Updated: Feb 1, 2022
We've all been there.
The last of the snow is gone, the forecast finally looks warm and sunny, and the road and trails are dry! You are ready to ride! Then, with a sinking heart, you remember all the things you intended to have replaced or serviced on your bike at the end of last season. You load up your bike, head to your local bike shop, and receive the sad news that the wait time for a tune and repairs is 2-3 weeks. Ugh!
NOW is the time to get your bike in for quick turnaround times and in-stock parts and accessories!
I tell customers who buy a new bike to expect to spend about $400/year to maintain a bike. While this is a hefty investment, it is so important for our safety and enjoyment of the sport.
Where to start?? A Basic Tune is an essential investment each year. At most bike shops, this service will run about $100 and will include a thorough safety check, an evaluation of every component of your bike, and recommendations for needed repairs.
In addition to an annual tune, the following is a list of things I do every year during the off-season to keep both myself and my bike happy:
Tip #1 - Tires
Replace tires that have significant tread wear. I start each season with a new pair. Inspect each tire thoroughly. Sidewall damage, bubbling, or smoothed out patches are all cause for replacement. Worn tires are simply unsafe.
If you are riding a tubeless setup, replace sealant in both tires and have valve stems inspected, and cleaned or replaced.
Purchase spare tubes, valve stem.
Tip #2 - Drivetrain
I always replace my chain at the beginning of the season. A happy drivetrain is the secret to smooth shifting. The mechanic can check your chain life with a simple tool that is extremely accurate. Chains should be replaced at 75% of their life. If you always replace your chain when needed, you can expect to get 3-4 chains out of a single cassette. If you don't do this, a worn chain can quickly destroy a cassette, leading to terrible shifting that can't be fixed, and a much more costly repair.
During a tune, they will check to see that your derailleur is in alignment. ORDER A REPLACEMENT DERAILLEUR HANGER FOR YOUR BIKE! You don't want to wait until yours breaks in a crash, you need a new one, yours is out of stock and has to be ordered, and you are out of luck for 2+ weeks! Thank me later.
Tip #3 - Brakes
I love to start off the riding season with a fresh pair of brake pads. If you have hydraulic brakes, your brakes will occasionally need to be "bled". This can usually be done quickly, even during the busiest time of year. No need to do this service if your brakes are working fine. You will know when it's time when your brake lever feels "squishy" or pulls all the way to the handlebar. During your tune-up, they will inspect your brake rotor for wear and suggest a replacement if it is time.
Tip #4 - New cables and housing
This definitely doesn't need to be done every year. However, with time, dirt and sweat find their way inside your housing. This build-up, along with frayed cables and deteriorating housing or end caps, can prevent your cables from sliding well, leading to poor shifting and braking. Replacing both cables and housing can be an affordable way to sweeten up your shifting.
Tip #5 - Suspension
If you are fortunate enough to enjoy suspension on your bike, it definitely requires some maintenance. A front fork service should be done every 50-75 hours, or according to manufacturer recommendations. A full replacement of seals and bushes should be done about every 200 hours of riding. A rear shock should be serviced about every 50 hours of ride time. This service should only be done by a trained professional and can involve some wait-time, especially if your shop outsources their suspension work. So, winter is definitely the time to make this happen!
Trust me, you'll be glad you did it NOW!
And your bike will thank you for the love.