How to Tune Up a Bike

Before hitting the trail, make sure your bike is in tip-top shape. Read the following tips from a bicycle service technician to learn how to get your bike ready to roll.

Young Woman Fixing Her BicycleKathrin Ziegler/Getty images

Because of the pandemic, more people are getting outside on bikes. As a result, bike sales have skyrocketed. So have wait times to get bikes repaired and tuned up. Some bike shops won’t even accept a repair if the bike wasn’t purchased there. Fortunately, there are some simple tune-ups you can do yourself.

Check Your Tires

“The first thing to check is the tires,” says Alfred Witmer, a service technician at Molehill Bikes in Dayton, Virginia. Tires lose air when stored for long periods of time. If the tires are worn out, replace them. If you don’t already have one, invest in an air pump with a pressure gauge. Also, make sure the wheel spokes are straight and tight. Use a spoke wrench if they need tightening.

Take Care of the Chain

After the tires, check the chain. When pressing down on it with your finger, it shouldn’t move more than 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Too loose and it will come off, too tight and it could damage the bike. Witmer recommends applying lubrication to the chain, front and rear gears and all the moving parts in the crankset. Use a dry lubricant rather than oil or WD-40, which attracts dirt.

Check the Brakes

A bike wreck from faulty brakes would surely dampen the excitement of riding. Check that the pads are tight and make proper contact with the wheels. Replace any worn pads. Squeeze the brake levers and make sure they activate the pads on both wheels without sticking.

Adjust the Gears

With your bike upside down, change the gears as you rotate the pedals. Make sure it shifts smoothly and the chain stays centered on each gear. If you need to adjust the front and rear derailleurs, use a small Phillips-head screwdriver.

Adjust the Seat Height

Witmer’s final recommendation on how to get your bike ready for spring is to check the seat height. Seats are one of the most important, but often over looked bike accessories. Adjust and tighten it with a crescent wrench, if needed, and make sure it’s facing forward. A loose or misaligned seat makes your first ride of the season an uncomfortable one.

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Carol J. Alexander
Carol J. Alexander is a Virginia writer specializing in sustainable/green living, home remodeling, and lifestyle topics. Since 2007, her work has appeared in Grit, AcreageLife, Hobby Farms, and over 70 other national, regional, and local print publications, as well as online. Carol helps clients position themselves as an authority in the marketplace by providing easy-to-understand, educational content that attracts readers, answers their questions, and meets their needs.