Bicycle maintenance costs anywhere from £30 to £160 depending on factors such as the type, manufacturer and expense of your bike, how you ride (e.g., city commuting, mountain biking, etc.), the conditions in which you commonly ride and the level of service you choose. While bike maintenance is essentially straightforward, it can still be daunting with the advances in materials and technology.
- How often should my bicycle be serviced?
- How much is a bicycle service?
- What's included in a bike service?
A middle-aged leisure cyclist who only wishes to ride 10-20 miles at a time along a cycle path on a standard road bike will have different needs to a mountain biker. A city commuter will have very different requirements to the serious road cyclist aiming to emulate Chris Froome. The difference in a carbon framed bike costing over £3,000 and a folding commuter bike is vast. However, there are some basics in common to all types of rider.
How Often Should You Get a Bicycle Service?
A bicycle needs to be serviced anywhere from every 3 months to every 18 months, depending on a variety of factors. The time you can wait between services for your bike depends on how you use your bike and whether service intervals are measured in time or miles. This can vary from shop to shop.
Evans goes for time and states 3-9 months for their silver service and 12 - 18 months for the Gold. Halfords recommends at least once a year, and they do a free bike check to ensure it is safe before assessing the service you need. Your local bike shop can advise you on your requirements, taking into account the factors highlighted above.
Having a regularly maintained bicycle is important to help prevent accidents and improve rider safety.
Average Cost of a Bicycle Service
A basic bicycle service will set you back around £35, and should include a check of the alignment, adjustment of gears and brakes and lubricating the chain. A mid-level maintenance costs in the range of £50 - £75 and will include what's in a basic service plus a check of the wheel hubs and rims, bearings, drive train, headset and bottom bracket. A premium maintenance typically costs £80 - £160 and will also include a full strip to check, clean, re-grease and check for movement.
|Cost of a Bicycle Service||Range||Average Cost|
|Bronze/Regular/Standard||£30 - £50||£35|
|Silver/Deluxe/Premier||£50 - £75||£60|
|Gold/Super Deluxe/Elite||£80 - £160||£115|
|Drive train (chain)||£30|
How to save money on a bicycle service
If you join a cycling organisation such as British Cycling, you may be able to get discounts of 10% at the national chains. Note that servicing excludes the cost of any parts that may be required. Alternatively, local shops may offer discounts for regulars.
What's Included in a Bike Service?
While bicycle service providers all offer their own unique plans, it's quite common to find 3 price plans. Here's what you should expect to receive from different levels (which we've called 'Bronze', 'Silver' and 'Gold'):
|Plan Type||What's Typically Included|
|Silver, includes bronze plus:|
|Gold, includes Silver plus:|
Where Should You Get Your Bicycle Serviced?
National Chains vs. Independent Cycle Shops (Your ‘Local Bike Shop’)
Using a national chain store to service your bicycle is absolutely fine. Staff should be experienced and trained. Local bike shops are also a mainstay for cyclists. Often, they are run by keen cyclists who are motivated and very well trained to undertake just about any task you need. Building a good rapport with your local shop pays dividends. Some will offer discounts for regulars. They are often free with advice and happy to chat all things ‘bike’. If you find a good one, treasure it. Cyclists out on long tours finding themselves in trouble can be bailed out by the Locals at short notice.
Mountain Bike Suspension Maintenance
The components and servicing requirements will be similar to regular road bikes. The main difference in cost will be the maintenance of the suspension. To preserve the life of your suspension in-between services, you must keep components lubricated and free from dirt.
Wiggle has produced a guide, but this assumes a modicum of expertise and access to the tools to do so. They recommend cleaning and lubrication refills every 25 ride hours and a full strip-down service every 200 hours.
It is difficult to find a standard price for suspension services as there are so may variables. With seals, and component wear being so dependent on how hard the bike has been ridden, there is a wide range of potential work involved. The prices below are a guideline based on three independent quotes:
|Cost of mountain bike suspension service|
|Basic lower leg service with oil change||From £40.00|
|Replacement of all O-rings and lubricants||From £85.00|
|Basic air gun clean and replacement seals||From £35.00|
|Nitrogen charge||From £85.00|
How often should components be changed?
Individual component changes should be based on wear and tear and thus on miles ridden. The main components to check are:
- 1. Chain and Rear cassette—the ‘drive train’ or ‘chain-set’.
- 2. Brakes.
- 3. Bearings—wheel bearings and headset.
You should be visually checking these components with every ride.
The Chain: Chains come in 9, 10, 11-speed versions. It will be important for you to know which chain you have fitted. Count the cogs on the rear cassette to find out.
All chains need a regular clean, lubrication and degrease, so the mantra is ‘clean, clean and clean’. As for wear and replacement intervals, many factors impact upon this which means it is not easy to give one figure that fits all bikes and riders.
Some say replace the chain every 2,000 - 3,000 miles. If properly looked after a bicycle chain should last 8,000 miles. The easiest way to determine if you need a new chain is to use a chain-checker, which measures how much your current chain has stretched. However, manufacturers like SRAM and Campagnolo say there are too many factors to pin it down. These are some of the factors that change rate of wear of components:
- Riders are of different weights and fitness.
- They ride differently—commuting, fast, slow, racing.
- They change gears and brake differently. Some are aggressive, others sedate.
- Riders have different power outputs, and thus different pressures are exerted on drive chains and components.
- They ride on different terrain—road, gravel cycle path and dirt tracks
- Weather conditions: wet or dry and in different seasons.
For longevity of chain life, ‘cadence’ is critical. Cadence is the ‘pedalling rate’, measured in the number of revolutions (of the crank) per minute (rpm). Some riders grind out a cadence of 50-60 rpm in big gears, others ‘spin’ in lower gears at over 80-90 rpm. Each turn of the crank applies pressure along the chain, and so eventually it stretches. The harder you push, the more pressure is exerted.
Chain wear: If the chain starts chain jumping, or you can pull it nearly off the sprocket, it needs replacing. There should be no signs of corrosion at all on the chain.
Rear Cassette: Some advise you to change this every time you change a chain, but opinions vary, others say 2-3 chains per cassette. The variation, of course, is for the reasons set out above. To know when a cassette is worn, ask your service centre or local bike shop. There are inexpensive sprocket wear gauges if you decide you wish to learn some bike maintenance skills.
Brakes: Brakes on bicycles have evolved so that now you may have disc brakes and thus brake pads instead of the more common cartridge pads. While the other components’ wear can cause problems, brakes are your lifesaver. Check you have the correct pads for the type of wheel rims you have. If you don’t know, ask.
You need to be looking for the wear lines indicating the reducing thickness of the pads/discs. If unsure, get them checked by the experts. A local bike shop will often do this for free. Park tools has released a series of videos giving instructions on how to change pads. It is straight forward for those with confidence and the tools.
Bearings: You have bearings in the wheels, the bottom bracket and the headset. They come in different forms, so servicing by yourself is not straight forward. You will need to develop some expertise and relevant tools. There are sites like bike radar who can help in this regard. Bottom line? Complicated, unless you have the tools and the know-how. However, once learned, you can do it yourself.
Wheel bearings: There is the ‘valve test’, and you should be checking for lateral side to side play. There should be none. For the valve test, remove the wheel, turn the wheel by holding the axle. If this feels rough, metallic and dry, then these are indicators the bearings are worn. Park Tools has helpful articles on hub maintenance. Here’s one that covers the basics of cup-and-cone and cartridge bearing hubs. Here’s another that goes in-depth on freehub service on a few popular brands of sealed hubs.
Evans checks this in the silver service, so bearings should be checked every 12-18 months, but again the frequency depends on use and rider factors.
Bike maintenance stands—if you should wish to carry out these tasks, then a stand is a handy addition to your toolbox, some jobs are much, much harder to do without one. Halfords supply one at £40, a figure which seems to be about standard.
Bike Maintenance Pre-Ride Check
Things to check before every ride
- 1. Wheels: are the quick-release skewers tight? Spin the wheel and look for brake contact on rims. Move the wheel sideways to check for looseness. Straddle the front wheel, between your thighs and grip the handlebars, try to move them side to side.
- 2. Tyres: check the pressure with a gauge, look for cracks, cuts or tears
- 3. Test the brakes, ensure they grip the rim.
- 4. Lube and visually inspect the chain for corrosion.
- 5. Hold a crank in each hand and try to shake them to see if they are loose.
- 6. Check the gear shifts operate.
Tools and spares to take with you on every bike ride
- Small frame-mounted pump: £9 - £20
- Tyre patch kit: £2- £5
- Spare inner tube: £5 - £15
- Tyre levers: £5 - £10
- Spoke wrench: £5 - £10
- A multi-tool that has Allen keys, flat and cross-head screwdrivers: £7 -£25
- Spare chain link: £5
- Link tool: £5 - £20
- Stock emergency gear: Spare spokes, cables, tyres duct tape and a rag if you are out for a long ride away from help! Phone, Cash, ID, Rain Jacket, food and water!
A few final thoughts on bike maintenance and servicing
The necessary checks we have highlighted, should be learnt by anyone who owns a bike. You should be able to change a tube and mend a broken chain with a spare link when out on the road. This will save you time, money and energy.
Keep your bike clean and lubricated. You will never avoid punctures, but you should cut down on silly, and sometimes dangerous malfunctions by the regular checks outlined above.