basic road bike maintenance

Basic Road Bike Maintenance

basic road bike maintenanceSo, you finally did it, you bought a road bike. Whether it is for transportation to and from work or for racing in road bike competitions, biking is a great source of exercise, stress relief and fun.

Just like a boat or a car, your bike will get you to and from places, but to keep it looking and functioning as sharply as it does now, you’ll need to maintain it. Proper maintenance keeps you safe while riding and those safe around you too. What needs to be done to keep your bike in tip-top shape you might ask? Keep reading this post to find out the steps you need to take.

The below information are steps broken down by ride, month, quarter, twice per year and annually.

Every Ride

Depending on the frequency of the rides you plan to take, you could be doing certain things daily or a little less. To keep you, and those around you, safe, these tips are must dos every time you ride. To help you remember, the League of American Bicyclists recommends using this acronym: ABC Wheel Quick.

A is for air. Each time you ride, be sure to check your tires to see if they are properly inflated and if they show any signs of wear and tear. You’ll also want to check to see if there is any debris lodged in the tread of your bike’s tires.

B is for brakes and bars. Before hopping on your bike and heading out, take a moment to assess the bike’s brakes and handlebars. You want to make sure there is proper pad alignment and cable tension in your brakes. You brake pad, if in good condition, will hit the bike’s rims; never should it hit the tires. When assessing handlebars, make sure there are no cracks.

C is for chains and cables. You want to make sure your bike has tight chain links and no frayed cables to ensure a safe ride.

Wheel. Your wheels’ function are a significant part of your ride. Check for trueness, spoke tension and/or damage. To check for trueness, spin the wheel and look for wobbliness. You’ll need to have your wheel trued if you sight any.

Quick. Make sure the bike’s quick release parts (QRs) are tight and secure. Many times, instead of nuts and bolts, QRs are used. Identify those areas to complete the check.

Monthly (or 500 miles)

Bike repairs can be expensive. To keep repairs low and efficiency high, once per month follow this checklist.

Clean, lubricate and inspect the drivetrain chain. Just like a car has oil changes, keep track of the bike’s approximate miles because the drivetrain chain needs to be replaced every 2,000 to 2,500 miles.

Check wheel bearing adjustment. If the spokes are loose, you should be able to replace them easily and affordably.

Check headset and bottom bracket adjustment. It is quite simple to do this, just pick up the front of your bike off the ground and steer the handlebars from side to side. If the movement is tight, you will need to adjust. Next, place both tires back on the ground and move the bike backward and forwards while squeezing on the bike’s brakes. If you feel play in the headset, adjust.

To test the bottom bracket, move crank arms from side to side. If you feel play or hear a creaking noise, the bottom bracket adjustment cup or fixed cup might be loose. Another source of creaking when you stand is the front skewer. Lube this monthly and check for tightness.

Check for loose nuts and bolts. A bike can have lots of nuts and bolts. From the seat post to the water bottle cages, make sure they are tight. Test the tightness of nuts and bolts with a wrench. If all the parts connect correctly, you are good to go.

basic road bike maintenanceClean. Each month you’ll want to clean your bike’s frame and working components. Also check for wear and breakage. Cleaning can be done easily with a cloth.

Lubricate. Be sure to lubricate the bike’s brakes, pedal pivot points and shifter.

Tire inspection. It is critical to inspect the bike’s tires for wear and replace, as needed.

Inspect shoe cleats. Check the shoe cleats for any wear and tighten or replace, as needed. Also look for loose nuts or bolts here.


Every three months is a good time to take a deeper look at your bike. Many things you check daily or monthly may need more than a onceover.

Brakes. Every three months, you’ll need to do an in-depth brake function check. Take a look at the pad alignment, the pad’s wear and cable alignment.

Bike frame inspection. Take the time to do a deep clean of the bike’s frame, and wax it too. While doing that, inspect the frame, hubs and rims for any damage or cracks.

Check tool kit. When biking, you may want to carry a small tool kit with you in case an unexpected fix is needed, especially on extended trips. Each quarter, check the tool kit to make sure your spare tube and patch kit are in good condition. You don’t want to get out on a trip and realize your tool kit items are no longer usable.

Thoroughly clean drivetrain. Cleaning the drivetrain includes chain, chain rings, cassette, front and rear derailleurs.

Semi-annually (or 2,500 miles)

Twice per year, take the time to check out the bike’s seat post, handlebar tape and tires.

Seat post. This not-so-common task is an important one. Every six months take out your seat post and quill stem for a good cleaning and then lubricate.

Handlebar tape. Inspect any handlebar tape and grips and replace if needed.

Tire inspection. While a monthly tire inspection is important, twice per year bike owners should take an in-depth look at the bike’s tires. Look for dry rot or worn tread. It is important to repair or replace the tires when wear is found. If you have a spare bike tire, also check it for the same things.

Annually (or every 6,000 miles)

Once per year think about taking your bike it to the shop, just like you do with your car. Professional bike shops can do a complete inspection of your bike; however, if you want to save the cash, you can learn to do this at home.

Complete inspection. Once per year do a complete overhaul of your bike; including all the things mentioned in this post. This means not only looking over everything, but completely disabling, cleaning, lubing and making the needed adjustments. Also overhaul the bottom bracket, wheel bearings, headset and pedals. Take a look at the wheels for worn sidewalls or crack where the spokes touch the bike’s rims. If you use toe straps, take a look at these too. Be sure to check derailleur hanger alignment and replace any worn or corroded cables. Too busy? Make time to drop your bike off at a bike shop and have it done by the professionals.

Frame and home tire pump. Be sure to lube your frame and home tire pump.