are too loose or tight, you will feel difficult to ride. Other wheel parts like spoke tension and alignment also need to be adjusted sometimes.
Brakes adjustment is the next step in the tune-up process. If the brake pads are not placed in the right position, your bike will make uncomfortable noise.
To fix this problem, you should adjust the pad to touch the rim. Another simple way to adjust the brake pads is by sanding them down.
To continue the tune-up, you should tighten the brake cable if it is too loose. In case it is rusted, you need to replace it by using some particular tools such as Allen wrenches, pliers.
Tightening is essential with all the bolts equipped on your bicycle. However, you should not over-tight them since it can make the bike’s movements more difficult. Some areas that you should tighten are cranks, stem, pedals, derailleurs.
For more information about how to adjust mechanical disc brakes on a bike, let’s watch a helpful video on:
Step 4: Checking
The following step of a bike tune-up is checking your bike. The most important thing that you should check frequently is tire pressure. You have to use a gauge to create a suitable number of PSI.
Generally, you can find recommended PSI on almost all bike tires. For mountain bikes, 40-80 PSI is ideal. Meanwhile, the recommended PSI for a road bike can reach 120 PSI.
You should check the tire pressure at least once a week. In case you do not have a pressure gauge, you can use a nozzle gauge instead.
Nobody wants to have to pedal on a bike with a punctured tire. To avoid that, you need to check for flats. This is especially important for those who do not cycle regularly.
When you see a flat on your bike tire, the first thing that you should do is choosing a suitable fixing method.
If your bike is equipped with tubeless tires, fixing a flat might be very easy. You just have to use a plug kit to repair this problem. Remember to take off the obstacle from the tire before installing the plug.
In case your bike tires come with tubes, it will be a little bit time-consuming to fix a flat. You have to remove the tires with some specific tools like tire levers. This tool will help you detach the rubber and the rim easily.
Last but not least, you should check other components to make sure your bike is ready to ride.
However, with serious problems like loose headsets or stuck gears, the best solution is to bring your bike to a bike repair shop. They can troubleshoot more effectively and quickly.
Step 5: Testing a ride
Many people will probably forget this step since they don’t think it is necessary. However, a test ride will help you re-evaluate whether your adjustments and repairs are appropriate or not.
You should test all the components, including all of the gears, tire pressure, and braking system.
Which is the best way to tune up a bike?
When tuning up a bike, you could use many methods. It would be best if you understand your bike’s condition and what you really need on your bike. Depending on these factors, you could choose the best way to tune up your bike.
For example, if your bike gets a big problem with the drivetrain, you have to change this component instead of just cleaning and lubricating your bike.
By contrast, you should not upgrade any part when your bike is just stuck since it isn’t oiled regularly.
How long does it take to tune up a bike?
If you want to tune up a bike by yourself, it might take about 30-60 minutes to complete a basic tune-up. For a serious bike tune-up, you might have to spend at least 2-3 hours to finish your work.
What do I have to do to tune up a bike?
When you start to tune up your bike, there are several steps that you should follow.
Firstly, you have to clean some parts of your bike or even a whole bike. The two most important components that you should clean carefully are the chain and the cassette since they are very susceptible to corrosion.
Secondly, don’t forget to adjust your bike to make your rides safer and comfier. Brakes and rear derailleur are what you need to adjust regularly.
Finally, check other components for problems. If everything is fine, you can finish the process.
Is tuning up a bike costly?
Depending on your purposes and tune-up requirement, tune-up bikes might have various prices.
If you want a basic tune-up, the price range will be between $60 – $90. For a major or total bicycle tune-up, it will cost about $120 – $150. Also, if you prefer some added services, the price will be higher.