Winter is the perfect time to prepare your bicycle for spring

You most likely are not riding as much now that winter is here.  This makes it the perfect opportunity to use some of that time to prepare your bike for spring.  Our bike maintenance checklist will ensure you don’t overlook something critical and give you the best chance to keep your bike running its best for many miles to come.

If you don’t have the time or desire to do this yourself, you can always bring it by our shop and we will take care of everything for you.  You can learn more on our Local Service page.

Your bike is tired

By winter, most bikes have a full season of riding and maybe even a lot of trainer miles.  Between the accumulated miles and salt from both roads and sweat, your bike could definitely use some freshening up.  Thankfully most maintenance is relatively easy and affordable with a few tools and some patience.  Servicing your bike is also a great way to become more familiar with its components should you have to do trail side repairs someday.

Bicycle maintenance checklist

1. A clean bike is a happy bike

Washing your bike not only keeps it looks great and running smooth.  It also gives you the best look into how parts are wearing and makes it easier to inspect for damage.  You would be surprised at how well dirt can hide damage such as frame cracks and cracking cable housing, especially if you have a mountain bike that routes your cable housing exposed below the bottom bracket.

Thankfully cleaning your bike is extremely easy and can be done with basic tools you have around the house.

We always start with degreasing the drivetrain as that is often the nastiest part of your bike and we don’t want grease from the drivetrain going all over a freshly cleaned frame.  For this, we love Pedro’s Degreaser 13 but any decent degreaser will do.

After the drivetrain is clean, we move onto washing the wheels followed by the frame.  For this we actually love Dawn dish soap and it is widely used by pro mechanics around the globe but if you prefer bike specific products, you can check out Muc-Off’s Nano Cleaner, it also works great with the only downside being that it costs more.  Just make sure to give everything a good scrub with whatever brushes and sponges you find around the house and rinse it all off.  Bike washing doesn’t need to be terribly complicated although there are some tricks to speed up the process.  You can see how we do it in a Youtube video we made a while back.

*pro-tip, drywall sponges double as GREAT bike washing sponges.  We like to have one for the drivetrain and a second “clean” one for the rest of the bike.

2. Check your brake pads, rims and rotors for wear

After washing your bike but before you reinstall your wheels, it is the perfect time to take a look at your brake pads.  Naturally brake pads can live a very rough life, especially if you are here in Colorado with us.  Rim and disc brakes naturally are a little different here so we will separate the two.

Rim brakes: The majority of rim brake pads will have a line indicating their minimum thickness so that is the best gauge for pad life.  Even if your pads have plenty of life left, it is important to make sure there is no debris imbedded in the pad.  This debris can come from either the road or even little pieces of aluminum from your rims can get stuck in the pads.  This is pretty normal so just use a pick to remove any of the debris so you do not cause damage to your rims.

Disc brakes: Disc brakes are not as intuitive to check wear on as with rim brakes.  There are rarely wear indicators and they are tucked away in the calipers so it can be harder to see.  Generally you want to replace disc brake pads when the braking material is about 1.5mm thick.  For reference, a penny is just over 1.5mm thick and a dime is closer to 1.3mm.

Braking surfaces wear too:  It’s easy to forget that rim brake rims and disc brake rotors are also wear items that occasionally need replacing.  Thankfully these typically last much longer than your brake pads but it is still important to keep an eye on them.

Disc brake rotors will have a minimum thickness etched somewhere on the rotor.  It is easy to measure with calipers or a micrometer but if you do not have either, if you notice a visible ridge between where the brake pad rubs and the rest of the rotor, they are probably worn out or close to it.

Rim brake rims will also wear.  If a rim is too worn, it can weaken the rim to the point that the tires pressure is enough to completely push the rim apart.  Typically you can feel the rim being very concave relative to when they were new.  Generally a rim can be worn about 0.5mm before it needs to be replaced but this will vary by rim so check with the manufacturer.  You can measure this by laying a straight edge over the rim without a tire mounted or use a calipers probe making sure the supporting ends are on the edges of the rim.

3.  Measure your drivetrain for wear

Replacing your chain early is an inexpensive way to get the most life out of your cassette and chainring/s.  This can easily be done with one of the many commercial chain checkers on the market or even with any quality ruler.

To measure your chain with a ruler, hold the ruler to the chain on the bottom of the loop and measure from pin to pin, 12 inches.  If the chain pin falls exactly on the 12 inch mark, your chain is fine to keep using, if it measures 1/16th” past 12 inches your are due for a replacement chain and anything beyond 1/16th of an inch you will most likely need to replace your cassette and possibly even chainrings as your drivetrain is extremely worn.

*tip as someone who grew up without a lot of money…, if you can’t afford to replace your entire drivetrain but your chain measures extremely worn, you can usually get a lot of miles out of it well past 1/16th of an inch wear as long as you don’t replace any of the drivetrain components.  As long as they are wearing together, they will usually work well past their intended life.  Just expect to replace everything together when it does start skipping.

4. Check your cables for wear or binding

Cables start to fail for a few reasons.  Most cables end up needing to be replaced because they are no longer sliding smoothly, typically because dirt was able to work its way inside the cables causing friction.  Modern drivetrains can be very sensitive to friction in cables, especially on frames that route cables through a lot of bends.  This can make it nearly impossible to get your shifting as crisp as you would like.  This friction also puts more strain on your shifters which can cause them to wear earlier than expected.  If it is getting harder to push your shift lever or if your cable actuated brakes feel rough when you squeeze the levers it may be time to throw in some new cables although sometimes you can get lucky and clean them out and lube them with a cable lube like Rock N Roll’s Cable Magic.

Shimano road bike shifters are also notorious for fraying cables to the point they can snap inside the shifter.  Not only does this leave you stuck in the same gear on your ride but it also can be a huge mess to try to clean all the cable fragments out of the shifter.  We always recommend replacing Shimano inner cables every 2,000 miles or so just as a preventative measure.

5. Keep those wheels turning smooth

Well built wheels last tens of thousands of miles but that doesn’t mean they wont need some minor maintenance along the way.  The main things you want to check are hub bearings, spoke tensions and look for any dents/cracks.

Checking your hubs is quite easy, with the wheels removed, spin the axle and freehub in your fingers.  It should rotate smooth and quietly.  If it feels rough or like there is an abnormal amount of drag it may be time to replace or service the bearings and freehub.  This process varies a lot by manufacturer so check with the hub manufacturer for their service procedure.

Inspecting the spokes and rims is another quick and easy one, even if you do not have a spoke tension gauge.  You can check the spokes by squeezing pairs of spokes, they should feel tight and consistent.  If you have some that feel tight while others feel loose, your wheel may need re-tensioned but it could also be a sign there is physical damage on the rim causing them to not be able to be tensioned evenly and still remain straight.  To inspect the rim, just give it a close look near spoke holes and the edge of the rim by the tire.  You are looking for signs of cracking or dents.  Any signs of cracking definitely mean you should look to get the rim replaced sooner rather than later.  Dent’s can be OK as long as they are not extreme and your tires still seal fine or on rim brakes, that the dents do not cause pulsing in your braking.

6. Torque those bolts on your bicycle

Properly torqued bolts should never come loose but that’s no excuse to skip this step.  A loose bolt can lead to anything from creaking to a major safety issue.  Thankfully checking bolt torque only takes a few minutes and can save a lot of hassle by preventing trail side failures.  If you don’t know how tight a bolt should be, checking with the manufacturer is always the best move but Park Tool has a super handy torque chart that covers most bolts you will come cross.

7. Keep your suspension smooth and quiet.

Suspension is one area that neglecting service can get extremely expensive.  If you don’t catch low oil volumes or dirt that worked its way into your suspensions internals, it can make you need to replace some very costly parts.  Dirty suspension components also don’t work as smoothly and often can cause serious creaking issues.

Servicing your suspension is not always the easiest thing to DIY unless you are mechanically inclined or at least patient and willing to buy some specialty tools.  It also varies a lot by component so we recommend reading manufacturers tech docs for details or to bring your bike to a shop you trust for service.

8. Tires, the only thing connecting your bike to the road / trail

Making sure your tires are in good condition is critical for both safety and performance.  As rubber dries out it loses grip and can even start cracking.  This is especially true for road front tires that can last almost indefinitely if they do not get cut from debris.

Mountain bike and gravel tires are very easy to inspect as it’s quite obvious if the tread blocks are starting to get worn.  If you are looking at road tires, some manufacturers are nice enough to put wear indicators in the rubber but even if there are no indicators you can tell a lot by the shape of the tire.  When road tires start to wear out, they tend to “flatten”.  If you feel the shape of the tire, it will no longer be rounded but rather have an almost square edge.  One other indicator your road tires are starting to get worn is if you are getting more flats than usual as there is less rubber there to protect the casing from damage.  Beyond looking at tread wear, give the tires a good look for any cracks or cuts in the tread and sidewalls.  You also want to look for and remove anything that may be lodged into the rubber but has not caused a flat yet.  Taking a few minutes to pick glass or debris out of tires can save you from an otherwise inevitable flat down the road.

If you are running tubeless, you want to check your sealant levels as well.  Most tires work best between 2-6 ounces of sealant per tire depending on the size.  Typically on bigger tires, you can shake the wheel by your ear and listen for sloshing.  Another easy way to check is to remove the valve core and with the valve at the bottom of the tire, insert something through the valve into the bottom of the tire and then pull it out to see how much sealant is left on it essentially treating it like a dipstick on your car.  It is normal for sealant to need topped off every 1-6 months depending on conditions so if its dry, don’t worry too much and just top it off and keep going.

If you have to remove your tire for any reason, it’s also wise to get into the habit of looking at your tubeless tape to make sure it is seated all the way around the rim and not damaged.  Most issues with tubeless tires not sealing can be traced back to faulty tubeless tape.

9. Get a bike fit
Our bodies and riding styles definitely change over the years.  What was previously a great fit may now need some updates.  This is especially true if you have undergone some type of injury in the past year or drastically changed your riding style to either more aggressive riding or more casual riding.

A great fit person can do wonders for not only efficiency but also your comfort and control when on the bike.  We are a bit biased here, but we believe Robert Mayfield is the best bike fitter in Colorado Springs.

Bicycle Maintenance Intervals

Every Ride
– Check tire pressure
– Check tires for damage or debris stuck in the tread
– Check that brake levers feel solid
– Check chain lube (most chain lubes last between 50 – 200 miles depending on lube and conditions)
– Listen for unusual noises.  New noises are often a sign of a part needing service or replacement.

Every Month
– Check brake pad wear
– Check tire sealant levels
– Wash your bike (do this more if you ride in a lot of bad conditions)
– Check the items in your repair kit are all still there (we know you forgot to replace that tube after the last flat…)
– Check bolt torque

Every 6 Months
– Service lowers on your fork (most recommend every 50 hours of riding time)
– Service air can on rear shock (also recommended around every 50 hours by most)
– Measure chain wear
– Deep clean your bike to look for damage
– Check hub bearings to ensure they are still running smooth
– Make sure cables are moving smooth still
– Check cleats for wear and make sure bolts are still torqued

Every Year
– Bleed brakes
– Service hubs as needed
– Replace cables/housing as needed.  This is especially true for Shimano road shifters
– Check and service derailleur pulley wheels
– Overhaul suspension components and frame pivots
– Remove seatpost to clean and re-grease, if using a carbon frame apply carbon paste instead of grease
– Measure braking surface wear on rotors or rims
– Service dropper post if yours is serviceable
– Replace grips and bar tape as needed
– Clean and grease threads on thru axles
– Check bottom bracket bearings still run smooth and quiet

This list is just a rough guideline for when you should service your parts.  Environmental conditions and how frequently you ride can change these intervals significantly.  If you are riding aggressive or just very frequently you may need to do these things sooner.  When in doubt, listen to your bike and try to be aware of any changes as they are usually signs that something is needing some maintenance or replacement.

If you have any questions at all, you are always welcome to reach out to us via our contact form or give us a call and we will do our best to help you out.




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