When I first bought my bike, I knew how to ride it, but didn’t really know how to take care of it or when to service it. Luckily I had a few cycling buddies to show me the ropes.
A bike should be serviced once every six months to a year. The frequency of servicing appointments will depend on the following factors:
- The type of bike
- How often one rides the bike
- Whether the bike is maintained in between servicing appointments.
Getting your bike serviced is non-negotiable if you want to keep it in good condition. But it’s a waste to service your bike when it doesn’t need it. In this article, we’ll go through:
- how to know it’s time for a service
- the factors that affect how often you’ll need your bike serviced
- tips on how you can service your bike at home
Whether you have a new bike or an old one, keeping your bike in good shape is a must for a safe and comfortable ride. This guide will help you keep your bike running at its best…
When to Get your Bike Serviced
If you’re not well-versed in bike maintenance and repair, you need to take your bike to get professionally serviced regularly.
A good rule of thumb, as mentioned earlier, is to get your bike serviced once every 6 to 12 months. This is a very general recommendation that the majority of bike experts agree on.
However, many factors determine how often your bike should be serviced, and the following sections will explore the most important ones.
The Type of Bike Affects the Servicing Schedule
The general servicing frequency recommendation won’t work for every bike. Different types of bikes require specific servicing schedules. Let’s discuss what that means in practical terms for you…
Mountain Bikes Need More Frequent Servicing
Mountain bikes should be serviced once every 3-6 months in most cases. This is because there will generally be more wear and tear on mountain bikes because of the rough, uneven terrain they ride on.
There is usually more frequent gear switching and much more stress placed on the bikes other mechanisms, including the suspension, wheel alignment, tires, brakes, etc. through riding on rough uneven trails.
To keep your mountain bike in working condition, you should have a professional complete the following maintenance services:
- Change out both the seals and fork oil.
- Clean up the bike’s drivetrain.
- Check on the tire’s tread and sidewalls.
- Bleed the bike’s hydraulic brakes.
This is not all that a bike technician will do at your service appointment, but having these services done is necessary. The service technician may do more, or less, depending on the condition of your bike.
It’s also recommended that every 6-12 months, you take your mountain bike back for an additional service appointment, where the bike’s frame and rear shock will be checked and repaired if needed.
The above recommendations are for those who ride their mountain bikes no more than four times a month. If you ride your bike more often or ride on extremely rough terrain on a regular basis, it will need more frequent maintenance.
Road Bikes Need Less Frequent Servicing
Road bikes don’t need as many servicing sessions as mountain bikes do. As they are usually riding over smoother services, with generally less complicated bike mechanisms, on average, road bikes need to be serviced every 6-12 months.
At your servicing appointment, the bike repair tech might do any of the following services:
- Inspect and adjust the bike’s bearings.
- Take a look at the bike’s frame and form for imperfections like bulging and cracks.
- Make sure that any bent up or damaged bike components are fixed or replaced.
- Total overhaul if necessary.
Just like with mountain bikes, the more you ride your road bike, the more often you’ll need to take it to the shop for maintenance. If you ride your bike for several hours a day, it’ll need maintenance every few months.
Signs Your Bike Needs to Be Serviced or Tuned Up
It’s always a good idea to stick to a regular schedule, but if you’re not sure when your bike was last serviced, here are some tell tale signs that your bike is in need of servicing or if some parts need to be replaced:
- You see rust on bike components that move.
- The brakes don’t work as well as they once did.
- Your gears don’t shift smoothly.
- Your bike makes noise, and you don’t know why.
- You fork has cracks in the brake bridge and dropouts. Here is an article I wrote on steel forks vs. carbon forks to help you decide when buying a new bike fork.
All of these are signs that your bike needs to be serviced as soon as possible. If your bike is experiencing multiple issues at once, a tune-up may be necessary. Otherwise, take your bike in for a tune-up once per year.
Bikes require a ton of servicing, and not all of it can/should be done by a professional. If you take some care in getting familiar with self-servicing your bike in between professional servicing appointments, you could save yourself some money in the long run.
There are steps that you can take every ride, every month, every six months, and every year to make sure your bike stays in optimal condition in between service appointments, so it’s worth having a regular maintenance schedule for your bike at home in addition to professional servicing.
TIP: Make sure you have everything you need to maintain and service your bike. Check out my article “21 Bike Repair Tools: The Only Ones You’ll Ever Need”
Let’s take a look at the specifics…
Bike Maintenance Every Time You Ride
There are several things that you should do before you hop on your bike each time. The following list will outline these actions step by step:
- Check your tire pressure – Most of the time, all you’ll need to do to check your tires’ pressure is to press firmly on the tire. If it feels deflated, pump it up with a bike floor pump (I like this one from Amazon)
- Check your brake pads – Check the wear on your brake pads by looking at them and seeing how worn down they look. You should also test them to make sure that they make contact with either the brake disc or the rim.
- Check your chain – Make sure that your chain isn’t dirty or dry. If it’s dry, lubricate it with a lube that’s specifically formulated for bikes. (This is a great one from Amazon). If the chain is dirty, clean it up before using the bike.
- Check the tires – Spin both wheels to check the alignment. If there’s any wobbling or you notice rim damage, you need to go to a professional and get the wheels serviced. Also, make sure that the tires are free of anything that could puncture the tires as you ride.
Your bike’s front and rear tires will wear down at different rates, here’s an article I wrote where I explain why that is. So make sure to check both on a regular basis as well to know when it’s time for a replacement.
- Check that all bolts and quick release are secure.
- Wipe the bike frame down – You don’t need to do a heavy-duty cleaning. Instead, just wipe the bike down lightly to remove surface debris. Your bike will need a heavy-duty cleaning at some point, but you don’t need to do this every day.
This list is extensive, but all of these checks help to keep you safe as you ride. Skipping any of these service checks could be the difference between a fun ride and a trip to the emergency room.
If you don’t ride your bike often, it’s totally fine to do these maintenance steps once a week or two.
Monthly Bike Servicing
Not only do you need to do a quick service on your bike before you ride it, but you should also complete a service check every month.
If you’re up to completing these services yourself, they can be done within a few minutes. Here’s what you should do on a monthly basis:
- Clean your bike frame up with soap specifically made for bikes (here’s a great one from Amazon) and a rough brush. As you wash the bike, look over your bike for any signs of wear.
- Deep clean your chain. You’d be surprised at how dirty a bike chain can get in a month. Use a degreaser (Amazon link) to remove the dirt from your chain. After the chain is clean, reapply lube to it to keep it flexible.
- Check to see if your wheels are aligned. If the wheels are not aligned, the professional intervention will be necessary.
The above maintenance steps are easy to do yourself. However, there are other more involved steps that you need to take during your DIY monthly service, like checking your bike’s suspension and replacing the bike’s cables (if necessary). If you don’t know how to do this, look at the bike manufacturer’s instructions or call a bike mechanic for help.
Annual Bike Servicing
Servicing at six months to a year gets considerably more complicated. It requires specific tools, which is why many take their bikes to a professional mechanic for bi-yearly or yearly maintenance.
If you are keeping up with maintenance before every rid,e plus monthly servicing, chances are that your bike will only need minimal servicing during the professional maintenance appointments.