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If you own a bicycle then chances are that you’ve had your bike serviced at some point, whether that be by a bike shop or by a solo mechanic.
But, did you know that a lot of servicing is easy and straightforward enough to do at home and can therefore save you money and time? Well, you can!
Of course, with that being said, there are certain adjustments or changes which require specialist tools as well as a greater mechanical understanding, which of course will be best to leave to the professionals.
What’s the Point of a Bike Service?
The main point in having your bike serviced is to ensure that it works efficiently, safely, and also rides as nice as it can. Much like a motor vehicle, no one wants neither annoying nor concerning noises coming from it.
Another great reason to have a bike serviced is to save yourself money in the long run, as you won’t have to replace components as regularly. This way they won’t wear as fast, because you’re taking care of them.
How Often Should You Service Your Bicycle?
How often you should service your bike really depends on two things: how often it is you are riding your bike and the type of weather/season that you’re riding in.
With this being said, in the winter you will need to self service your bike after most times you go out and ride. Of course you don’t need to do a full blown service every day, but a mini one with the fundamentals is a great place to start. You can then carry out a more detailed one every week.
During the summer, when you’ve been riding regularly, it would be suggested that you self service your bike around once a week. Once again, having a bigger more in depth self service a little less regularly, at around once every two weeks.
DIY Bicycle Service Checklist (H2 – inc. list)
- Degrease drivechain (re-lube once dry)
- Hose down
- Wash bike with soapy water starting top to bottom
- Hose down again
- Check and maintain wheels over for wear and damage
- Check and maintain tyre wear replace if necessary
- Check and maintain brake pad and rotor/rim wear replaced if necessary
- Check and maintain brake function, bleed or adjust cables if necessary
- Check and maintain drivetrain indexing and wear (chain, chainrings, cassette) replace if necessary
- Check and maintain bearing condition (headset, BB, jockey wheels, pedals), replace or re-grease if necessary
- Check and maintain bolts are at the correct torque rating
- Check over frame for damage, cracks etc
- Check accessories wear: be sure to replace anything extra, for example: bar tape or saddles that may need replacing
Things You Will Need To Service Your Bike
- Bike wash detergent (any brand is suitable)
- Chain lube
- Brushes (some soft bristle and some firm bristle)
- Cloth to dry (microbore is best)
For the service:
- Bike stand
- Multi tool or allen keys (best if in torque wrench form)
- Disc brake cleaner (only needed if your bike is disc)
- Assembly grease
- Brake bleed kit (not necessarily needed but useful to have if you own a disc brake bike)
- Tubeless tyre sealant (only needed if you own sealant)
- Tyre lever
- Spare tube (if you are running tubes in your tyres)
- Cassette tool (for changing cassette or tightening it)
- Chaintool (used for shortening or lengthening chains)
- Quicklink pliers (helps to easily remove the chain if it needs replacing)
How to Service a Bike at Home
It’s important to clean your bike thoroughly before you check for any wear or damage. Mud and dirt can conceal issues such as cracks or damage.
When cleaning your bike pay especially close attention to all working parts of your drive chain as well as brake pads: this applies to both rim and disc brakes. Debris will need to be removed from any braking contact points.
Also aesthetically, a clean bike just looks much better and the reduced wear from regular cleaning will also save you money on components. As less wear the less often you need to replace.
For this you’ll need a bucket filled with enough water to wash your bike mixed with bike cleaning liquid. A bottle of degreaser, sponge, a soft brush and a slightly stiffer bristled brush, a towel (microfibre is pretty good for this) and some lube for the chain and cassette.
Maintain and Inspect
Check your wheels for any play to see if they are running true (this is best done while your bike is in a bike stand). If your wheels are buckled (look wonky while spinning and not straight) then you’ll need to either get your wheel trued or purchase a new pair.
If you have rim brakes, ensure you check the braking surface wear (making sure it’s not too concave thus potentially indicating the need for new wheels) as well as free of contamination, such as oil or dirt.
It’s also important to check your hubs for any issues. Any resistance will become clear if you take your wheels out of your bike, hold onto the side of the hubs and spin your wheel. If the wheel does not spin for very long nor comes to a complete stop particularly fast or the bearings (which can be felt from the outside or again by spinning the wheel) feel rough or notchy, they may need replacing soon.
Leading on from your wheels, check your tyres too for any wear or damage such as small nicks to the rubber. If your tyre has worn through then you need to replace them for your safety as well as others.
If you run tubeless then check your sealant is adequately topped up, but this often only needs to be carried out once every other month, as it requires unseating your tubeless tyre which is messy and quite frankly not needed unless you’ve had an issue with the tyre sealing.
Following on from this, a service is always a great time to check your tyre pressures, although you should check them before every ride. The wall on the side of your tyres will often indicate a recommended tyre pressure range that is suitable for the specific product.
If when you come to check your pressure, you do find that you have a flat/puncture, then it’s a great time to replace your inner tube with a spare while checking for the culprit (usually glass or a thorn lodged in your tyre).
The brake pads and the alignment of them are the most important aspects to focus on regarding your brakes.
There are two main types of brakes which are: rim or disc. Both of which are easier to check if you take the wheels out of your bike first while your bike is in the stand. To check, you need to visually look for debris and ware. This is because if your brake pad is running thin then you risk damaging rims/rotors and also more importantly, you won’t be able to stop.
Therefore if you do need to change your brake pads due to wear, simply take the old ones out and replace. Help and advice for this can be found on manufacturers websites for your specific brakes as this varies from product to product.
Another aspect of rim brake maintenance is checking and adjusting the tension of the cables. This ensures your brakes function correctly. To do this you need to either use an allen key and manually pull the cable through, or use a barrel adjuster.
With disc brakes, you may also want to check for a spongy feeling when pulling the lever: if this is present then a brake bleed will most likely be needed. This is when a brake bleed kit can come in handy. However, if you don’t fancy this step as it is very fiddly, you can also take it to the bike shop to be done professionally.
The drivechain incorporates many working parts so I shall try to keep this as straightforward as possible.
Starting with the chain, you can get a chain wear gauge to help indicate whether or not you need to replace it. But, the links of the chain will also feel loose and side to side play will also be present.
Then the chainrings and sprockets (aka cassette) will also wear due to being working parts. Therefore to check and maintain these two vital components you will need to visually look for sharper teeth as well as a more worn groove in between the teeth. This may also be made clear if the chain does not sit properly on the chainring or a specific sprocket. But this can also be a sign of a worn chain. So best to check both at the same time and regularly.
In addition to this, it’s also really important that if your bike has gears that you ensure they run smoothly and are properly indexed. If you find they are jumping and it’s not due to wear of the working parts then you will need to index your gears. This allows for smooth shifting and optimal power transfer.
After previously mentioning bearings within your wheel check, it’s also important to check and maintain the other main bearings in your bicycle. For example: headset, bottom bracket (BB) and jockey wheels.
To do this you will need to access the specific areas (you don’t always need to take parts off to do this one but it is useful sometimes) and feel for a rough or stiff feeling which would indicate wear.
To check your headset, turn the bars to see if they turn freely and without resistance or noise. If they are worn then these ones in particular will need replacing as soon as you can as riding without full control is dangerous.
Whereas both the bottom bracket and jockey wheels will just need to be spun (much like the wheel before) to see if they can spin freely and without any issues. If not, then you know the drill by now, replace them!
During a service it’s always good form to check that your bolts throughout your bike are done up to the correct torque rating and are working and have not rounded off.
To do this, you’ll need to take your torque wrench and set the torque to the rating that the component either displays on it or recommends on their website. When using said torque wrench, you will know when it’s done up as the device clicks. Then you know your bolts are done up.
However, if you find that any of your bolts have been rounded off, then it’s best to replace them as a rounded off bolt can be a total pain as you won’t be able to tighten or loosen it.
Damage is often obvious, for instance you will be able to see if you’ve cracked a carbon fork or put a dent in the side of an aluminium frame. However, some damage isn’t always obvious, therefore it’s important to look thoroughly.
First off, you’ll need to ensure you are looking at your bike under light, whether that’s daylight or artificial, that’s up to you, but you need adequate light to help reveal any little cracks or corrosion.
If you do happen to find any cracks or damage, then it’s best to get a professional to give a second opinion on whether or not the bike is structurally safe. But, if it’s a carbon crack, you can often tell if it’s unsafe, as lightly tapping a metal allen key will produce a high pitch noise if it’s ok and a low pitch noise if it needs repairing or replacing.
Of course if your bike is in two pieces or badly rusted then it’s of course time to look for another two wheeled companion.
Last but of course not least, if you are carrying out a service then it’s always good to change accessories or any other parts that may be worn, taken the brunt of a crash or that you’ve clearly had your money’s worth out of.
Therefore, if your bar tape or grips are no longer comfy or are ripped up, swap them for some new ones. Same with saddles, if they are no longer comfy and the material has worn away then it’s always good to replace.
Equally, with pedals, ensuring that they are still grippy or that you can still clip into them and they haven’t developed any play is also a really important aspect of a service. This is because you want all parts to function to the best of their ability.