8 Easy Steps to Tuning up Your Bike

A man riding a bicycle in an urban environment

Whether you ride your bike for fun, exercise, or it's a convenient mode of transportation to get back and forth to school or work, keeping it well-tuned is important. With all the parts of a bike that need to work together as a team for a smooth and reliable ride, it's important to do regular tune ups to keep your bicycle working its best.

Step 1 - Clean Your Bike Chain

Clean the chain with a wet cleaning/lube agent designed specifically for bikes. These agents generally act as a degreaser, as well, which helps in removing dirt and grime buildup. Apply the lube lightly over the entire chain, then using a small towel or cloth, grasp a section of chain on the lower portion. While gripping the towel tightly with one hand, use the other to pedal the bike backwards. As the chain travels through the towel/cloth, grease buildup is removed. Keep the backward pedaling motion in progress until the chain is clean.

An alternative method is to remove the chain and place it overnight into a container filled with degreaser. The next morning, use a cloth or towel to wipe down the chain until it's shiny and clean.

The lube provides two-fold help; cleaning the chain to remove goop and lubricating the chain for a smoother ride.

Step 2 - Clean the Bike Cassette

Bicycle Cassette

The cassette needs to be cleaned. To do this requires removal of the rear wheel. Once the wheel is removed, apply lube onto the cassette. Use a towel or cloth to remove the grease trapped between the cogs.

Step 3 - Check the Brakes and Derailleurs

Check the brakes and derailleurs. There are many moving parts on your bike that attract dirt and these two areas are prime examples. Do a visual check of your bike as well as using the brake levers while it's in operational mode. By doing so, a visual check will show the areas where metal meets metal. By using the levers, you'll experience any issues with low brake pressure and hear any squealing of the brakes. These are the areas where you will apply a drop or two of lubricating oil.

Step 4 - Clean the Brake Pads

There are two things to check. First, make sure the brake pads are aligned with the rims. They should not be in a position where they rub the tire, nor should they be aligned so they don't connect with the rim. If either situation is evident, adjust the brake pads so they fit properly. Second problem is dirt/debris that may become embedded in between the brake pads and the rims. Using a pointed instrument, carefully remove bits of dirt, grit, sand, or other material from the pads. This ensure the pads will not scratch the rims and keeps the mechanism working in proper "braking" order.

Step 5 - Maintain Proper Tire Pressure

A man inspected a bike tire

Just like a car's tires need proper pressure, so, too, do the tires on a bike. Know what the suggested tire pressure is for the specific manufacturer's tires on your bike. Using a tire pressure gauge, check the level of pressure and increase it to the appropriate level. Be sure the tire pressure is checked and adjusted in both tires. Failure to keep the tire pressure regulated promotes several problems. These include more difficulty pedaling, rims become damaged due to the proximity to street/highway surfaces, lessens the lifespan of the tires, and promotes the possibility of getting a flat.

Step 6 - Bicycle Tire Treads

Do a visual check of the tires frequently and inspect them for issues such as cracks or gouges in the side or bottom of the tread as well any worn spots where there is little to no tread. If you see evidence of degraded tread, it's time to replace your bike tire(s).

Step 7 - Check the Bike's Wheels

Check all areas on the bike where there are mechanisms designed to keep the wheels secure and in place. If these mechanisms are loose, tighten and/or adjust them to ensure a safe ride.

Step 8 - Inspect Your Handlebars

Use the appropriate tool to tighten any nuts/bolts, etc. that are used to secure the handlebar stem. If it is loose and not tightened, it can become disengaged resulting in no control of the bike, which can lead to an accident.

To keep your bike in good running order, keep a checklist handy, frequently go over it, and tune up your bike accordingly. By doing so can save both time and money by finding potential problems before they occur and extending the life of your bike.