Fitness Articles

7 Steps to Tune Up Your Bike for Spring

Basic Bicycle Maintenance and Safety Checks

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A poor braking system could lead to loss of control while riding, which could lead to accidents and serious injury. If you conclude that your brakes are not working properly, then do not ride your bike; take it to a bike shop to be repaired. If your brakes fail while riding, figure out a way to stop your bike (perhaps go up hill or steer onto the grass or other high friction surface). After you have come to a complete stop, get off your bike and walk home or call for a lift. Have the brakes repaired before riding again.

Tune-up task #3: Watch your wheels.
Wheels (rims) hold your tires in place and provide stability and smoothness while riding. Your bike would not move without rims because they allow consistent contact between the tires and road surface.

What to do: Clean the wheels with rubbing alcohol and a clean, dry cloth. Inspect the rims for nicks, scrapes, dents or other damage. Next, elevate one end of the bike and spin the wheel. The wheel should move smoothly, without wobbling. Repeat for the other wheel.

Damaged rims cause uneven wear to tires and brake pads, which can shorten their lifespan. In addition, uneven tire wear usually leads to flat tires or a blown tire while riding—a potentially dangerous situation. Replace your wheels if denting or other damage is excessive. A wobbly rim can be adjusted with a spoke wrench—a simple fix that a bike repair shop can handle better than most do-it-yourselfers. Adjusting spokes yourself can lead to more problems if you do not know what you’re doing.

Tune-up task #4: Inspect the drivetrain.
A bike’s drivetrain includes the pedals, chain, chainring, derailleur (the device that moves the chain to make riding easier or harder) and rear wheel cassette (all the little teeth in the center of the rear wheel). The drivetrain is important because it transfers the power generated by the rider's legs to the rear wheel. This transfer of power provides the force that moves the bike.

What to do: You will need a partner or bike stand to assist with this part of the tune-up. Raise the rear wheel and spin as you did when checking the wheels (task #3 above). This time, shift through all the gears. Shifting should be smooth and easy to perform. Inspect the chain, chainrings, derailleur and cassette for damage (excessive wear, missing teeth, dents, scrapes, etc.). Note that small chainrings wear out sooner than large chainrings and that chains are the most frequently replaced component of the drivetrain.
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Member Comments

  • My bike is ready to go, now all I need is for the township to clean the 6 inches of sand off our road so that it's safe to ride! No wonder people think I live on a dirt road when winter is over - they put down a LOT of sand and ours is always the last road cleaned in the spring. :-( - 4/19/2016 9:55:35 PM
    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

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