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fixing bikes

Spring Cleaning: 6 Signs Your Bike Needs a Tune-Up

18 February 2020 / Hilary Angus

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Like any machine, bicycles needs regular maintenance to function properly. This is particularly true if you’ve been riding through the winter, as the rain, road grime, and cold weather create additional pressure on the bike’s moving parts.

Unfortunately, many people don’t recognize the signals their bike is sending out, and continue riding it until it barely works at all. Being proactive about bike maintenance will not only make your ride more enjoyable, but save you money and hassle in the long run. So we’ve compiled a list of common signs that your bike is ready for a tune-up.

1 | Squeaking

Well-maintained bicycles don’t squeak. If your bike sounds like a songbird flying down the street, it could be time for repairs.

At its simplest, you might just need to clean and lube the chain. Use a wet-weather lube in case of spring showers.

If it’s the brakes squeaking, it’s probably time for new brake pads. Regular commuting through the winter can wear rim brake pads down in two weeks. Disc brake pads should be checked every two months with regular riding.

2 | Difficulty Shifting Gears

If you’ve noticed that your gears aren’t shifting as smoothly as they used to, it could be time to change the gear cables and housing.

Dust, dirt, and other contaminants find their way into the housing and reduce the effectiveness of the system. This is particularly true with all of the grime on the roads during winter.

If you have to hold down a shifting lever before it works, or your gears are skipping, it’s time to get it checked out.

3 | Difficulty Braking

The effectiveness of your brakes will also be impacted when your cables & housing need to be replaced. If your brake pads are fine but you still find it difficult to come to a stop, or the brake levers feel harder to compress, your bike is telling you it’s time to replace those cables.

4 | Visible Gunk

This is a simple one, but often ignored. If your bike is very dirty, you are causing undue damage to the drivetrain. Keeping your bike clean is one of the easiest ways to ensure its smooth functioning and prevent future mechanical failures.

If your drivetrain sounds gritty, is visibly dirty, or is leaving a grease tattoo on your calf every time you get on it, it’s time for a cleaning.

A simple on-bike clean could suffice if it’s not too bad. But if it’s been a long time since you’ve last cleaned it, and you’ve been riding through winter, it could require taking the drivetrain apart to give the whole system some love.

5 | You Haven’t Replaced the Chain in a While

Poor shifting could be a sign that you need to replace your cables and housing, but it could also mean your chain is stretched.

As a general rule of thumb, you should replace your chain every 3,000km or so to ensure the functionality of your drivetrain, and to prevent wear & tear on the more expensive parts like your cassette and chainrings.

It doesn’t cost anything to get your chain measured, and is one of the easiest ways to prevent much more costly repairs in the future.

6 | Rust

Now this one seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people continue riding their bike when the moving parts are visibly rusted. Not only does this cause damage to the machinery that will be more expensive or difficult to fix later, but it just sucks to ride.

If your bike looks like this one below, you definitely need a tune-up!


Cycle City is located at 646 Hornby St, in the heart of downtown Vancouver. Our full-service repair shop is open 7 days a week and can usually guarantee same-day turnaround.

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