How often should I service my bike?

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This is a question we hear fairly frequently. The answer, as usual, is "it depends". It depends on the mileage and how heavily the bike is used, the time of year, where the bike is kept, and whether it is cleaned regularly. It also depends on the quality of the bike and the first few weeks of its life - was it assembled by a competent mechanic (or in bike shop jargon, PDI-ed), or just pulled out of the box it was delivered in? Did it have a tune-up and check-up after a few weeks' riding?


I have one bike I use for my everyday transport needs, and another for longer rides and cycle touring.

My everyday bike is a beat-up workhorse, used 6 or 7 days a week all year round, spending some time outside (when locked up) and hardly ever cleaned. As you would expect, this bike requires regular attention, as well as consumables such as brake blocks, chains and tyres. One of the best decisions I've made was replacing all cables with stainless steel ones, which eliminates the need to replace them once a year as before. I need to know that I can rely on this bike to get me to my destination safely, but I don't have time to inspect it, clean it and make small adjustments regularly, so I make sure it is serviced frequently. In this sense it is much like a bike which belongs to someone who doesn't want to 'tinker' with their bike. Between its scheduled assessments for service, the only attention this bike gets is pumping up the tyres (once every three weeks or so), oiling the chain and wiping it down afterwards (realistically once every six weeks), and a quick turn of a brake adjuster. I bring the bike into the workshop for assessment three times a year - once at the start of winter, usually November, once near the end of winter, usually February or March, and once in the summer. Usually it means the bike gets a basic service, or at least a clean and a bolt check, twice a year, and a full service once a year (I like this to be at the end of winter, so it feels good to ride when the weather starts changing). It means I don't bother fussing over it on a daily basis, but it doesn't get neglected and performs well all year round, like the trusty commuting bike that it is.  


My other bike is always kept indoors, leaves the house once a week in the summer for 20 to 50 miles, then gets wiped down, inspected quickly and returned to its parking spot in the dining room. It gets a quick assessment twice a year - at the start of spring and at the end of summer. Usually it means cables are lubricated, the drivetrain is cleaned and checked for wear, brakes and gears are adjusted if necessary and all bolts are checked to ensure they are not loose or seized. Sometimes it only gets a full service every other year. The fact it is kept indoors, cleaned regularly and used less often means it rarely needs additional attention. This routine is suitable for a bike used for leisure riding - a mountain bike, a weekend road bike, even a touring bike (but it is always advisable to service it before leaving for a holiday!).


So in summary, the answer to the question "How often should I service my bike?" is:

  • For a heavily used commuting bike, have it checked and assessed approximately every 4 to 6 months - more often in the winter - and expect a full service approximately once a year.

  • For a fair-weather bike, as long as it's cleaned and checked over after every big ride, a full service may only be required every couple of years.

And obviously this assumes you keep the tyres pumped up and oil the chain every few weeks. If you don't, your bike will probably require a full service every couple of months!

posted on Wednesday 27th November 2013 by Jake Voelcker

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