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Tuning up a bicycle

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These steps will guide an apprentice mechanic through the complete process of tuning up a bicycle. All of this should be done after a basic evaluation that roughly determines the bike is repairable, but the steps below might also a "fatal flaw" that would warrant abandoning work on the bike.

Step 1: Lubrication

1. Lay bike on LEFT side (chain side up)

2. Using Tri-flow oil, lubricate front hub bearings right side, headset, left pedal, front and rear brake pivots and barrel adjusters, shifters (if friction), bottom bracket right side, front derailer pivots (8) and limit screws; rear derailer pivots(8), limit screws, barrel adjuster, springs and jockey pulley wheel axles; rear hub bearing right side, and freewheel bearings.

3. Lay bike on RIGHT side

4. Using Tri-flow oil, lubricate rear hub bearings left side, right pedal, bottom bracket left side, front hub left side.

Step 2: Preliminary Assessment

1. Clamp bike tightly in workstand (preferably by seatpost) for preliminary assessment

2. Clean and lubricate, or if necessary, replace chain (it probably isn’t -- ask if unsure)

3. Shift carefully through all the gears to check derailleur limits,

4. Wiggle derailers to check for excessive wear, esp. if indexed.

5. Check chainrings for wobble

6. Check wheels for hops

Step 3: Assess/Repair Wheels

1. Remove both wheels from bike: inspect tires, tubes and rim strips and if needed remove now (replace only after cleaning and truing rims). If tubes are flat and you suspect a hole, you can check them for leaks.

2. Assess both hubs and adjust bearings if necessary. Assess freewheel and replace if needed.

3. Tighten cassette lockring if present.

4. Grease axle nuts or quick release skewers (and oil q/r cams, and replace springs if needed).

  • Note: The following 4 wheel steps can be done on bike in workstand in some cases.

5. Clean light corrosion on rims with wire wheel.

6. In truing stand, lubricate spoke nipples with one drop of Tri-flow each.

7. Clean rims further with cleaner and/or alcohol, if necessary.

8. True and tension rims,

9 Replace rim strip, tubes and tires if needed

9. Leave wheels off, and continue to Step 4

Step 4: Continued Assessment

Many of these steps are easier without wheels on the bike.

1. Assess bottom bracket and adjust if necessary.

2. Assess headset (final adjust later with bike on floor).

3. Assess brakes and brake pads. Replace pads if needed.

4. Using Tri-flow oil, lubricate all cables by removing housing from stops, or loosen stand clamp and carefully rotate bike upside down.

5. Clean frame with cleaner on rag.

6. Shave and sand rust on chrome and frame and touch up paint if warranted

Step 5: Brake & derailleur adjustments

1. Reinstall wheels on bike

2. Ensure that axles are fully seated in dropouts before checking wheel alignment and centering

3. Replace brake or derailleur cables if needed. Tension cables with barrel adjuster ¼ of the way out, check that cable binder bolts are tight.

4. Adjust brakes: Tighten mounts

5. Adjust derailers and double-check limit screw settings

Step 6: Final adjustments

1. Repair and secure or remove any accessories and install kickstand if needed

2. Replace saddle if damaged

3. Replace grips if damaged / remove bar tape if ripped and replace plugs (tape after sale)

4. Check all fasteners esp. brake mounts, pedals, crankbolts, axle nuts, levers, bars, stem and seatpost for tightness.

5. Wipe excess lube from chain, and any grease from seat, grips, frame, etc.

6. Remove bike from stand.

7. Adjust headset

8. Inflate the tubes

Step 7: Safety tests

1. Safety check your work, then request a key volunteer to do the same.

2. Test ride: pedal hard in all gears to check for worn cogs (chain skips), ride no-hands to check for bent fork, shift under moderate load to check derailer adjustments.

3. If test ride is OK fill out a red sales tag: put S/N and your name on one side, size (seat tube/toptube c-c in cm) and price on the other side, and loop tag on handlebar at stem.

4. Leave work sheet on handlebars with work you’ve done checked off, esp. if tune up is not finished.

5. You're done!

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