The repair shop is a medical center for bicycles. I have my bike serviced regularly, and so should you. It’s the only way to avoid (expensive) problems.
You should service your bike once or twice a year, depending on how much you ride. A complete overhaul is required approximately every 4,000 miles (6,000 km). However, some minor maintenance tasks (chain lubed, brake pads replacement) have to be done more often, but you can do most of them yourself.
More and more cyclists are looking after their bikes themselves. However, some maintenance work on certain parts of the bike is still better left to the professionals.
Prevent damage by regularly servicing your bike
Everything you own, you need to take care of, and a bicycle is no different. Luckily, taking care of your bike is neither difficult nor expensive if you do it right.
As the old saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure.’ That is especially true when we’re talking about bike maintenance.
Have your bike serviced at least once a year. That way, before every ride, you can be sure your bike is in good condition, and you can use it without worry. If you ride more than twice a week, an extra service a year is recommended.
|Number of rides per week||Recommended number of services per year|
You can try to prolong the time between services, but you’re risking severe consequences. Sooner or later, fate will catch you, and you will face an expensive repair.
Let me paint you a picture.
You can probably ride for a year or two without a single maintenance job done (except chain lubrication) and save around $150.
After two years, you start hearing a weird noise when pedaling. You take your bike to a repair shop and then SHOCK!
‘I need to change half of the drivetrain?’ you ask. Well, yes. The chain is stretched, which damaged your cassette and chainring. All three parts have to be replaced, which won’t be cheap. And now you’ll have to pay more than $150 you saved with not servicing your bike for two years.
On average, the complete service of a road bike will cost you between $60 and $80.
Bike parts wear out. Some need constant lubrication, some need to be replaced, and some need to be tuned. Only by regular servicing can you expect your bike to last ages.
According to the results of a survey of cyclists, you should have your bike serviced after 4000 miles (6000 km). This is the distance after which some elements wear out. This is especially true for the chain and brake pads, which need to be replaced.
When you take your bike to the repair shop, it will be fully inspected, and everything that needs to be repaired or replaced will be repaired or replaced. Usually, that’s just some minor things like changing brake pads, lubricating the chain and bottom bracket and trueing the wheels.
If an expensive repair is needed, repair shops usually check with you whether they can do it.
When is the best time to service my bike
If you only service your bike once a year, you might wonder, is there a best time to do it? The answer is yes, there is.
The best time to service your bike is before the start of the cycling season. That way, your bike will be ready when the sun comes out, and you want to take your first ride of the season.
Some people argue that it’s better to service your bike after finishing your season. I disagree.
If you service it after the end of the season and then store it over the winter, it will need some maintenance before you can take it for a spin in the spring. So why pay for servicing in the autumn if you need extra work afterward.
I recommend servicing your bike in March, as April is often warm enough for first rides. However, bike repair shops are usually busiest in March, as everyone wants to get their bike ready for the season, so you might want to bring your bike in a few weeks earlier.
If you’re planning on riding through the winter as well, then an extra service per year is highly recommended. After talking to a few cyclists, I learned that the best time for winter servicing is October, as the weather starts to change then. There is more dirt on the road at that time, which you need to protect your bike from.
How to tell if my bike needs servicing
Determining servicing by calendar or mileage gives us good guidelines for regular servicing, but sometimes a bike needs to be serviced sooner.
It’s important to recognize the signs that your bike is telling you it wants some attention. If you don’t spot them early enough, some parts may be damaged and need to be replaced. And that’s never cheap.
What you need to pay attention to:
- Unusual pedalling noises
- Grinding noises
- Poor brake response
- Bent rims
- Wobbly wheel
- Broken cables and broken cable housing
- Dents and cracks on a frame
Take your time before every ride and do a quick scan of your bike. It will take you only a minute or two, but it can save you even a few hundred dollars.
Now that we have a checklist let’s discuss each problem in a little more detail.
Unusual pedaling noises
When pedaling, the only sound you should hear is the wind blowing past your ears. Everything else is a sign of trouble.
The problem when you hear an unusual pedaling noise is that there can be several reasons for it. The chain might be dry or loose, the bottom bracket might be dry, or the pedals need some lubing. Even the cleats on your shoes can cause pedaling noise.
The first thing to do is to lube your chain. I figured out that the problem is in a dry chain most of the time.
If the noise is still there, then some more investigation is necessary. Do a few turns of the pedal with your hand and try to identify the source of the noise. If you don’t hear anything, it could be that the pedals or your shoes cause unwanted noise.
If the sound is still there, there’s a good chance that the bottom bracket is dry. Take your bike to the repair shop and let them do their magic.
When metal grinds against metal, the noise is hard to listen to. In fact, it is one of the worst noises for me because I know I could easily have prevented it.
Grinding noises are 99 times out of 100 the consequence of a dry chain. A few drops of lube, and the noise is gone. It’s that simple.
Poor brake response
When you’re going downhill 40 mph, you want your brakes to work 100% of the time. Be sure to check them before you start going uphill because once the road turns downwards, it’s too late for that.
Poor brake response is usually caused by worn brake pads. Replacing them is an easy job, especially with rim brakes. With disc brakes is a bit trickier, but most of us are able to do it ourselves.
No matter how careful you are, your rims will occasionally bend. That’s completely normal.
Riding with slightly bent rims usually is not a problem, but it exposes the rims to additional bending. So take early action and straighten them as soon as you notice a bend.
Straightening or truing the wheel is a job most cyclists leave to the professionals. You need a lot of practice to get the feeling necessary to quickly truing them, and most cyclists don’t have the time or will to invest that much effort into it.
Professionals also have all the tools to do the job quickly. Those tools are not cheap, so buying them for yourself might not be worth it. Rather take the wheels to your local bike shop and let them do the job.
Grab your wheel by the sides and shake it side to side. If it’s moving, then you have a wobbly wheel.
The wheel should not be able to move sideways as this can cause it to rub against the brakes. In addition, it also makes the rim bend faster.
The problem usually lies in a loose hub. Repairing it is quite challenging for someone with no experience, as the bearings can be damaged quickly. I recommend that you leave the work to a qualified mechanic.
Broken cables and broken cable housing
Mechanical brakes and shifters have cables that can snap if not replaced in time. In most cases, snapping the cables is just an annoyance, but if it happens when you are going downhill, you could be left without brakes. In my opinion, going downhill without brakes falls into the category of dangerous things to do.
You should check if the cable is stretched, frayed or rusty from time to time. If you see any problems, make sure you replace the cable as soon as possible, as it’s a relatively inexpensive way to keep your bike safe.
Replacing cables is a fairly easy task that every cyclist learns through his cycling career. You need simple, inexpensive tools, and in a few minutes, a new cable can be installed.
When you change the cables most of the time, you will also change the housing. That’s an even easier job than changing the cables, so it shouldn’t cause you any problems.
Changing cables is a bit more complicated for hydraulic disc brakes. First they have to be bled, which can be messy if not done correctly. Only then can the cable be replaced and refilled with fluid. Because of the potential for problems, many riders leave the job to the mechanics.
Dents and cracks on a frame
The only dents you want to see on your bike are the ones that the manufacturer put there on purpose. Everything else is not welcome.
Check your bike frame regularly for any dents and cracks, especially after you crash. While dents do not pose such a risk, cracks can compromise the frame’s strength.
If you notice a crack, take the bike to a repair shop immediately, and they will tell you if the frame can be repaired. Unfortunately, if the crack is too big or in the wrong place, you will need to buy a new frame.
What can I service at home
Now that we’ve established how often you need to have your bike serviced and what you need to look out for when having it inspected, let’s talk about which maintenance tasks you can do yourself and which are better left to the professionals.
Maintenance that you can do yourself and requires basic tools:
- Chain lubrication
- Changing cables
- Replacing brake pads
- Indexing shifters
- Replacing bar tape
Maintenence that you can do yourself, but requires specific tools:
- Replacing chain
- Replacing cable housing
- Replacing cassette
Tasks better left to the professionals:
- Wheel truing
- Hub tightening
- Greasing bottom bracket
- Disc brakes bleeding
- Repairing a cracked frame