Fitness Articles

7 Steps to Tune Up Your Bike for Spring

Basic Bicycle Maintenance and Safety Checks

It's no secret that the modern bicycle is a versatile machine, offering options for transportation, recreation, fitness, competition and employment. Cycling provides a host of health benefits, including improved cardiovascular functioning, leg strength, balance and coordination, plus improvements in mood. Biking can also help with weight management. For those living in seasonal climates, our bicycles typically lie dormant during the cold winter months and resurface in spring. But before you head outside for your first ride of the season, spend some time getting your bike ready for the road. These basic bike maintenance tips will help ensure a safe, efficient ride all season.

7 Steps for a Spring Tune Up
Before you think about taking your bike for a spin, make sure you give it a thorough tune-up. Don’t worry; most of these checks are easy to administer. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, have a bike shop tune your bike (cost is approximately $30-65).

Tune-up task #1: Clean your bike.
A clean bike extends the life of all its components, just as a clean car lasts longer.

What to do: Use a basic biodegradable cleaner such as Simple Green, a towel and an old toothbrush to clean everything: the frame, chain, chain rings, cassette, derailleurs, pedals, brakes, and seat. Make an effort to use as little water as possible. Also, remove the seat post (the tube connected to your seat that slides into the frame) and after cleaning it, and add a small amount of bicycle grease before reattaching it. This grease will last longer than oil, which dries out faster, and will also act as a barrier against rust in the seat tube.

Tune-up task #2: Inspect your brake system.
Brakes are a vital component of all bikes because they provide control over the speed you travel. Controlling speed reduces the likelihood of being in an accident. Brakes also permit the cyclist to maneuver while turning, riding up and down hills and avoiding debris or other obstacles.

What to do: First, check the brake pads, the rectangular rubberized component that actually rubs against the metal tire rim. Just like the brakes in your car, bicycle brakes wear down over time and need to be replaced. Use a flashlight to assess if the pads are wearing evenly. If you notice a ridge or other uneven wear pattern, you may need to have your brakes adjusted. Replace the pads if they show excessive wear. Next, squeeze the brake lever on your handlebars and watch the brake pads. They should hit the rim at the same time. If they don't, you can adjust your brakes with the brake arm tension screw, which is located on one of the brake lever arms near the tire. If you notice too much slack in the cable when pulling your brakes, roll out the barrel adjuster at the end of the lever (where the cable enters the housing) to add tension to the brake cable, thereby making the brakes react more quickly.
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Member Comments

    I don't feel like the brakes on my bike are loose, but I didn't realize that brake pads would need to be repaired like a car's. I am noticing that it seems as if my brakes got bent, so I'll be attempting to adjust them with the brake arm tension screw like you suggested. Thank you! www.advancetyrean - 7/17/2015 10:13:45 AM
  • This makes me want to ride a bike but I don't have one and have no place to ride one. - 5/7/2014 5:43:39 AM
  • This was excellent--thank you! - 4/18/2014 7:58:22 AM
  • JEDEN6
    I love riding my bike every day to work. I think it is definitely worth it to get the exercise, and I always feel relaxed after I get to work. It also helps me because I am trying to lose weight. I appreciate you posting these tips on how to inspect a bike.
    Jayden Eden | http://pacesetter
    rt-services.html - 4/2/2014 9:52:11 PM
  • Pretty good article. I know the only time I was ever lucky with truing a wheel was when I was volunteering at Red Cross and I had to true a wheelchair wheel as we didn't have any spares as I recall and I could spare the time. You have to watch for both wobble and run out as they both affect each other. As I recall it was tricky and time consuming.
    - 3/24/2014 9:21:04 PM
  • Good article, but when I was reading it I started to smile these steps could be used for us. We have been cooped up in the house all winter and now we need to get all the kinks out so we can enjoy our time outside. Getting new walking shoes, stretching before we walk or run, start slow and build up your stamina I could keep going. It gave me something to think about how should I maintain myself to keep going all summer. Happy biking or walking. - 3/24/2014 12:26:06 PM
    A very informative and helpful article. Thanks. - 3/24/2014 8:38:26 AM
  • I can't wait to get on my bike and ride! - 3/24/2014 7:20:25 AM
  • My preferred method of tuning up my bike is dropping it at the shop. My roadside toolkit is a cell phone and a credit card. God love those that can do it themselves. - 4/3/2013 10:07:36 AM
  • Decent basic article for those new to biking, though it does have you running to the shop a little too often, IMHO. Glad to see cleaning high on the list, too...after a winter of riding, grime and salt (if you live in a salting state) really build up, and do a number on your powdercoat!

    I would add that making sure you have a well-stocked roadside toolkit is also KEY to maintenance. Carrying a small set of road tools (hex keys, tire levers, screwdriver, chaintool, patch kit, pump, etc.) allows you to skip long walks back home and make many repairs while riding. Most LBSs will sell an all-in-one tool that covers most of the basics aside from the patch kit and pump--great investment. - 3/22/2012 2:21:05 PM
  • This was a very informative article. Most articles here are, but this is something I knew NOTHING about, but wanted to learn more. I have a mountain bike and my mom loaned me her cruiser type bike - I'm trying to figure out which type is best for me, but they both need to be checked out. Now I know how things are connected and how they work and how to tell if something isn't quite right and how to possibly fix it. Yay! - 3/22/2012 9:05:39 AM
  • Make friends with and support your local bike shop! They are a wealth of information and much more willing to help you when you need it if you are a "regular" customer. - 5/23/2011 9:05:15 AM
    The link to "Rules of the Road" is a bad link. Needs to be checked. - 5/22/2011 4:23:23 PM
  • Last year for fathers day i got a tricycle for the day, which i ride whenever possible...the basket on the rear makes it possible to carry my airtank along with a bottle of water along the ride...i made one addition to the basket from last year.I put a piece of plywood in the shape of the baskets so the airtanks doesnt rattle around and i have put some bungee straps to hold my airtank in one place so i can concentrate on my ride and not on some strange noises....and today i used the aritcle to go over and recheck all the systems for a ride in the morning....yehaw lets go riding..... - 4/27/2010 6:41:49 PM
  • Great article but I seriously recommend those not experienced with bike mechanics to do some research before attempting to fix/replace their bike components. There are some really good resources online, example: Getting things replaced at bike shops is generally pretty inexpensive (if you go for standard parts) and the work is done really well and pretty fast (same day turn around on most things). You can also recruit some of your more bike savvy buddies to help you out. There are certain tools you will definitely need to own if you want to do your own work. Here's a list of some basic tools you need for basic mechanic work: allen wrench set, tire levers, lube, tubes, patch kits (should have some even if you don't want to do your own work), and maybe a few other things that I'm forgetting.

    Disclaimer: I don't do my own bike work, that's what my bf is for (hehe) but I do help out and I have taken my bike to a few shops to get: one set of cantilever brakes replaced ($20), new front hub bearings ($19), good work done cheaply (priceless). - 4/6/2010 11:58:54 AM

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