You love your bike, and you want it to last for many, many miles. Regular tune-ups are the best way to show your bike some love and keep it riding safely and smoothly for a long time. Also, if you don’t take care of your bike, damage can add up over time, leading to costly repairs, so a little proactive care and cleaning will go a long way. But this might leave you wondering….
How often do bikes need a tune-up?
Bikes need a tune-up at least every 2,000 miles or 2 times a year, depending on how often you ride and the conditions you ride in. You also need a tune-up if your bike makes strange noises, doesn’t brake or shift well, or has been in an accident. It’s better to get an unneeded tune-up then ride a bike that isn’t safe.
In this article, we’ll talk about how often you need to tune up your bike. Then, we’ll give you some vital signs that your bike needs a tune-up and talk about when to get that critical first tune-up for your brand new bike. Let’s jump in!
How Often to Tune Up a Bike
Regular tune-ups will save you money in the long run because you’ll be able to fix minor problems before they cause significant damage. And it could help prevent a crash, as well! A good bike tune-up will include obvious things like the chain and brakes, but a good mechanic will also look over trickier components such as spokes, bearings, and cables.
There are two different strategies for how often you should tune up your bike – you can plan your tune-ups seasonally or by mileage.
1. Planning Tune-ups by Mileage
If you use a sports app like Strava to keep track of your stats, you can also track how many miles you put on each bike. According to bicycling.com, A quality road bike chain used under average conditions should last you between 2000 and 3000 miles.
So, once you hit that 2000 mark, it’s a good time to start looking into a tune-up so you can get that chain changed out for a new one. However, if you are hard on your bike chain – you mash hard gears or are guilty of cross-chaining – you might want to schedule your tune-up even sooner.
2. Planning Tune-Ups by Time
If it’s easier, plan your tune-ups seasonally. Twice a year is an optimal frequency for bike tune-ups. You want to get your bike looked over before the spring season begins to make sure everything is working great. Then get it serviced again in the fall (or sooner if you ride a lot) to ensure everything is still in good working order.
How to Tell if Your Bike Needs a Tune-Up (11 Signs)
Of course, your bike might not always follow the tune-up schedule. However, there are a few signs that your bike needs a tune-up, even if it isn’t time.
Squeaking can be a sign of several different problems. Hopefully, a squeaky bike is just a sign that you need to clean and lube your bike chain. But it could also be a sign of something else. For example, squeaky brakes could mean you need new brake pads. If you don’t know how to do this yourself, call up your local bike shop and schedule a tune-up as soon as possible.
On the other hand, squeaking could also indicate something wrong with your bottom bracket, your pedals, or that a wheel or brakes are misaligned. Of course, bikes shouldn’t squeak or squawk, so if this is you, make sure you get it checked out.
2. Your Bike Vibrates or Rattles
If you hear noises such as vibrating, rattling, or some other strange sound, you might have loose bolts or screws. Your bike shop can pinpoint the problem and tighten it up for you.
3. Your Chain Keeps Dropping
If you throw your chain on hills, sprints, or when shifting, you might need your gears indexed. The limiting screw might need to be adjusted, or your cables could be stretched. If your chain keeps dropping, this is a sign you need to get the bike in the shop to get it checked.
4. Your Gears Don’t Shift Well
Maybe you aren’t tossing your chain, but your bike just doesn’t shift well. Poor shifting could mean that you need new cables or that your gears need a good cleaning. Get your bike checked if the bike is skipping gears or you shift, and nothing happens.
5. Your Brakes Feel Soft
If your brakes are spongy, squeaky, or you feel like they just aren’t stopping you correctly, get your bike in for a checkup. Rim brakes need to be aligned correctly to work, and of course, they need fresh pads. Hydraulic brakes could have a leak in the fluid, dirt in the brake fluid, or even air bubbles. Occasionally, rotors can warp and need to be replaced as well.
6. Your Bike Is Dirty
If you’ve got obvious dirt in your drivetrain or other delicate parts of your bike, you might need to take it to the shop for a tune-up. Grit and grime in the drivetrain or other moving parts can be hard to remove but will damage your bike over time. However, a bike mechanic can take your bike apart (and put it back together correctly) to get those hard-to-clean spots sparkling again.
7. You Haven’t Replaced Your Chain Recently
If it has been a long time since you replaced your chain, you might just want to take it to the shop and have it done. Since your chain should be replaced every 2000 to 3000 miles or more if you are hard on your bike or ride in adverse conditions, you need to stay on top of it. Otherwise, you could do damage to your drive train that is costly to repair. A chain checker tool is pretty inexpensive, or you can just ask the a bike shop to check it out.
8. You Crashed Your Bike
If you’ve fallen hard, crashed your bike, or hit some bad potholes, you might want to get your bike tuned up to make sure you didn’t do any severe damage to the frame or wheels. If you were injured, there’s a good chance your bike was, too, so make sure to get it looked at fast. Invisible damage to the frame or other components can leave your ride ripe for another accident.
9. Your Bike Is Rusty Or You Left It Outside for Too Long
If your bike shows signs of rust, get it to the bike doctor. Rust can mean the moving parts don’t move like they are supposed to move. Rust can cause extra wear and tear on your bike and create a hazardous situation.
10. The Headset Wobbles
If you’ve ever felt the “wobble of death” when riding, you’ll know you need to get your bike in to the bike shop before you ride it again. The wobble of death usually happens when your headset comes loose. To check, stand next to your bike, holding the left brake lever in. Put your hand on the headset and rock your bike forwards and backwards gently. If you feel a clunk or looseness in the headset, get it to the shop for a tune-up ASAP.
11. Something Just Feels Off
After riding your bike for awhile, you tend to get a feel for the machine. If something just feels off, it probably is. If your bike doesn’t ride the way you think it should, then it might just be time for a quick tune-up to get everything working properly again.
When to Get the First Tune-Up (for a New Bike)
As tempting as it might be, don’t ride your new bike until you’ve had it thoroughly checked by your favorite bike mechanic. Your local bike shop can do a safety check and tune-up for you before you take that new ride out on the road, especially if you’ve bought your bike used, directly from the manufacturer, or eBay. You don’t want to end up stranded or in a crash because your bike wasn’t put together correctly.
If you’ve purchased a new bike from a bike shop, you’ll want to take it to get its first real tune-up after a couple of weeks of riding. This first tune-up is important because new cables can stretch, and there might be a few kinks to work out. However, this tune-up should be a pretty straightforward process, and many bike shops will offer the first tune-up for free if you purchased the bike there.