The urban bike magazine

All you need to know about bike servicing

When you own any piece of equipment that has some kind of mechanical parts then it will eventually have to be serviced or even repaired at some point, particularly with a bicycle. Bike service is very important, and it’s not only available in the bike shop. Take a look at some useful tips to get you started…

How often should you repair your bike?

Over time your bike will go through a lot of wear and tear. Sometimes its only when we come face to face with a mechanical problem that we realise how fragile a bike can be. Even the small failures can make a huge impact on the functionality of the bike. Little problems such as moved brake pads can subtly cause your braking power to decrease.

Aim to get your bike checked over every few months. Obviously, this is all dependent on how often you cycle. During the winter season the bike can get in a bad state from the debris picked up off the wet and muddy conditions, so pay particular attention during this time.

How to repair your bike

There are a couple of options to keep your bike in a safe road worthy condition. The majority of bike owners take it to a bike shop. The other option is to fix it yourself. This may be a daunting thought to some, but there are so many of the typical common repairs that are fairly simple to fix yourself. Its surprising how much a good set of tools can fix. Read on and, we’ll teach you how to perform your own bike service.

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Related article:

Top 5 (DYI) bicycle maintenance tips for beginners


How to replace…

Brakes pads

Brake pads are heavily used and they come with wear indicators, such as circles or lines. If these have disappeared from the pads wearing down, its time to replace them. All thats needed is a 2.5 and 4 mm Allen key.

Bike Service_Brake caliper

The brake calliper. Photo: Glory Cycles. Licenced under this Common Creatives licence. Changes were made.

  1. Loosen off the brake calliper using the lever and remove the wheel.

  2. Using the 2.5 mm Allen key, unscrew the grub screw that stops the pad from sliding out. You dont need to completely remove it, just enough to slide the pad out.

  3. The new pad will have a directional arrow and the right/left indicator on it. Then just slide it in.

  4. Tighten up the grub screw and then repeat this process on the other side.

  5. Once the wheels are back on, close the calliper and adjuster to set the pad position relative to the rim. You can adjust their position using your 4 mm Allen key.

Gear Cables

Over time brake and gear cables can stretch with frequent use. Cables are made out of stainless steel and are under tension when you pull on the brakes or change gear. Stretched cables cause your gears to suddenly change or slip due to the slackened tension.

Bike Service Rear derailleur

The rear derailleur. Photo: Cabrera74. Licences under this Creative Commons licence. Changes were made.

The majority of the time its only the inner cable that needs replacing. Here is how to replace the inner cables.

  1. Shift to the smallest cog in the rear. Shift to the smallest chain ring up front. Cut off the cable ends using cable cutters.

  2. With an Allen Key (Hex Key) loosen the shifter cable anchor bolts and pull the cables out of the derailleurs.

  3. Reset the rear derailleur barrel adjuster and the shift lever barrel adjusters. This will give you a broader range for fine-tuning once the new cable is in.

  4. Pull the cables out of their housings and remove from the shifters. Most shifters have an access cover or a plug that needs to be removed before you can pull the cable out of the shifter.

  5. Remove the cable housings from the bike if you prefer. Spray some lube such as WD-40 through the housings to remove dirt and grime.

  6. Reinstall the cable housings. Insert new cables into the shifters and route them through the housing and to each derailleur.

  7. Pull each cable tight using your fingers only and tighten the cable anchor bolts. Cut off the excess cable. Put cable ends on to stop it from fraying. Check the shifting performance and fine-adjust if needed.

Bike service shifter

The shifter. Photo: Eline Schaap. Made at Lemur Bike & Bones


Aside from tires, your bike chain is a frequently used component that should be replaced before its too late. You can measure your chain with a chain measurer tool to see how worn it is. To replace the chain you will need to find the quick link and unlink the chain. If you dont have a quick link to do this then you can use a chain tool. Use your old chain to measure the correct length against the new one. Take out links to match the length. The length all depends on the gearing.

Before installing the new chain, shift the gears to the smallest ring on the rear cassette and the biggest on the front. Feed the new chain through the front cassette and onto the rear and through the derailleur. To link it together you use a quick link that attaches to two ends. Sometimes the gears may need a slight adjustment and this can be done with the barrel adjusters.

Maintenance classes

Some bike centres or cycling organisations offer maintenance courses. There are also specific classes for women who may be intimidated by the whole idea of doing your own bike service. These can range from £5 to £20 per class. In the UK, Evans Cycles put on a maintenance class every fortnight in their many stores scattered around the country. These mechanic gurus will show you a few handy tricks that will prove forever valuable.

How much is a service from a bike shop

Costs involved for a basic bike service are for the check over, any new parts, and the labour for the work carried out. The basic service will cost anywhere around £25-£40 exclusive of any other parts needed, and of course depending on where you take it. This bike service will include brake & gear adjustment, general lubrication and a tyre inflation check.

A full bike service is only needed if your bike hasnt been out of the shed for a long time, or if you ride on a daily basis. A service of this intricacy could cost up to £100.

Another very convenient option is a mobile bike service such as Bike Wrench in Coventry, Bike Debug in Shropshire, or FixBikeGo in Manchester. They are just like a bicycle shop, with the exception that they pick your bike up and deliver it back to you for free. This is perfect if you have no time or transport to take your bike to a shop.

Emergency free bike service

Sometimes, usually in the City, there are free repair services such as Cycle SOS Pit Stop in London and also Bike Shed in Wolverhampton. These shops check your bike for emergency attention. Halfords, a major UK bicycle retailer, has a permanent service where they offer a free bike check.

At the end of the day, if you want to stay safe while travelling the roads by bike, then you just need to give your trusty bike the attention it deserves.