Annual Bicycle Maintenance

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Most bicycles require some sort of annual maintenance routine to ensure proper functioning, preserving the life of the components, and rider safety.

The level of maintenance required will of course depend on how much the bike is getting used. On heavily used bikes, some services recommended may have to be done more than once a year.

  • Tune-Up or Overhaul
    All bikes can benefit from an annual inspection and thorough going over by a professional mechanic. A complete tune-up will not only address any shifting or braking problems you might be experiencing, it will also help forestall issues that may not be evident yet. It’s also a great opportunity for you to park your elbows on the repair counter, and chat with the mechanic about possible upgrades or making modifications to adjust the bike to your riding style. You can significantly alter your existing bike’s personality by changing the handlebar, switching the saddle, adjusting gear ratios or upgrading your tires.

  • Drivetrain replacement
    The drivetrain is what makes your bike go, and it basically includes everything that comes in contact with the bike chain. The chain is quite literally the conduit through which your human power is transferred to the moving parts of the bike, propelling you forward with much more efficiency than your feet could carry you. The chain is put through a tremendous amount of force on every ride you take, and it does stretch over time, meaning that the connections between each of its links becomes slightly elongated. As that happens, the chain causes wear on all of its drivetrain friends, including the cogs of the rear cassette and the front chainrings. Eventually, these parts can wear to the point where they no longer function. When you hear the annoying tick-tick-tick, or other rattling noises, in response to clicking your shift levers, that may be your drivetrain telling you it’s no longer up to the task.
    Replacing the chain annually will help prolong the lifespan of the other components, and, if you’re a heavy-duty rider, this is also probably a good time to replace or upgrade other drivetrain components.

  • Cable Replacement
    Brakes and shifting systems use stainless steel cables that should be replaced at least annually. Though a tune-up will usually cover brake and gear adjustments, installing new cables may be overlooked if they don’t appear to be obviously frayed or corroded. However, even stainless cables can become gummed up and sticky inside the housing, and replacing them will greatly improve the responsiveness of the shifting and braking.

  • Brake Pad Replacement
    Both rim and disk brake pads should be replaced at least annually (or more often, depending on your bike usage). Worn brake pads will not only compromise your stopping ability, in the case of rim brakes, they can badly damage your wheels and create the need for much more expensive repair. Worn disk brake pads can also wear oout the rotors, also adding unnecessary cost prematurely.

  • Rubber Inspection or Replacement
    Bicycle tires should last over a year with normal use, however it’s a good idea to inspect them thoroughly during your annual service. If they are borderline, you’ll generally save money on installation if you replace them during a tune-up. Even if the tires are not overly worn, this is a good time to upgrade to puncture-resistant tires, or a set more suitable to your style of riding.

  • “Touchpoints”
    Take a look at the “touchpoints” on your bike: saddle, handlebar and grips or tape, and pedals. They may be worn, or perhaps are not offering as much comfort as they could. If you’d like to change the feel of your bike, and adjust your positioning, talk to your mechanic about different saddle options and saddle positioning, using gel bar tape or ergonomic grips, and even adjusting the height of your stem or handlebars for a more dialed-in fit. Similarly, if your pedals are worn or not offering secure grip, you can explore different options, including adding toe clips or changing to clip-in pedals.

The annual service is a chance not only to breathe new life into your bike, but also to use your riding experience of the past year to alter your bike to reflect your current riding needs.