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What are the periodic maintenance tasks (weekly, monthly, annual, every X miles) that anyone who relies on a bike for transportation (typically in urban/semi-urban environments) should be performing? Ideally stated in terms of miles travelled (where applicable).

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9 Answers 9

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My bike service guys wrote a blog article along these lines. You may find it useful.

The article recommends four principals for basic bike care. These are

  • Keep your tyres pumped
  • If it lives outside, use it. An unused bike exposed to the elements will fairly quickly rust & seize up
  • Lubricate - little & often, less is more
  • Check your cables and bring back tension where needed
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    I would add check your chain wear, excessive chain wear can ruin chainrings and cogs, which are expensive to replace, and checking is easy...
    – daaxix
    Jul 8, 2015 at 3:32
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Mostly it depends on where and how far you commute, and road conditions (sandy, snow, salt etc etc).

At a minimum what I do is:

Daily: check tire air pressure.

Weekly: Check brake pad wear, tire wear, clean/wipe down entire bike

Monthly: Check chain tension, chainring/cogs for wear, lube chain, adjust brakes, oil all pivot points on derailleurs, brakes etc.

Annually: complete tear down, inspection and reassembly with synthetic grease on all bearings.

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    Good list. I'd like to add that the interval for lubing the chain will depend on the environment it's used in. Monthly is a good starting point, but if you bike in the rain a lot, it will not be enough. If you ride in really bad weather (especially combined with salt on the streets), you may have to lube the chain every few days.
    – sleske
    Feb 9, 2011 at 10:43
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    Daily tire pressure checks are excessive for most people, IMO.
    – Batman
    Dec 28, 2013 at 3:47
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    @Batman: Yes, and so is a complete tear down. I've used bikes for years without ever tearing them down completely. Also, on modern bikes most bearings are not serviceable anyway (unlike old bearings, where this made sense).
    – sleske
    Dec 31, 2013 at 21:40
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Being a big guy (~400lbs), I do a lot of damage to my bikes, so I check things more often and most of the time there isn't a problem. It's just better to double check. So as a result, here is my paranoid check schedule:

When needed:

  • Brake fine adjust (at the lever to maintain feel).
  • Chain lube.
  • Chain cleaning (if it has been wet out, this can be more often than below).
  • Clean disc brakes with rubbing alcohol.

Daily:

  • Tire pressure by feel (squeeeeze, it's like a hug for your tires!).
  • Brake feel (give it a good hard stab on my way out of the driveway).

Every 3 rides:

  • Accurate tire pressure.

Weekly:

  • Headset adjustment.
    • It's a quick check, takes all of 30 seconds if it isn't out of adjustment.
  • Visually check the brakes for any damage or maladjustment.

Monthly:

  • Bottom bracket adjustment.
  • Chain clean.
  • Wheel bearing check.
  • Accessory tightness (is that rear rack still attached?).
  • Lube rear cog bearings with chain lube.

Every 3 months:

  • Chain ring bolts.
  • Pedal bearings and make sure they're tight.
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    Note that many (most?) modern bottom brackets are sealed units, which do not need to (and usually cannot) be serviced, so no adjusting, let alone disassembling and greasing.
    – sleske
    Feb 9, 2011 at 10:44
  • The "feel" of a brake lever isn't necessarily a good indicator of how well the brakes are setup. You can get a nice hard feeling if you have too little mechanical advantage, for example.
    – Batman
    Jan 7, 2014 at 4:31
  • @Batman Feel of the lever is more a personal adjustment that is important to me for panic stops, as well as a way to check for catastrophic failure, such as leaving cantilever brakes "open" after patching a tire.
    – Jack M.
    Jan 8, 2014 at 14:52
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Just to Add to the already good suggestions, If you bike at night,

Weekly

  • Check headlights/backlights and Replace batteries; especially if you have a older incandescent (ie Not LED) light
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  • You should always carry spare batteries, especially in the winter months. I go one step further and have a set of very cheap (~3 dollars) lights on hand (the kind which stretches over the handlebars and seatpost) which will get me home in most cases and are better than nothing. And I think everyone should have lights on their commuter - you will eventually need them, even if you typically commute during the day.
    – Batman
    Jan 7, 2014 at 4:25
  • Please, please also check the adjustment of your light! During the past years I noticed more people use (LED) lights (which is great!) but have them pointing several kilometres to high - blinding everyone heading in their direction! :C
    – nuala
    Mar 20, 2015 at 17:24
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This depends greatly on the type of bicycle: a Dutch type commuter bike requires very little maintenance. Simply checking tire pressure weekly/monthly and maybe lubricating the chain once a year will keep it in good conditions for years (with minimal repairs needed).

The reason is that very few sensitive parts are exposed to weather and outside conditions: completely covering chaincase, internal hub gear, hub dynamo, etc.

My feeling is that it does help a lot to store the bike inside or at least under a roof to better protect it from rusting.

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  • I'd think for most commuters who ride rain or shine, the hubs will need to be repacked at least yearly, even on a dutch bike.
    – Batman
    Jan 5, 2014 at 21:00
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    @Batman: I do commute daily in any weather (including snow) since childhood, but I've never disassembled the hubs, nor did they break down (or have I heard this happen to people I know). Jan 6, 2014 at 10:36
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The rear red light may require special attention. It is much less safe without it, and impossible to notice what it is suddenly off because the battery has ran out on the way. Mine has the charge indicator that I check daily and keep at "fully charged" (likely above 75 %). Front light is also important but at least you see if it works.

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Just got my sheared kickstand bolts extracted in a bicycle shop. It was $53 and took time. I could easily replace the bolts myself before they are worn enough to break unexpectedly. But when the heads brake off, unscrewing stems from the frame is already an art.

If you have a kickstand fixed with bolts that are screwn right into the frame, replace these bolts after 5000 km or about. The bolts failed after 5500 km with little warning.

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If you are really happy with your commuter, once a year take out the seatpost and remove the saddle, clean and inspect everything, including inside of the seat tube, reinstall. Otherwise parts may seize and in the worst case you won't be able to, for example, replace a worn saddle or adjust height when (not if - when) your back or knees change as you age.

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What are the periodic maintenance tasks (weekly, monthly, annual, every X miles) that anyone who relies on a bike for transportation (typically in urban/semi-urban environments) should be performing? Ideally stated in terms of miles travelled (where applicable).

Here are some that you want to do:

  • Every 2 weeks: pump up the tires (assuming road bike; on a fatbike it could be even every 2 years)
  • Every 500-1000 km: lubricate the chain (you do this only when it sounds dry), check for chainwear and if it's too worn, replace chain, testing whether it works with the old cassette or if the old cassette needs to be replaced too. Also while lubricating the chain, it may be useful to clean the rear derailleur jockey wheels.
  • Every 2000-5000 km: change brake pads (assuming disc brakes)
  • Every 5000-10000 km: buy a new tire, put it to front, move the old front tire to rear, retire the rear tire
  • Every 10000-20000 km: change brake discs (assuming disc brakes)

Other than that, do maintenance when it's needed. For example, if a bearing feels or sounds damaged, service/replace it depending on the bearing type. If your handlebar tape, brake lever hoods, handlebar grips or saddle is damaged, you want to replace it. If a cable snaps, put a new cable there. If you have a puncture, put a new tube in and patch the old inner tube for re-use later. If a spoke snaps, replace it with a new spoke.

It may be useful to occasionally remove the seatpost and re-grease.

It also may be useful to periodically inspect handlebar, seatpost and cranks for cracks, but it's hard to say how quickly a crack develops from "visible" to "dangerous".

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  • What chain lube gives you 500-1000 km before re-lubing?
    – WornChain
    Oct 1, 2023 at 21:36
  • Oil gives 500-1000 km. As a matter of fact, the longest lubrication interval for me has been 2200 km, although it may have been better to lubricate earlier since at the end of this 2200 km, the chain wear may have been bit faster than normally. But 1000 km can easily be exceeded. So-called "dry" lubes don't last as long as oil does.
    – juhist
    Oct 2, 2023 at 17:06
  • I tried a oily "wet lube" this year. Stays on longer than last years dry lube, but it has halved the longevity of my chains. And my brand of choice did not last 500km, more like 50-100. I must have picked a bad one. But I always was suspicious of how thin it seemed.
    – WornChain
    Oct 2, 2023 at 17:15

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