I came through the NTP program this year and am very new to biking. Biking is my short suit, so I've ridden a ton (at least by my standards). The only maintenance I've done is chain lube, chain length stretch check, and tire air pressure. And an occasional wash. I'm wondering whether the bike needs annual maintenance like a car.
A search for answers on the web talks about having bearings and cables replaced annually. Replacement doesn't sound like maintenance -- at that point, why not just wait until there's a hint of a problem before spending the money?
Can someone set me straight? I'm sure the LBS will tell me that lots of annual maintenance is required, but what's the real story?
I think it all depends on the mileage that you've put on the bike, the conditions that you've ridden it under, and the conditions that you store your bike. If your bike is sitting out in the balcony being subject to snow, rain, sun, and whatever else then obviously it needs to be looked at a little bit more carefully than if was stored in your basement or garage.
I personally don't think that it's necessary to do a professional bike maintenance annually if all I were doing were riding my bike around Hains Point on sunny days, putting less than 1,000 miles on the bike, and storing it in a heated basement.
I was at a bike maintaince clinic once. They were recommending doing a maintanence/tune-up twice a year. I think that unless you are a serious biker putting in some serious mileage and racing a lot, that's just an overkill.
I do a tune up annually about 1-2 weeks prior to my A-race. My A-race is always an Ironman, so in that sense it's always worth it to me to take to a LBS. During the tune up, if they find something that needs replacing, they will bring it up to me. In my experiences from the LBS that I frequent, they've always been honest and told me things that I already know. For example, the last time that I had my chain replaced, I had about 10,000 miles on it. It was kind of old and loose. I knew that I needed a new one, they just pushed me over the edge :)
Assuming you've been taking care of your ride throughout the year, its way cheaper and easier to do annual maintenance yourself, in my opinion.
Annual/Winter tasks I like to do:
- Frame inspection for visible cracks or deep gouges
- Clean and Re-grease anything on the bike with threads
- Re-check all bolts for correct torque
- Replace any frayed or sticking cables
Maybe pick up a bike maintenance book (I like the Big Blue Book by Park Tools), and you'll quickly save yourself hundreds of dollars by doing your own work.
I don't really do any annual maintenance. I replace things when they wear out. Over the winters I might do a full cable and chain replacement even if it's not needed, but just because I've got some cabin fever and want to work on the bike a bit.
I'm not sure if/how it's separate from their book, but Park has a great free repair website with just about everything you could need. I've always thought that the "full tune up" was the most overpriced thing at most bike shops.
I agree with Andy about learning to do your own basic maintenance, and saving money. However, whether or not you can/want do it yourself depends on the bike you have and how complicated it is.
For example, if you have entirely external cabling (except under the bar tape), you can see with your own eyes if anything is wrong, and clean what needs to be cleaned. If you have an internally routed tri-bike, the problem(s) can't be seen until someone tries to remove the cables and literally can't because of grime from a season(s).
Here's my own cautionary tale on which I am basing my advice above:
Many new bikes have hidden brakes, which require a work stand and pretty delicate tools to fix. Working on the rear brake on the Cervelo P4 is pretty much like spelunking in the dark.
All bikes have numerous internal bearings, some of which can be seen with a little disassembly, and some of which are cartridge style so replacing them is based on the "feel" of wear, rather than visual identification. Qualified mechanics can turn a head-set and tell you how worn the bearings are. Some riders replace them annually, and some riders replace them when it gets to the point that they can't turn a corner without applying force to their bars, or hear a click in the same spot of every.pedal.stroke.
If your bike isn't too complex or your want to learn, the annual maintenance comes down to the amount (miles) you ride your bike, in what conditions, and what that means for your consumables (chain, cassette, bearings, cable stretch, brake pads).
Some annual maintenance is just a thorough cleaning: taking out the bottom bracket to get out road grit that will wear out the bracket bearings. Cleaning inside of your head set if you ride your trainer a lot (even with a towel) so all the parts that keep your front end from collapsing when you ride through a pothole don't rust out. Lubing the inside of cable housing or internal cable routing guides - see again my own cautionary tale. I had them lubed and changed in Feb '11, and by Dec '11 they were already hard to get out.
Replacement can be maintenance, because all of the consumable items rub against something else that may or may not be consumable - or may or may not be cheap to replace as well. For example, the chains and cassettes wear out by rubbing against each other, so riding a chain (which is cheap to replace) too long destroys a more expensive cassette (or even crankset chainrings in the worse situations). Brake pads that are too old/thin trash the rims of your wheels - so then you need new wheels.
If you feel comfortable learning and doing those, great. If you don't, welcome to the club. In which case I recommend going to a LBS *you trust* and saying "please tell me what you think I need done." Then you can pick and choose items off the menu, and discuss with them what is reactive (because of existing wear), and what is proactive (to prevent future wear - or accidents).
NOTE: Usually the annual maintenance deal at a LBS is cleaning, checking wear and tear, and the associated labor costs. Replacement parts and the labor to replace them tend to be extra. The tune-up at a LBS is (usually) making sure the gears are tuned and shift properly, especially if you switch from training to race wheels, and the brakes are centered and wide/narrow/responsive enough, and nothing rattles (literally they bounce the bike on the floor, tires down, and listen). There is no cleaning (barring a general wipe down) and unless wear and tear indicates, no suggestion about parts replacement. Tune-up =/ annual maintenance.
No matter who does my cleaning, maintenance, and replacement, I consider the time (me) or money (shop) a pittance compared to the investment I have already made in my bike and the price to replace it all for want of a properly installed head set bearing.