We've been repairing, maintaining, and
upgrading all types of bikes here at Dutch Bike since day one,
because while we love the somewhat exotic (here in the US, at least)
mechanical aspects of the bikes we import, one of our core beliefs is
that the best bike is the bike that you ride,
whatever it is. Whether we're installing custom fenders on your 90's
Bianchi racer or overhauling your 1976 Schwinn cruiser, we love
keeping bikes on the road.
in the past two or three years, I've seen a massive upswing in the
numbers of bikes being brought out of storage, bought used, or
restored for everyday use. All types of reasons – economic,
practical, or ethical – bring these faithful steeds back into
harness, but my favorite of all is that it just seems to have become
cool. With increasing
numbers of bicycles on the road – many of them seeing their second
tour of duty – every shop is seeing an increase in repair traffic
and, more relevantly, more people are becoming acquainted with the
world of bike repair.
many, getting a bike repaired can be even more intimidating than
“taking the car in.” I will be the first to admit that bicycle
service shops do not have a stellar reputation for friendliness or
customer service, and even though a bike is less complex than a car
it can still be an opaque and mysterious opponent when it's not
working properly. For these very good reasons, a large number of my
service customers don't come to the shop for anything as specific as
wheel truing or derailleur hanger alignment, but rather for a general
tune-up. It might be every few hundred miles or every few years,
depending on where and how you ride, how your bike is designed, and
how it's stored and cared for. Whether your mechanic calls it a
“tune-up” or a “general service” or a “maintenance
package,” the basic idea is the same: make
my bike work so I can keep riding it.
You drop your tired, creaky steed at the shop, and a day or two
later you pick it up shiny and ready for another ride. What actually
happens to the bike, though?
you've seen in previous posts, I enjoy few things more than deflating
the fear and mystery around the technical side of bicycles, and so
today we'll walk through exactly what goes on during a tune-up.
Different tune-ups will include a variety of different operations
(wheel truing, adjustment, part replacement, etc.), and different
shops will provide a sometimes bewildering variety of options and
levels of detail. The tune-up you'll see here is our
“Comprehensive,” usually best for older bikes or commuters with
medium to high mileage. If the bike requires less I'll suggest a
less in-depth “Standard” or “Basic,” or simply perform a few
adjustments a la carte.
First, I'll remove
the wheels to make cleaning the bike easier and because I'll be
working on them individually later. I'll spray and wipe down the
frame and components with a weak cleaning solution (I like Simple
Green), because it's much more pleasant to work on a clean bike.
Now for the wheels:
cleaning first, then truing and balancing spoke tension.
Next I'll open the
hubs to check the bearings and inject fresh grease. When I put them
back together, I'll be sure to adjust them so that they'll spin
smoothly when they're installed.
Back on the bike,
I'll do the same to the headset and bottom bracket bearings if they
can be serviced. Before I reinstall the wheels, I'll sand and pick
debris out of the brake pads for stronger and quieter braking.
Now that the pads
are clean and grippy, I'll adjust the pad position and spring tension
of the brakes so they'll work powerfully, quietly, and drag-free.
the brakes “dialed,” I'll move on to the derailleurs; adjusting
the cable tension and limit screws, and the position of the
derailleurs themselves to optimize the speed, smoothness, and above
all the accuracy of each gear change.
Finally, I'll check
the tire inflation and take the bike for a test ride to make sure
everything is working perfectly!
As you can see,
there's no mystery and no magic here, but the proper tune-up should
have your bike riding like new – or at least close to it – and
keep you going for plenty of rides. Having your bike tuned may not
be the most glamorous, but the cumulative positive effects of a
smoothly functioning bike can be far-reaching!