How to Tune Up a Bike: Tips for Care and Maintenance

As a responsible bike owner, there are many things that you need to learn. Aside from the basics of riding a bike, you should know the fundamentals of care and maintenance. Among others, one of the most important is to learn how to tune up a bike.

Ideally, you should tune up your bike at least once a year. You might need to do it at least twice a year if you use your bike regularly and in tough conditions. Tuning it up makes sure that you will have a safe and sound ride.

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How to Tune Up a Bike

As you will learn in this section, it does not take an expert to figure out how it is done. Pack a bit of patience and determination, and you are all good.

Start by Cleaning the Bike

Before you begin, the first thing you need to do is to clean the entire bike. You have to clean every inch of the bike. For most people, this is the part that they hate the most, especially if they do not want their hands to be dirty and greasy.

Tips for Cleaning the Bike

To make it easier to clean the bike, you need to know where to start and how to proceed. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Clean the chain and the drivetrain. They are considered the heart of the bike, which is why it is critical that it is free of dirt to keep the bike performing at its best state. Use a clean towel to wipe the chain. A degreaser and fine brush will come handy if there are grease and dirt stuck on the surface. Clean and dry once you are done. Do not forget to apply a lubricant.
  2. Proceed to the cassette of the bike. Remove the rear wheel of the bike. Apply a lubricant in the cassette. Floss the cogs to remove any grease that is stuck in between.
  3. Now, you have to clean the body of the bike. Lightly mist the bike and use a scrub or a brush to remove the dirt on the surface. Pay attention to mud and hardened dirt in the areas that you do not usually see.

Work on the Brakes


After cleaning the different parts of the bike, you now have to perform a quick inspection of the brakes, making sure that it is in a sound condition. Otherwise, your safety will be compromised.

Start with the inspection of the brake pads. Over time, they can be overused and will begin to wear off. The brake cables should also be checked and look for possible signs that they have been stretched beyond their limit. One of the easiest ways to know if there is a problem is to check the brake lever. Prior to stopping the bike, if the lever gets in contact with the handlebar, this is a sign that the brake pads or the cables should be checked.

You should also work on centering the brakes. If not, the braking mechanism will have an issue. All that you have to do is to loosen the bolt that holds the caliper in place. Reposition the caliper and tighten the bolt. See to it that the brake pads are spaced out evenly.

Check the Tires and Wheels

These are equally important parts of the bike, which is why it is crucial that you also work on them during the tune-up. Look for obvious problem signs in the tires, such as cracks and splits. If the tread is already thin, it is best to buy a replacement. The wheels and the spokes should also be inspected. See to it that they are in their best condition. For instance, there should be no bent spokes.

Make it a habit to check the pressure of the tires, especially if you are going out for a long ride. The least that you want is to suffer from an accident because of the wrong tire pressure. Use a gauge to check the tire’s pressure and compare it against the pressure that the manufacturer recommends. This suggestion is printed on the side of the tire. For mountain bikes, the pressure should be anywhere from 40 to 60 psi. On the other hand, if it is a road bike, the maximum pressure is 120 psi.

Assess the Shifting

Checking the shifting is also an important part of tuning up your bike. Simply put, you must be able to shift the gears smoothly. If you encounter any problem, look at the tension of the chain. Chances are, the chain is loose. A quick chain adjustment will fix your shifting problems.

Remember, even if you have clean chains, they can still jump and malfunction when there are shifting issues. Turning the barrel adjuster connected to the derailleur is a quick fix. Do a ½ turn clockwise to make the necessary adjustments. If the bike’s chain fails to move to the next cog, you need to perform another ½ turn. On the other hand, if it moves two cogs when you shift, you need to make a ½ backward turn.


After completing the steps mentioned above, lubrication is an important step that you should not miss. Apply your choice of lubricant on the moving parts of the bike or those that constantly get in touch with each other. The lubricant is instrumental in preventing the presence of dirt and grime while providing an assurance that the components will move smoothly.

Aside from the brake, you should also lubricate the derailleurs, brake levers, and exposed parts of the cable wires, among other parts.

The right choice of lubricant will have a huge impact on the outcomes of the tune up. With that, if you are lubricating the chain, choose one that is extra-dry and Teflon-based. Even if it gets wet, this will stay dry. The main benefit of the latter is that dirt and dust won’t easily cling on the surface, so there is no need for you to worry that it will harden.

Wrap Up

Indeed, anyone can learn how to tune up a bike. Best of all, it does not require complicated steps. Even with just an hour to spare, you can do this on your own. Once you have accomplished the task, you will surely be proud of yourself!