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Simple DIY Bike Tune-Up Guide

The weather is warming up, which means plenty of cyclists are looking to hit the road and enjoy some fun bike rides. Whether you like to ride solo, with a group or as a family, keeping your bikes in good shape can save you a lot of money on repairs and replacements over the years. Here’s a guide for some cheap, fast and easy tune-ups you can perform on your bike before you head out on your next ride.

Clean the Chain

Your bike chain is the workhouse of the whole operation. As such, it’s important to keep it in good shape. Many riders forget just how easy it is to completely refresh the chain. To clean it, apply a degreasing spray on the chain. Just do one small section at a time, using a rag to clean up the rollers. It’s easiest to do this with the chain off the bike, but you can skip that step if you prefer to clean it right on the bike. For tiny areas that the rag can’t reach, use a cotton swab.

After you’re done, apply a little bit of lube to the chain to help it roll smoothly. While you’re at it, you can also apply lubricant to the rest of the drive train (the front chain rings, rear cassette and derailleur). Do a few test laps in a driveway or parking lot afterwards to make sure everything is functioning properly, then you’re good to go.

Check Your Air Pressure

Want to make your tires last longer? Make sure they are always properly inflated. It’s probably the easiest tune-up there is, but many people forget to do it on a regular basis. First, you’ll need to figure out what pressure your tires require. That number really depends on the size of the tire itself. Generally, narrow tires require more air pressure, so while a road tire might need 80-130 pounds per square inch (psi), mountain bike tires might only need 30-50 psi. If you’re not sure, look for information listed on the tire (it should be printed on the sidewall) or stop into a bike shop for assistance (if they tell you at the shop, be sure to note it for next time).

Remove the dust cap on the air valve and use a pressure gauge to see how low your tires are. Then, pump it up to the desired pressure, being sure to double-check again with the pressure gauge that you’re on target.

As a side note, give your tires a onceover during this step of your tune-up. If there are any cracks, it’s time for a tire replacement; these issues can lead to unexpected tire blowouts and potentially very dangerous crashes, so don’t take them lightly. Similar issues can result from a bald tire, so be sure to replace those if you find them. A good tire will have no cracks, good traction and rims and spokes that are in good shape.

Align the Handlebars

You may be so accustomed to your bike’s quirks that you don’t even notice that it’s misaligned. To check your handlebars, sit on the bike and put the front wheel straight forward. Are the handlebars at a 90-degree angle to the wheel? If not, you need to adjust them so that they are.

Loosen the stem of the bike that connects the handlebars to the frame. Adjust it until the handlebars are properly aligned, then tighten it back up. Once it’s put back together, recheck to make sure the handlebars didn’t shift while you tightened them back on.

Check Your Seat

A lot of soreness can develop from a seat that’s not properly installed on the bike. Over time, things can loosen up and the seat doesn’t sit quite right. Check underneath the saddle (AKA the seat) and tighten any of the bolts that connect it to the frame. You want it to be on nice and tight. Then, sit on it and make sure that it’s lined up correctly with the frame. You want it to be aligned properly to avoid any discomfort during the ride.

Test the Brakes

Are the brakes working well? Do some test runs in your driveway or in a parking lot and see if they’ll let you stop short when necessary. If not, you may need to tighten up the cables on the brakes.

In addition, you should take a close look at the brake pads. If there’s not a lot of pad left, you may need to replace it. The brake pads also need to be properly aligned to work effectively, so make sure they apply pressure to the metal part of the wheel and not the rubber of the tire.

These few steps will help get you ready for fun bicycle rides throughout the warmer weather. Take the time to give your bike a little extra TLC to keep your bike repair and maintenance costs down.

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