Mechanical Services & Maintenance

Bike Maintenance:

Dear Tech Support,

I was wondering if you had a list of what I should be inspecting and replacing on my bike and when in order to keep it running well. Thanks!

Susan, via email

Dear Susan,

A bike is a piece of performance equipment and it will only work to its potential if it is kept in good mechanical shape. A maintenance schedule can help make sure you stay on top of each important item.

A lot of maintenance intervals will be rider and condition dependent. For example, drivetrain components tend to wear significantly quicker if they are used in dirty, salty and wet winter riding compared to dry summer riding. For this reason, I am going to provide some general guidelines based on mileage ranges that will cover the majority of riders and conditions.

Before Every Ride: Mechanical Skills: Low.

o Inflate tires. High pressure tires can lose notable pressure overnight, so fully inflate before each ride.

o Make sure quick release levers on wheels and brakes are properly adjusted and tight.

Every 100-300 miles: Mechanical Skills: Low.

o Clean and lubricate drivetrain. Note that lubricant is designed to work on the bushings inside of the chain, not the outside. After allowing the lubricant to soak in, wipe off excess lubricant from the outside of the chain as it will just attract grit otherwise. Regardless, follow the instructions for your particular lubricant.

o Inspect tires for damage.

Every 1000-2000 miles: Tune Up. Mechanical Skills: Moderate.

o Measure chain for wear and damage and replace as required. Chains wear out in 1500-2000 miles on the average, but modern 10 and 11 speed chains can wear out in as little as 1000 miles for some riders, especially in poor weather conditions, while other riders can get over 4000 miles from a chain.

o Check bolt tightness and, especially on sensitive carbon parts like handlebars, stems and seatposts, remember to not exceed torque specifications. A torque wrench is recommended.

o Check bar tape for wear and replace as needed.

o Check brake pad wear and replace as needed.

o Check tire wear. While mileage can vary significantly, 1500-2000 miles for a rear tire and 3000-4000 for a front are common replacement ranges. Remember that age can also dry rot tires. Inspect rim strips for potential issues when replacing tires.

o Inspect pedal cleats and replace if worn. Clean and lubricate pedal/cleat springs.

o Inspect, clean and lubricate cables and adjusters and check brake and derailleur cable adjustment.

o Lubricate pivots on wheel and brake quick releases. Be sure to keep lubricant away from braking surfaces.

o True wheels, make sure spoke tension is even and inspect rims for damage.

o Check bottom bracket, wheel and headset bearings for rough operation and/or play and adjust accordingly.

o Inspect frame and wheels for damage.

o Verify that bike is still set to your proper riding position.

Every 5000 miles, or after each riding season, whichever comes first:

Overhaul Entire Bike. Mechanical Skills: Advanced

Note: An overhaul is an excellent time to consider a bearing upgrade.

o Strip the bike down to the frame and thoroughly clean all parts. Check for cracks, loose fittings and other suspect areas on components, frame and fork.

o Paint Touch-Up and Corrosion Treatment – Touch-up paint chips with factory touch up paint, automotive touch-up paint or nail polish. Steel frames should have Frame Saver applied.

o Bottom Bracket – Remove your crank and bottom bracket, clean all surfaces, generously coat frame threads with grease or anti-seize and Teflon tape cup threads (helps prevent creaking) before reinstalling. Grease any serviceable bearings according to manufacturer recommendations or replace bearings as needed.

o Hubs – Remove axles and clean. Inspect and grease/replace bearings. If cassette body is removable, clean and lubricate pawls according to manufacturer recommendations.

o Headset – Clean and inspect cups, races and bearings for pitting or roughness. Grease or replace bearings.

o Pedals – Inspect, lubricate and grease/replace serviceable bearings and any worn parts.

o Drivetrain Clean – Remove front and rear derailleur, cranks, chain and cassette, and replace heavily worn parts and thoroughly clean (a solvent or ultrasonic cleaner makes this much easier) all others. Lubricate chain after installation.

o Wheels – Inspect spokes for even tension and rims for trueness. Adjust as needed. Scrub braking surfaces on alloy rims with steel wool and then rubbing alcohol to clean off brake pad and road residue.

o Brakes – Inspect for wear and replace pads as needed. Deglaze pads and flatten braking surface with file or sandpaper. Realign to rims and lubricate pivots on the calipers.

o Seatpost Maintenance – Use a flex hone in the frame seat tube to remove any corrosion and burring if your seatpost is not easy to remove. Before reinstalling post, apply grease to the inside of the seat tube in aluminum or steel frames, apply titanium anti-seize on titanium frames and gritty carbon paste (aka – “Assembly Compound”) on all carbon surfaces. Lightly lubricating the clamp that holds the saddle rails can prevent creaks.

o Handlebar Clamps – Remove bar from stem and clean the clamp surface. Apply gritty “Assembly Compound” to clamp surfaces before reassembly. Do the same with aerobar clamp surfaces as well. Replace corroded bolts with stainless steel or titanium hardware.

o Replace Cables/Housings – This is an inexpensive way to vastly improve shifting and braking on many bikes. It also helps to prevent your bike from letting you down at an inopportune time. Stretch your new cables before riding to minimize adjustment on the road/trail.

o Tighten All Bolts to Torque Specifications – Check torque again after your first post overhaul ride, but don’t tighten beyond the torque specifications.

o Replace Handlebar Tape – Not only does new tape look great, but using the same old tape for many seasons can be unsafe as sweat can build up beneath tape and corrode alloy handlebars and mold. Do yourself, and your mechanic, a favor and replace it.

Additional Annual Equipment Inspection. Mechanical Skills: Low.

o Restock Tools and Spare Parts – Make sure you have the right tools and that you restock cables and housing, tubes, chain, brake pads, and lubricant so that spares are available before you need them.

o Inspect Helmet for Wear and Cracks – Helmets are designed to absorb one impact and protective foam breaks down with time and exposure to the atmosphere. Head injuries are often forever and manufacturer’s recommended replacing helmets at least once every three years regardless; replace accordingly.

o Review saddle condition. Like a pair of worn out running shoes, a worn out saddle can cause comfort and positioning problems and should be replaced.

Ride hard and smart.


Ian Buchanan is co-owner of Fit Werx. Fit Werx has locations in Waitsfield, VT and Peabody, MA and offers cycling and triathlon products, specialty bicycle fitting and analysis services, consultation, and technology research. Fit Werx can be reached in VT at (802)496-7570, in MA at (978)532-7348 or through the Web at