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What is a Bike Tune Up? Here’s What You Should Know!

Written by Gary Johnson / Fact checked by Henry Speciale

what is a bike tune up

When a bicycle is old and worn down, we may hear that it requires a tune-up. But do you ever wonder what is a bike tune up and what it entails exactly?

This process involves getting the bicycle back to the best condition possible. Specifically, we must clean our ride and make sure that every part is in proper working order.

Let’s take a better look at the specifics.

Bicycle Tune Up Details


Tuning up a bicycle is similar to performing a bike check up. It involves going over every part of the bike to see if there are any problems and addressing them as necessary.

Such maintenance is needed after winter storage, but this is not the only time when it becomes necessary.

Even when you use your vehicle year-around, the accumulation of dirt along with the wear of everyday use makes it important to have the entire thing go through maintenance. But what is included in a bike tune up?

Below, we have described the major steps of this process. Note that they are not exclusive to tune-ups, and some should be part of routine maintenance.

Generally, a mountain bike tune-up is not that different from tuning a road bike. For both types, we need to give special attention to problem areas such as the drivetrain.

Full Cleaning

The first step in a bike tune up checklist is cleaning.

Dirt and grime may hinder us from identifying important signs of damage. This is why cleaning is the important first step for tuning a bike, and doing this first makes the process more efficient.

Everything needs to be cared for, from the frame to the handlebars, the wheels, and the gears.

A good bike tune up kit includes various materials and tools necessary, including a degreaser and cleaner. Wiping the entire bike using a cloth with a cleaning solution should be enough to remove most of the dirt. More persistent patches may require a more focused method.

Wheels and Cable Check


The cables and bike wheels are essential for safe riding, and any operational inconsistencies may lead to dangerous situations.

  • Cable inspection involves checking the whole length of the cord, from the brakes to the brake pads and all other connections, such as those for the shifters.
  • The wheels are tested for wobbling and clearance; they should be stable while spinning and should not make contact with the brake pads.
  • Wear is checked and should be even; any unevenness means there is the risk of going flat while riding. Moreover, inspect the tires for any cracks and improper pressure.
  • The spokes on the bicycle wheel are also assessed for loosening or damage.
  • Rims are inspected as well because damaged ones may lead to braking issues.

Brakes Check

The brakes greatly impact our safety when riding, and tune-up involves inspecting the entire system.

If a bicycle loses its brakes while on the road, there are some ways to halt the bike, such as going uphill or just letting it lose momentum.

However, these methods are not completely reliable, and a good wheel-stopping system cannot be easily replaced when considering performance.

Checking the brake system during tune-up involves testing the various components for their efficiency.

The levers must be responsive, and the pads need to apply to the rim when you try to slow down and have the right positioning. The surface of the pads is also inspected for the level of wear.

Aside from these components, the cables are also checked for their behavior while applying the brakes.

Drivetrain Inspection and Maintenance

The drivetrain refers to the drive chain, paddles, chainrings, cassette, and derailleur of the bicycle.

  • The chain is a component that needs to be well-maintained or it will lead to performance issues. One problem that can be exhausting to deal with is the chain falling off.

It can be difficult to reattach, and if you encounter this problem in the wrong situation, you may not be able to ride your bike to your destination and have to walk the rest of the way.

  • Checking the drivetrain involves looking for noticeable damage on all parts and measuring the chain. For the measurement task, we use a chain tool to determine if the wear is significant enough that it needs to be replaced.

Applying proper lubrication is also necessary.

  • In addition, it is vital to test gear shifting and see if there are any visible hiccups in its operation.

Bolts and Screws


As vehicles, bicycles are subject to vibrations while operating on a road. This can lead to screws and bolts loosening, and leaving them alone can be dangerous, since this may lead to certain parts detaching. It is essential to secure them properly.

Certainly, some screws need to be tightened with care. Some parts such as the derailleur may have limit screws that control its alignment and should be adjusted according to need.

What Are the Required Tools for a Tune-up?

You’ll need a towel and a cleaner to remove dirt and grime from the bike. In addition, a lubricant, wrench, chain wear indicator, pump, and pressure gauge are necessary. For easy inspection, a bicycle stand is recommended.


Now that you know what is a bike tune up and the steps involved in performing it, you have a better idea of when the task is necessary. It also helps to know if a bike tune up at home is something you can do or if professional help is required.

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Always ride safely.

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