How To Make Your Bike Feel Like New

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If your bike looks and feels a little tired, it may be time to give it a facelift.

With supply-chain issues sparking problems throughout the bicycle industry, new bikes are in short supply in most places. But don’t fret. There are plenty of ways to make that dusty 10-speed or trusty mountain bike hanging in your garage look and pedal like new.

Clean It

The easiest way to rejuvenate any bike is to give it a proper, thorough cleaning. When it’s time to replace parts, it’s always better to start from a clean slate.

Install New Bar Tape or Grips

The most cost-effective way to give your bike a facelift? New bar tape. After a season of sweat and hard use, your existing tape is likely worn and dingy. Typically, I swap out my bar tape each spring. An almost overwhelming number of colors and patterns are out there, including multi-colored camo, dual-tones and more.

Besides cosmetic improvement, there are also performance reasons to replace your tape. Thicker tape offers more shock absorption, while thinner tape will give you a more tactile feel of the bars. I prefer tape with a tacky feel for a better grip. I usually go with Lizard Skins tape, which offers the best of both worlds.

Mountain bike grips are much hardier than bar tape so you can usually get several years out of a pair, depending on how much and how hard you ride. But sometimes you might just want a change. I swear by Ergon grips with a flat base that allow me to ride longer and in greater comfort.

Replace Your Chain and Cassette

Even with proper cleaning and maintenance, all bike parts eventually wear out. The more you ride on a chain, the more it stretches, causing your bike to shift poorly. If your chain seemingly jumps when shifting gears, it’s probably time to replace it. Expect to do this every 3,000 miles or so. And you can replace it yourself.

If you replace your chain regularly, you can extend the life of your other drivetrain components. But as all things must end, your cassette will need to be replaced, and you can do that yourself as well.

Remember that not all chains and cassettes are the same. If you ride a bike with an 11-speed SRAM or Shimano drivetrain, you need a compatible 11-speed chain or cassette. Not only will a clean, new drivetrain look great, but it’ll also pedal more efficiently and quietly.

Bike mechanic repairing a wheelgilaxia/Getty Images

Mount New Tires

Fresh rubber provides a multitude of benefits, including better grip and puncture resistance. For most road riders, the best option will be Continental Gatorskins, offering the best puncture-resistance and durability of any tire I’ve tried.

Mountain-bike riders should choose a new tire based on the terrain they ride. Typically, the gnarlier the trail, the knobbier the tire. For a great all-around tire, I recommend Maxxis Minions, which offer relatively low rolling resistance with great cornering traction.

Want to lower the risk of a rogue thorn ruining your day on the trail? Go tubeless.

Replace Your Brake and Shifter Cables

Cables wear, fray and rust when exposed to corrosive elements. Though I know cables need to be replaced regularly — generally once every season or two for most enthusiast riders — I almost always overlook it until my shifting or braking begins to suffer.

If the cable housing is clean and free of debris, you can reuse it, but it’s typically best to replace the housing and the cables at the same time. Shimano makes cable and housing kits in different color varieties, allowing you to improve performance and better match your bike’s color scheme.

Mechanic repairing bicycle rear wheelPredrag Vuckovic/Getty Images

Swap Out Accessories

Things attached to your bike can give it an entirely new look. A few of the easiest accessories to replace are bottle cages and pedals.

I’ve used Speedplay pedals for about a decade and a half, and I only replaced my initial pair earlier this year. Unfortunately, Speedplay no longer offers multiple colors, only basic black. Riders desiring a pop of color on the cheap should think about replacing their bottle cages. Elite makes a lightweight plastic option in multiple colors.

Buy New Wheels (Or Light Up Your Old Ones)

Few upgrades offer as much performance difference as a new wheelset. For looks, new hoops can be definite head-turners.

You can build up your own wheels, choosing hubs, rims and spokes. But that’s rarely cost effective, especially when considering the added costs of a truing stand. Likewise, a set of carbon racing wheels can actually be more expensive than a new bike, and is overkill for most riders who will never pin on a race number.

Given the vast differences in quality and materials among manufacturers, I’d recommend most riders forgo the internet and visit their local bike shop to choose a new set of wheels. Bike riders who often pedal in the dark and want to show off their ride for vanity and safety can add bright LED lights to their wheels.

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Robert Annis
After spending nearly a decade as a reporter for The Indianapolis Star, Robert Annis finally broke free of the shackles of gainful employment and now freelances full time, specializing in cycling and outdoor-travel journalism.
Over the years, Robert's byline has appeared in numerous publications and websites, including Outside, National Geographic Traveler, Bicycling, Men's Journal, Popular Mechanics, Paste, Bike, Midwest Living, Dirt Rag and VeloNews. When he's not hunched over a keyboard, you'll likely find him either pedaling the backroads and trails of the Midwest on his bicycle or hopping around the globe with his beautiful wife, Dee.
Robert is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, Society of American Travel Writers, North American Travel Journalists Association, Midwest Travel Writers Association, and the Adventure Travel Trade Association, but please don't hold that against those wonderful organizations.
You can find examples of Robert's work on www.twitter.com/robertannis. or read his 140-character random nonsense at www.twitter.com/robertannis.