It is forecast to rain this weekend so I was thinking I would drop a tarp down over my living room floor and give my bikes a bit of a tune up.


What maintenance needs to be done on your bike? How often?


Generally speaking I am of the mind: "If it is not broken don't fix it". However I recognize that there are preventative measures that I can take that will drastically improve the life of my bike and the expense of repairing it.

I am pretty good at noticing when something changes on my bike. (For example: something is making a slightly different noise, something is not spinning well, etc). One think that I am concerned about however is when something gradually gets worse in increments that are not noticeable. For example you forget to oil part X and it gets increasingly noisier or harder to spin etc. I am concerned that I would not notice it.

I like to do my own work when possible but I will bring the bike in for work when necessary.

Answer Structure

The best answer will have this format:


  • this thing
  • this other thing


  • Bla


  • Something


  • What else?

Ideally the bullets should be sorted by importance. Importance is defined by expense. If you don't do this thing then it will cost you $X.

It is not necessary to provide a description for each procedure as we can open additional questions for each of those procedures.

Similar Questions

Edit (To get the bounty)

What I am looking for is in terms of the Monthly/Yearly sections is what a bike shop would do during their yearly tune ups. I do most of my own repairs/work and I want to make sure that I am not missing anything.

  • So, you're looking for an answer that creates the ultimate general guide to maintenance? Something that can be applied to multiple kinds of bikes? May 12, 2011 at 3:32
  • 1
    Ideally yes. Obviously some bikes will have some other things that must be done and there will be some exceptions (Ie tandoms). But I would like an overall guide. May 12, 2011 at 12:40
  • No one is going to provide you with a comprehensive guide to bike maintenance in this site. If you want a thorough guide, just get the Park Tools Blue Book.
    – user1480
    May 12, 2011 at 16:51
  • I just opened a bounty on the question. I am looking for a more generic answer with a bit more detail than what has been provided so far. I think that this question could become the table of contents (so to speak) for the entire maintenance and repair section of the site. May 14, 2011 at 14:02
  • Have added a link to this question from the [maintenance] tag wiki. May 14, 2011 at 15:32

4 Answers 4

  • Daily: check the tyres and chain. If you need air or lube, apply them. This really falls under the "when riding, be aware of your bike". Rather than thumb-test my tyres I look at the bulge in the sidewall when I'm riding.

  • Weekly: pump the tyres, lube the chain. Regardless of whether they "need it", I'll put the pump on and check the pressure, then use a bit of lube on the chain. Swap rechargeable batteries in my bike lights (LED lights use so little current that it's easy to overdischarge batteries, and weekly is about as long as I can space this before I forget. Otherwise I think "did I do this last week? Probably"). Also pick the broken glass out of your tyres. An old spoke, sharpened at one end and bent into a handle at the other works well for this.

  • Monthly: fix the niggling things that aren't really faults that stop the bike working, so I never actually fix them. Lube and adjust the gear cables, adjust the brakes, tighten the mudguard bolts, repair or replace the loose reflective tape. Check brake pads for wear etc.

  • six months/seasonally: make sure the lights are all there and working. Check and lube the shifter on my Rohloff. Check girlfriend's bike and fix anything she hasn't bothered to. On derailleur bike (ick!) check chain wear. Check for frayed gear/brake cables.

  • annually: change Rohloff oil.

There's a whole heap of other stuff that I do when necessary, like putting new tyres on. If I get a puncture on a Marathon Plus I generally replace it, because that only seems to happen when they're quite worn. Lesser tyres I check whan I'm fixing the puncture (since I have to inspect the whole tyre to find the puncturing thing anyway). If shifting gets hard or braking reels funny I check the cables, since a fraying cable is often the cause of those problems. And so on.

Edit: what would a bike shop do in their checkup?

The main thing is that they are not you so there's a second set of eyes, and partly they have no interest in "oh, that's not right but it's a pain to fix so I'll just live with it".

So the mechanic will start with the obvious stuff I listed in my "evaluate a second hand bike" answer. The mechanic will be test riding the bike, so they want to be sure it's safe to do that. And anything that needs fixing, they will note down and either fix or ring you and ask if you want to spend the money.

It's probably easier to present as a checklist of functions. For each item mentioned there's an implicit "is it there, attached securely, in working order" check as well. This is all done in a proper work stand, with good lighting. Most of the tools are the ones you'll find on a compact multitool (but they're good quality separates). All cable replacements mean replacing the outers as well, and fitting end caps etc.

  • frame and fork. Check the bearings in the headset for slop and the grinding feeling of dirty or overtight bearings (crash damage sometimes comes through there when the bearing races have been pushed out of alignment or the frame is ovalised where it's supposed to hold the bearing race). Look for dents, holes or other frame damage. If in doubt pull out the frame alignment checking tools and go wild.

  • wheels. Spin them checking for bearing play and broken/loose spokes. Look for rim wobble too. True wheels if necessary in a proper wheel truing stand (they have to be true so we can set rim brakes later, and they're expensive to replace if they're wrecked which means sometimes the whole job stops here). Check rim and tyre wear and tyre inflation. If the valve is at a funny angle let the air out, straighten it and reinflate. Inflate tyres to marked pressure so later we can check for slow leaks.

  • saddle. Tight and in usable condition.

  • handlebars. Lots of stuff happens here, but for now just twist against the wheel to make sure the headset and handlebar clamp bolts are tight.

  • crankset/bb. Spin the pedals by hand and feel for slop/grinding. Check pedal bearings too. Eyeball frame clearance (is the BB the right length, are the cranks bent?)

  • gears. Change through all gears. Check shifters and cables.

    • Replace cables and outers if there's any suggestion that this might become necessary in the next year. Poor cables means poor shifting and customers hate that.
    • Pop cables out of the frame, slide the segments of outer along so you inspect the cable and at the same time lube the cables with a grease+solvent chain lube.
    • Lube the chain. If the chain is filthy or worn (use a chain wear gauge), replace it.
    • New chain means new cassette/freewheel. Eyeball the cassette anyway, if worn replace. (Bike shops very rarely clean chains, it costs more than fitting a new one because of the time taken. If it's your bike you aren't paying for the labour so you would clean the chain at this point.)
  • brakes. All that gear testing means using the brakes. But now: squeeze each brake lever to the handlebars. This should take considerable force. Adjust the brakes so it does, the recheck. New pads and cables if there's any doubt (you'd be surprised how many cables snap at step one). Fine adjust brakes to just barely clear the braking surface. New disk rotor at this point if it's too bent.

  • mudguards/fenders, racks, lights, soft toys and other accessories. Make sure snything else on the bike is at least properly attached.

  • check the tyre pressure. It should still be whatever you inflated them to at the start. If this is your bike the check is unneccessary because you already know there's a slow leak and you will fix it now, won't you?

  • put the bike in the "to be test ridden" area for someone else to test ride (I lied above). They will check that the gears and brake work, and that the bike rides ok with no odd noises or anything. Mudguards especially can be a pain here because flimsy ones rub on the wheels at the slightest excuse. But yes, this is where you see the mechanic sprint to 30km/hr then do an emergency stop.

There are specific checks for other stuff. The rubber pad on the steering arm of Long John bikes gets replaced, roller brakes get greased etc.

If you're doing this at home you will probably need a spoke key to do basic wheel straightening on the bike where a mechanic will use a spoke tensiometer and truing stand. If you're going to send the wheel to a mechanic don't play with the spokes first. That just causes problems because your efforts will make the spoke tension really uneven. Fixing that takes time. You pay for the time...

A new bottom braket requires a crank puller and the right tool to grip the BB. It's not worth buying these for most people. It the BB has slop just get the shop to replace it.

Aside from those two most of the special tools that bike shops have make the job faster, easier and more consistent. You're never going to get "consistent" with one or two bikes, and it's not worth paying for tools you use once a year.

This should take ~30 minutes to check and lube, plus whatever repair time is required. At $100/hour charge-out rare it's $50. If your bike is clean and in good order it'll be significantly faster (5 minutes if there's nothing to do), if you bring in a rusty old "vintage classic" bike from the tip it could take days.

  • 2
    why do you write p*ncture?
    – jackJoe
    May 12, 2011 at 8:25
  • @moz: do you use hydraulic brakes? If you use, how often do you maintain them? One of my bikes tends to get the the hydro brake at the back loose after winter riding ... apparently the liquid getting bad, annoying thing when a brake just stop working. Perhaps, I should maintain my hydro brakes more often, practicing. I currently change the oil when the brake is not working anymore or many days after that.
    – user652
    May 13, 2011 at 0:53
  • @hhh: the only hydro brakes I've had were older Hayes and they didn't appear to need maintenance. I have a bleed kit and spare pads but in ~40Mm of riding over 3-4 years I never needed them.
    – Мסž
    May 13, 2011 at 0:59
  • 1
    @Neil Fein, I stumbled on another question where I found moz's reply also with this asterix and it seems to be some kind of superstition. You're absolutely right in regards to the search! I hope moz can afford some kevlar tyres and then maybe the asterix will be gone :)
    – jackJoe
    May 14, 2011 at 17:31
  • 1
    Picking broken glass out of the tyres is also part of the weekly tasks, even if Marathon Plus (such a good tyre!). May 14, 2011 at 23:56

Items are in order of importance within each section.

Daily: (As moz pointed out, much of this falls under “things to be aware of while riding”.)

  • Do the brakes work well? (If not, get off the bike and adjust immediately.) If the brakes feel a little mushy, you can frequently adjust that at the lever. Any major problems, get off the bike and fix. You don't want to be unable to stop!

  • Check the tire pressure, or at least squeeze the tires to see if they’re inflated to a reasonable level. This is more critical with high-pressure tires, to prevent pinch flats.

  • Does the drivetrain look reasonably clean? Any sticks or rocks in it? Do you feel anything grinding or clicking while riding?

  • Are you able to shift smoothly? If not, you may be able to make minor adjustments at the shifters. Make a note of any problems for later. Keep in mind that major problems can cause undue wear on the drivetrain.

  • Are the tires fairly symmetrical? If not, make a note of it, particularly any sidewall bulges.


  • Adjust your brakes, mostly taking up the slack from any cable adjustments you’ve made via the brake lever adjusters. Are the brake pads parallel to the rims? Are the pads themselves worn and in need of replacing?

  • Clean your bike. No high-pressure water, please; that can cause problems with the bearings, and and knock your derailers out of adjustment. Warm water in a bucket and soap will do the job well. Use a rag or a soft brush on the drivetrain, using degreaser to get the grease and oil off: Wipe and rinse it clean, then add some lube when you're done.

    This item can be performed monthly if you ride on clean roads, but do keep an eye on the drivetrain; small pebbles or sticks can get caught in the drivetrain and cause damage. If you have fenders, clean them as well. Don't miss the pedals, particularly clipless pedals.

  • Check for any loose bolts or screws. (Many of these can be checked by hand.) Are your wheels' quick-releases tight? (In particular, check the front wheel, especially if you remove and replace it often.)

  • Check the bearings. Are the wheels and cranks turning evenly and smoothly?

  • Take a look at your tires. Anything caught in the tread? Look for thorns, slivers of glass, pieces of metal, small rocks, and anything else. These things can work their way in over time and result in a slow leak.


  • Check for chain wear. You can do this with a ruler, or you can get a chain gauge to do this. If the chain is worn replace it immediately, but you shouldn’t need to do this more than once or twice a year.

  • How’s the chain tension? If it’s drooping too much, tighten it.

  • Does the spoke tension seem even? You can do a rough check on this by squeezing adjacent spokes together and feeling for any catches or rubbing. (This can be a less frequent check with bikes that have heavier wheels or higher spoke counts. Those of you on light road bikes with ultra-skinny wheels may want to do this weekly.)

  • Lube your brake and shifting cables. This may not need to be done monthly—twice a year is usually enough—but keep an eye on how smoothly they’re working.

Every six months:

  • Disc brakes: Time for servicing. A shop can do this best, unless you’re a pro wrencher. What you'll want done: Bleed the brakes, clean the rotors if needed, check brake pad wear. Here's a page on servicing disc brakes. Be aware the squealing can be indicative of a problem (with conventional rim brakes, it's usually just an annoyance). Check for any leaks.

  • Any tires that look worn should be replaced.

  • Is your bar tape looking worn? Handlebar grips getting ratty? It may be time for new ones.

  • Running a leather saddle? Time for some Proofride.


  • Have your wheels trued. Any shop with a truing stand can do this fairly quickly.

  • Replace any cables that have stretched too much.

  • You’ve been keeping an eye on that chain, yes? Check it again, swapping out for a new one if needed. A new chain is much cheaper than a replacement drivetrain that’s been worn down because you didn’t replace that chain!

  • How’s your saddle height and tilt? Handlebar angle? Stem height? How's the float on your clipless pedals? Time to look at these. Keep in mind that riders gain and lose weight, riding styles change, and bodies droop as they get older. Stay comfortable and keep your bike adjusted.

  • Internal hubs: How's the cable tension? Check the internal fluid by removing the pin: Is it black and dirty? It shouldn't be, in the event it is, so consider having the hub serviced.

  • Bearings: Have you been noting any clicks or catches noticed while riding? Now’s the time to have these looked at if you’re been putting it off.


  • If you ride in the winter, swap out your tires for studs, or at least ones with better tread— preferably before your first spill on the ice.

  • You’ll want to step up your cleaning routine when there’s rock salt and ice. (similarly, you can relax it in the summer.)

  • Chains are inexpensive, and generally don’t last more than a year or two, and usually need to be replaced after a winter of riding anyway.


  • Clean your bike. A clean bike is less likely to experience other problems. Clean bikes are less likely to develop rust.
  • Replace your chain at the slightest excuse. A worn, "stretched" chain will wear down your drivetrain, requiring expensive repairs. It's worth learning how to do his on your own, if only so you can afford to do it more often.
  • Pay attention to your bike while riding. If something is loose or broken, you'll feel it.

The ABC Quick Check

There is only one thing I would add to Moz's answer. I work at a bike rescue and down there we teach people something called the ABC Quick Check.

A is for Air. Check the air in your tires.

B is for Brakes, Bearings. Check if the brakes are responsive and in good working order. Make sure the wheel spins okay.

C is for Crank, Chain. Check if there is any play by grabbing the crank arms and moving them side to side. Make sure the chain is properly lubricated.

Quick is for the quick releases on your bike. Make sure they are tight enough so that things don't just start falling off on you.

I recommended doing this every time you get on your bike.

  • 1
    How do I know whether or not my chain is properly lubricated?
    – Ryan
    May 13, 2011 at 18:17
  • Easy. Take your hand and rub your chain. What you want to see come off it is lube without too much grit. If there is too much grit, not enough lube, or both you need to clean and lubricate your chain. Also, if your chain is showing signs of rust it is helpful to run it through some degreaser to clean it off, and repeat if your chain is particularly dirty. May 14, 2011 at 2:53

I've scanned in a a page from the 'Free Your Bike' booklet by Sustrans, a registered biking and transport charity in the UK. I hope this is what you're looking for and that you find it useful.

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