DIY Bike Tune Up: A Step by Step Guide

bike tune up

The average cost of gas nowadays is a whopping .15 cents per mile! The mixture of saving the environment and saving money seems to attract more people to commute via their bicycle. An important factor in being a bicycle owner is knowing how to perform your own bike tune-up to save both time and money.

Now that summer is approaching, it is time to bring out the bikes, save on petrol and car maintenance and use your leg fuel instead!

The average cost of a bike tune-up can be up to $80 or more, depending on if your wheels need to be replaced or not. Learning how to tune up a bike will not only save you money but also give you the feeling of confidence as you are now rocking triathlons with your self-tuned up bicycle!

Read this full tune up checklist to ensure all your bike riding days are “wheelie” good days!

First Off, Get Your Hands Dirty

Before inspecting your bike, you want to make sure it is nice and clean so that you can actually see and feel everything on the frame etc. Give it a nice hose down, and make sure you dry it after to reduce the chances of rusting.

After that, run your hands along the frame to check for any cracks or anything that seems out of place. Then put pressure on the cranks, pedals, and handlebars to make sure that nothing is loose or wobbly. Tighten as needed.

Check Tire Pressure

When a bike is sitting unused for awhile, it can lose a significant amount of air pressure. Make sure you have a good quality air pump with a strong base to stand on as you pump the handles. Also look for a pump that has large gauges, which makes it easier to read the PSI as you pump your bike.

Make sure you are pumping your tires to the factory PSI recommendations, there is a lot of false information out there that may try to tell you otherwise.

Adjust or Change Your Seat

With all the new triathlete cycling trends coming, you may just want to switch your seat to something more aerodynamic and more relatable to your desired riding style.

If you just want to inspect the seat you have already, there are a few main safety checks to look for. First off, ensure that your seat is secure, as a loose seat can lead to a possible dangerous ride. If the cover is torn or the springs are exposed, change it immediately.

Inspect The Spokes

A bent spoke will pull your wheel out of alignment and make it not true. So we recommend checking your spokes regularly to ensure they are always straight and tight. Use a spoke wrench to tighten each spoke at the base, and do not over tighten them.

Do Adjustments On the Shifters and Derailers

Prop your bike upside down, or use a stand for this one to get an accurate adjustment on your bike. You will also need a Phillips head screwdriver to adjust the derailers.

Spin the pedals and shift the gears to make sure all the shifting is smooth. Keep the chain centered on each gear by making slight adjustments on the rear and front derailer as you go.

Inspect Your Chain

If your chain is too loose, it will come off while you are riding which could affect your safety and your race time. If it is too tight, it could damage your gears, also costing you money and your race time.

Press your fingers against the top chain, and make sure it is not moving more than 1/4 to 1/2 an inch. If it is too loose on each side of the bike loosen the read wheel nuts and pull the wheel back slightly to cut some slack out of the chain.

Inspect your chain for any damage, a well-used chain needs to be replaced, so investing in one now could save you money in the long run.

Check Your Brake Levers and Pads

This one is pretty obvious, damaged brakes could cost you more than the cost of a new bike – it could cost you your life. This should be the most important inspection of your tune-up checklist.

Spin your wheel freely, then apply the brakes. Check that the pads are evenly engaging on both sides of your wheels. Make slight adjustments to the barrel adjuster as you go.

If brake pads are sticking, not stopping the wheel, or seem loose and wobbly, change them before you ride again. If the brake cables seem worn out and frayed, change them immediately.

Use Dry Lube

It is important not to confuse dry lube with other products such as WD-40 which is a water displacement product and should only be used after you wash your bike or apply water.

According to a study of bicycle chain drives and their efficiency, applying dry lube reduces friction to the drive chain, and helps for a smoother ride. Apply to all moving parts of the crankset, the rear set of gears, front gears, and chain.

Inspect All Safety Gear

Make sure all the safety accessories on your bike are tightened, functioning, and in place.

This includes:

  • Spare lights
  • Horn or bell
  • Front lights
  • Rear lights
  • Reflectors
  • Clothing reflectors and Triathlon attire
  • Water bottle holder
  • Cell Phone Holder

If your lights are dim, it is time to switch them out for new ones. There are so many cool and innovative new lights on the market now which can give you incredible night vision.

Now That You Have Done Your Bike Tune-Up, It’s Time to Get Ready for Your Next Triathlon!

Congratulations, you have done your first bike tune-up!

Check out our blog for more training tips, hacks, and information to get you ready for your next big race.

We also have numerous articles on fitness, nutrition, and health to help you get your body into tip-top racing shape.

Here’s to your racing success!