View Full Version : How often to do bike maintenance?

11-16-2010, 01:10 PM
How often do people do preventive maintenance on their bikes? (Or have a bike shop do it.) And what do people do regularly? (re-lubricate gears? I'm a dummy on this.) I've been biking about 50 miles a week for the past 6 months and I'm thinking that maybe the bike needs a tune-up or something- any suggestions?

Tim Kelley
11-16-2010, 01:17 PM
I check the tire pressure and brakes before every ride and try to stick to at least wiping down and (lightly!) relubing the chain every 100 miles or so.

Any other more experienced cyclists want to weigh in?

Joe Chapline
11-16-2010, 06:09 PM
I may not be more experienced, but I'll comment anyway. I've been getting by with an annual checkup at the bike shop. I don't work on my bike except to inflate the tires every week and fix flats. My current bike is only two years old, but when I took it to the bike shop on our second anniversary, they decided to replace the chain and rear gear cassette. From their point of view, it was probably less expensive to replace the cassette then have them clean it. I feel a little guilty about that, but not guilty enough to start working on my own bike. Hopefully they recycled the old cassette. They also redid the brakes, which were shot.

11-16-2010, 07:16 PM
At 50 miles per week, you're probably pretty well off with an annual tune-up... Maybe one early in the season and then another trip to the shop for adjustments if needed.

Between that, you should lubricate the chain every month or so... more often if you ride in the wet. I suggest a high-tech lube like Pro-link. Follow the directions on the bottle. Clean your chain before the first application. Clean Streak is my cleaner of choice. Let it dry. Apply a good layer of lube to the chain. Wipe off the excess. Let it dry over night. Wipe again before you ride in the morning.

Leonard Zinn has written two great books on bicycle maintenance. "Zinn and the art of Road or Mountain Bike Maintenance" are the titles. Sheldon Brown, may he rest in peace, (www.sheldonbrown.com) is also arguably one of the best resources anywhere.

To answer your specific question, i talked about it on the way home with a friend.
Road bike gets ridden 60-100 miles per week. It gets a chain lube 1/month and 1 full service (complete tear down with new cables, housing, and clean/lube all the bearings.)
Fixie gets between 150-200 miles per week. This bike is so simple that I change brake pads when they wear down... twice per year, and lube the chain when it squeaks.
The mountain bike is a single speed and gets similar maintenance to the Fixie. I ride the mountain bike similarly to the road bike 60-100 miles per week as an alternative to the road bike.

Tires need to be changed if they show signs of wear. Excessive flats, threads showing through or dry rot are good signs that it is time to change them. I get about 5000 miles out of a good set of road tires, 15-20,000 miles out of a set of touring tires. I change both tires at the same time. I don't rotate tires. If you do, always put the new tire on front. Never put a worn tire on the front. That is your main braking and steering tire and you want the best one there.

I replace cables and housing for shifters and brake levers once per year on all of my bikes.

Your road bike brake pads have a wear line on them. If you they are getting close to the wear line, replace them. If you don't go through a whole set in a year, then you can have them replaced with your annual service.

Mountain bike disc brake pads can last longer. I don't ride my mountain bike that much, but I do change the pads every other year. If you have hydraulic disc brakes, it is good to have them bleed every 1-2 years depending on how much you ride.

Suspension forks require regular maintenance. If you ride a lot and experience no problems, you can probably have them serviced every other year. If you see oil leaking or find that they're a bit too boingie and don't have the same damping they used to, get them serviced more often. Read the manual on your fork. Most forks have basic service that YOU should do every week that you ride it. Very few people ever do that and they pay the price with replacing their fork long before they have to. There's no reason a suspension fork shouldn't last a decade or more if cared for correctly. I have my original Manitou fork (first production suspension fork ever) from 1990. It is in perfect working condition and I still ride it. I have a rock shox Reba from 2006 that didn't survive a season because I was lazy.

I suggest replacing the chain often. If you wait until the chain wears and stretches, you'll end up having to replace the chain, cogs and chainrings at the same time. I change my chain every 2-3000 miles. I can get 8-10,000 miles out of a set of cogs and chainrings. If your chain gets too worn, putting a new one on will cause the chain to slip on the cogs and chainrings. Your bike will never shift right. Then you need to replace all three. That's expensive.

Wheels may need to be trued. That can happen any time based upon where you're riding. They should be trued with your spring tune-up.

I periodically inspect the frame for damage. Cracks, ripples in the paint, bulges in the metal, etc are signs that the frame needs repair or replacement. With my featherweight carbon bike (with carbon forks and wheels and seat post) I do that when I wipe down the frame before and after every ride. The service interval for my old steel bikes is much less. My current fixie gets inspected once every 2-3 years or when it starts making a noise I can't explain. That bike will survive the apocalypse.

Many shops have service plans when you buy a bike from them. They'll do a basic tune-up once per year for a while after you buy the bike. Some will do "lifetime adjustments" for you. That is a great service. It won't mean free service, because other things go wrong. It gives them a good chance to make sure your bike is running well and that you ahve a few minutes to shop in their store while they're wrenching. It is a good thing for both cyclist and bike shop.

Those are my basic guidelines. I don't think I left anything out. I'm sure some folks will disagree with them, but those should work pretty well for you.

This hardly fits the description of a quick reply. Oh well.


11-16-2010, 09:02 PM
I normally get a tune-up about once a year at a bike shop. Inflate tires about once every couple months, lube the chain maybe twice a year, or whenever it gets noticeably creaky.

11-17-2010, 10:05 AM
Thanks for all the replies!

Mark Blacknell
11-17-2010, 12:25 PM
Pete, as usual, has the best response. All I'd add is that anyone can do the vast majority of regular maintenance on their own bikes, with not much required in the way of specialized tools. If you're at all curious about it, give it a shot. You're not going to permanently screw anything up, even if you get it wrong. Worst case scenario - you get dirty and have to take it into the shop anyway.

(The Zinn book that Pete referenced above is on the shelf in the Central Library, and the Sheldon Brown site is one of the best things to ever happen to the Internet. Alternatively, lots of shops hold free basic maint clinics throughout the year. Finally, I bet there'd be a volunteer or two on this board that would gladly help an enthusiastic learner out.)

11-17-2010, 01:09 PM
And Zinn's newest edition of the Mountain Bike maintenance book hits the shelves this week... updated with the latest and greatest in mountain biking stuff.

Thank you for your kind words, sir.

Brendan von Buckingham
12-03-2010, 11:52 AM
Kerosene is my chain cleaner. Lickety-split.

They replaced your rear cassette after only 2 years instead of cleaning it? You need a new bike shop. Cleaning your rear cassette couldn't be easier. Buy that special nut for like $4 so you can get the rear cassette off the wheel. Take each ring of the casette off the pins, clean with kerosene, reassemble. Takes 20 minutes and saves you from having to buy a rear cassette every two years.