If you’re a sporting enthusiast (and live in an area with seasonal weather changes), there are certain annual events that help mark the passage of time. Instead of birthdays or New Year’s Eve, the important dates in your year might look like: Ski Tune Time, Snow Tire Installation Time and Bike Tune Time.
Though the exact dates these important events fall on will vary on your region (again, because of weather), if you forget or procrastinate, you do so at your own peril. Getting a regular (usually annual) bike tune, in particular, can have a big impact on your riding and safety. So, how much is a bike tune up and what does it include?
How much a bike tune up cost varies by region – and also by level of tune. Most bike shops offer an assortment of tune ups, ranging from basic to in-depth. Because the cost of a bike tune up depends on your area’s labor rates, we’ve averaged the costs of bike tune ups across major US cities.
According to our research, the national average is $73 for the simpler tune up option and $288 for the deluxe, gold-star, total overhaul tune service.
|City||Cost for Basic Bike Tune-Up|
So, the answer to ‘how much is a bike tune up?’ depends on your region. Check out the rates we compiled for some major US cities:
Now, most of us like to get a good deal and will gravitate to the cheaper end of the price range or justify why we only need the most bare-bones service package. But, a note of caution: it pays to ask your local bike shop “what’s included in a tune up?” and not just “how much does a bike tune up cost?”
What Does a Bike Tune Up Include?
Some bike shops won’t even give an estimate of how much a tune up will cost without looking at the condition of the bike and estimating how long it’ll take to do the work. So, don’t base your decision on the cost but on what’s included in that price – and what your bike realistically needs.
In general, a standard or basic tune up will include:
- A complete wash or really good wipe-down and degrease
- Air tires, lube chain and lube cables
- True wheels
- Adjust brakes and gears
- Tighten headset, crank and cogs
Whether your bike shop labels it as The Supreme, Superior or Deluxe Tune Up, a higher-level tune is essentially a complete breakdown, cleaning and rebuild of your bike. This means:
- Strip parts and detail wash
- Tighten headset and crankset (possibly headset or crank overhaul)
- Hub overhaul
- Air tires, lube chain and lube cables
- True wheels
- Adjust brakes and gears
Additional specialized services – such as bleeding brakes or adjusting shocks – may be included in the overall cost of the tune or you may need to pay an additional amount for them.
Is a Bike Tune Up Worth It?
The short answer is: Yes.
A tune up with the basic/standard services listed above is necessary on a regular basis. It can help diagnose worn or loose parts that could lead to potentially dangerous situations like a loose headset or incorrectly fastened wheel. Also, it can help prolong the lifespan of your bike and components.
For example, if you replace a chain that’s stretched out before it wears down your gears, it’s much cheaper than waiting until you have to replace the entire drive train because of wear.
In addition, you’ll enjoy your biking experience more with smoother shifting, more responsive braking, and no (or fewer) annoying squeaks.
That being said, do you really need the whole enchilada, comprehensive tune? Or, do you need to do it as frequently as “recommended”? That’s more up to your discretion, based on your bike and your riding.
Personally, I don’t go in for the major tunes but once or twice in the lifetime of my bike because a cheaper, standard tune suits me fine. (I’m lightweight – compared to the weight bikes are built for, and a cautious, non-aggressive rider.
The number of times I’ve needed a bottom bracket overhaul in 20 years is: zero. In fact, I’m more likely to damage my bike driving into a parking garage with a roof rack than from the wear and tear of riding. But a tune-up couldn’t fix that mess, anyway!)
Meanwhile, I have biking friends who can’t ride around town without hopping concrete barriers (and cracking their frame) or go for a mountain bike ride without doing a 6-foot drop (and blowing out their shocks).
Hence, the frequency and level of tune service you need is more of a personal judgement call.
How Often Do You Need a Bike Tune Up?
Technically, a bike tune up is recommended once a year. But, obviously, the important thing to focus on is mileage or time in saddle rather than time on the calendar. If you didn’t ride much last year, you can certainly wait longer than 12 months. Conversely, if you just rode the Pacific Crest Trail with saddlebags, it’s probably worth doing a big tune, even if it’s only been three months. Or, if you ride almost every day, your tune-up schedule should probably be twice a year. Again, this is more of a judgement call than an assignment with a firm due date.
Some signs that you’re due to get a bike tune-up (regardless of how much time has elapsed since your last tune) are:
- Excessive creaks, squeaks and clicks when you ride
- “Crunching” when you pedal
- Jumping gears when shifting or “dropping” the chain (when it falls off the gear rings)
- Brakes feel loose or significantly less responsive
- Shocks feel spongey, are leaking fluid or are releasing air when compressed
What Wears Out on a Bike?
The most visually obvious bike part to wear out is the tires. And, unlike other parts, tires wear out over time, regardless of how much you ride, due to dry rot and degradation of the rubber. Of course, tires, particularly the tread, wear out faster due to heavy riding, but a bike that sits unridden in a garage for over a year will still have weaker tires.
And worn tires are a serious safety hazard, not a mere annoyance like a bent derailleur hanger. Worn tires are more prone to blow outs or losing contact with the pavement or trail which can lead to losing control of the bike.
Bike chains wear out over riding time. You (or your bike mechanic) will want to measure chain stretch from time to time to know when it’s time to replace the chain. If you replace the chain when necessary, the stretching shouldn’t cause much damage to the gears.
However, if you continue riding with a stretched chain, over time it will wear out the teeth of your gears, and you’ll have to replace some or all of your gears as well the chain.
Brake pads are another bicycle part that wears out fairly frequently. Depending on how much mileage you do and how you use your brakes, you can expect to replace brake pads about once a year.
Since shifting cables and brake cables are usually protected by cable housing, they don’t wear out nearly as frequently, especially with a regular regimen of lubrication. However, they can become frayed or worn and can even snap, so keep an eye on them as well.
DIY Tips for Bike Maintenance
The following tips are not meant as a substitution for a full tune up (of whatever level and whatever frequency you deem appropriate), which we hope you recognize as valuable at this point. However, performing some simple maintenance on your bike on a regular basis can certainly extend the amount of time between tunes or even drop your tune requirements from the 5-star ($300) tune to the 2-star ($90) next time you take your bike into the shop.
DIY Mountain Bike Tip: I’ve attached a simple maintenance schedule checklist that can save you hundreds in repair items. A FREE PDF that you can download by clicking -> HERE
Doing a regular bike tune up is essential – but it’s not rocket science. If you want to avoid how much a bike tune up costs and do some work yourself, read on for easy, DIY tips for bike maintenance.
- Wash and lube your bike after rainy or muddy riding. Particularly pay attention to: cables, chain, exposed points of movement like derailleurs. Learn more about mountain bike lubrication.
- Safety check. Learn how to stay SAFE riding alone in this article – Is it Safe to Mountain Bike Alone. Check for some main safety hazards before every ride or once a week, and always after taking a crash. This means making sure the handlebars, headset and cranks are appropriately tightened and that quick-release skewers are completely closed and wheels are securely attached.
- Adjust brakes and brake cable tension. As brake pads wear, it takes more pressure on the brake levers to engage them, so it helps to tighten the cable. Also, brake pads sometimes wear unevenly, but you can prolong their life by making sure they’re adjusted with even tension on both sides.
- Make sure wheels are centered in the dropouts and inspect the frame for stress cracks or damage.
- Measure chain for stretch. Usually, you want to replace a chain once it gets to one percent (or more) elongation between links. You can use calipers to measure chain wear, or even a ruler. If measuring with a ruler, pick a rivet on the chain and line it up at the zero mark on the ruler. Count 24 more rivets, which should put you at the 12-inch mark of your ruler on a brand-new chain with no stretch. If it’s off by more than 1/16 of an inch, your chain should be replaced.
For more information on measuring a chain, breaking a chain and the tools to use, watch our video instructions. Also, check the chain rings for damaged teeth or wear. Chain teeth should be symmetrical, but worn-out teeth resemble shark teeth with a more dramatic concavity on one side.
- If you want to learn a new skill or have some bike repair experience, you can adjust the derailleur.
It can be hard to keep track of what regular maintenance needs to be done – and when to do it – so DIY Bikes has a handy mountain bike maintenance schedule to help you. While DIY bike maintenance can’t completely replace a professional bike tune, doing simple and regular upkeep can save you money on frequent or costly tunes and maximize the life expectancy of many components.
Like getting an annual mammogram or your 3,000-mile oil change, getting a regular, professional bike tune is an important way to prolong the life of your bike and potentially avoid some dangerous situations. And, just as importantly, you’ll probably ride better and enjoy your riding more!
Looking for Some More Ways to Help Your Bike Last
Professional writer Kat Jahnigen was 2 miles from the nearest village – and roughly 2,310 miles – from the nearest English-speaking town – when her bike tire burst. At that time, she was a college student on a bike trip across the desolate, rocky island of Crete. It suddenly occurred to her that it would’ve been good to learn some basic bike repairs before setting off on a solo bike trip.
Check out Kat’s website WriteHire at writehire.net.