How To Service A Bike Yourself
Being able to service, maintain and fix issues on your bike is definitely a skill worth acquiring. Trips to the bike store can add up after a while – especially if you have more than one bike (Everybody needs more than one bike, right!).
Below we’ve listed a few things to look for and tools you may need if you do want to try and service your own bike.
After reading this article, if you are looking for even more information, we can definitely recommend this video collection of over 200 videos and DIY manuals that show you step-by-step what to look for and how to be able to carry out your own bike repairs and maintenance at home.
Tools you will need
Bike stand (optional)
What to look out for
Dirt and grime
Damage to components
Wear and tear
Damaged nuts and bolts
Brake pads wear
How often should you service your bike?
You should regularly service your bike to ensure it is running efficiently and that there are no worn or damaged components. The more you ride the bike the more frequent you should be servicing it, especially after riding in dirt, sand, mud and in the rain.
It is also important to service your bike if you have not ridden for some time, as the bike may deteriorate whilst in storage.
The first step is to degrease and clean the bike frame. Start by looking for any damage in the frame first. The bike frame is an element of the bike that will not get replaced easily and all the other parts can be replaced. So let’s start here!
First inspect the frame for any damage scratches, dents or cracks. Begin at the front of the bike, the head tube. This area includes the steering tube, the forks, and crossbar. Small cracks can appear quickly and may be repaired if not too extensive.
As you are inspecting the bicycle it makes sense to degrease and clean it as you are inspecting the sections. A clean bike is a fast bike, and one of the first jobs on your checklist should be to give your bike a good clean, whether it’s been in use, especially if you have been riding in dirt, mud or wet weather. If dirt gets into your gearing components it can cause scratching and damage quickly, and therefore not operate efficiently.
If you’re feeling on form, then you should have a bike which looks top dollar too, and if it’s the first time you’ve given your steed the once-over in a while then we’re not just talking about a quick going over with a damp cloth. A thorough clean can give a bike a new lease of life and will also give you the opportunity to check for damage.
Standing your bike upright (or, better still, using a work-stand designed for home use like this one on Amazon), rinse the bike to get rid of any loose dirt and then use a cleaning agent to work away any more stubborn much with a sponge and warm water.
Next up clean the drivetrain (more on that on the next page) and then take to the wheels, paying particular attention to the cassette and brake track.
Rinse again with clean water, dry the bike with a clean rag and re-lube the chain and your tired-looking bike will be well on the way to looking like a new machine.
Do you know What Does A Bicycle Tune-Up Consist Of? Check our article.
Check your wheels
Throughout the season is the ideal opportunity to check your wheels are up to scratch, particularly if you’ve ridden a lot or through rough terrain. Check the spokes to ensure they are correctly tensioned and replace anywhere necessary. Also, check that the wheel is true. It should spin freely without any side-to-side movement.
Needless to say, you should ensure check your quick release skewers are tight and in good working order and the hubs spin smoothly. Inspect the bearings for wear or damage, clean by wiping down any dirt. Do not degrease or spray them with any cleaners, as they are sealed unit and it will wash out any lubrication within the casing. If damaged you will need to replace. (This may be a job for the more experienced).
Tighten Everything Up
One of your final jobs should be to make sure all the key bolts on your bike are tight. It’s also an opportunity to check no bolts are damaged and need replacing. Most bolts on your bike will have a torque setting and it’s important to adhere to these. It’s easy to over-tighten the seat clamp on a carbon frame, for example, which can cause damage both to the frame and seat post.
Typically, the torque rating for these bolts is 5nm or 6nm (or as marked), and a torque wrench is a worthwhile investment to make sure you don’t do any lasting damage to your bike. You can use a pre-set torque key such as Topeak, Ritchey or Bontrager, which only allows tightening to the tools specified torque setting. This can be helpful for the novice. (We have an article here that goes into more details on the importance of a torque wrench)
The headset is one of the most important components with the handlebars and stems to keep tight, so be sure to check it is tight regularly. A loose headset and the play will create a knocking noise when braking, however, if it is too tight, the handlebars won’t turn freely and you could easily damage bearings and other internal components.
Check The Brakes/Cables
The importance of the brakes goes without saying so ensuring your brakes are well maintained and that you check the cables and the pads are essential. With the wheel off the ground, spin it and pull the brakes – it should lock immediately.
Check the pads are making contact with either side of the rim at the same time and they’re wearing at an even rate.
While you are at it check the rim for wear, looking at the braking surface for wear, marks, dents, and scratches.
Check the brake levers are not ‘sticky’ and the cables have enough tension in them. It’s worth checking all cables, not just the brake cables, and ensuring they are in good conditions.
Preventing an accident is face preferable so it will reward your efforts for your due diligence. Replacing a worn brake cable is an important task to prevent lasting damage to the shifter, as it can otherwise place additional strain on the internal mechanism, and a cable that splits can be extremely difficult to remove.
Check Your Gears
A number one annoyance and possible hazard are misaligned derailleurs and poorly indexed gears. A correctly adjusted front derailleur will bring you smooth shifting between the small ring and big ring and will stop the chain rubbing on the mechanism itself.
A correctly indexed rear derailleur, meanwhile, will give you fast, accurate and reliable shifting across the cassette. Fortunately, while it might look like a complicated job to get everything running smoothly, it’s relatively simple and a key skill for the home mechanic.
Inspect, Clean And Lubricate The Drivetrain
The drivetrain is the mechanical heart of your machine, and the area of the bike, which needs particular care and attention – not just at the start of the season but through the year. This is a good opportunity to check your chain for wear and replace it if necessary.
The most accurate way to do this is with a chain checker, but you can also check manually by lifting the chain from a section of the chainring and checking how many teeth it exposes. Three or four suggests excessive wear.
When cleaning the bike, it is the drive train, which is going to swallow up most of your time. A good chain cleaner like this one I use from Amazon, can save you time, while if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty then you can use a rag to wipe away the build-up of dirt and grime on your chain, derailleurs, jockey wheels and chainrings before setting to them with a degreaser and stiff brush (an old toothbrush will work).
Once everything is sparkling clean, rinse away with fresh water and dry with a clean cloth. Then select a lube suitable for summer riding (ideally environment-friendly like this one – also at Amazon), apply to the chain and hit the road safely in the knowledge that you’ll have a clean, quiet and free-running drivetrain!
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