A spring service for your bike

Get your bike ready for longer, lighter days with our bike maintenance guide

The first sunny days are upon us and with them come the first opportunities to cycle extensively again. Unfortunately, your bike probably isn’t quite as ready as you are if it’s been gathering dust in the cellar since late summer or ridden often and rarely maintained throughout the winter. With our tips for a bike maintenance, you can get your bike ready for its first tour in no time at all.

A stitch in time

Regular maintenance is a great way to prevent unnecessary wear and tear and detect defective parts in good time. Especially after the winter, it makes sense to spend a little time looking after your bike. Chances are high that it either hasn’t been used for a while or has been ridden a lot in bad weather. In both cases, it is more than likely that the bike is dirty or rusty and that individual parts may be worn out.

Fixed intervals for inspection are difficult to set because the conditions under which bicycles are used and stored vary far too much. However, with a thorough spring inspection and another inspection in the autumn if you ride a lot, you should usually be able to get by. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye out on your tours to see if anything is rubbing or rattling on your bike and to take corrective action immediately.

E-bikes need a bit more love

Basically, the same applies to e-bikes as to bicycles that are powered by muscle alone. They also need care and spring, before the first, sunny days, is a very good time for a major inspection. However, with e-bikes it is worth taking a slightly more regular look, especially at the wear parts of the drive system and the brakes. E-bikes are heavier, which means the brakes have more to do, and the power of their motor makes the drive system wear out faster.

As a rough guide, you should schedule an inspection approximately every 2,000 kilometres after an initial inspection at around 200 kilometres. The electronics and the condition of the battery must be checked at a specialist workshop.


The basics

  • A bucket of warm water
  • Washing-up liquid
  • An old cloth
  • A bicycle pump
  • Tyre levers
  • Chain oil
  • Hex keys (4, 5, 6 mm)
  • Spanners (8, 10, 15 mm)
  • Screwdrivers (Phillips & flat head)

Taking it up a notch

  • A garden hose
  • Bike cleaner
  • Drivetrain cleaner
  • A set of brushes
  • A microfibre cloth
  • A bicycle pump with a pressure indicator
  • Tyre levers
  • Chain wear indicator
  • Chain oil
  • Hex keys (4, 5, 6 mm)
  • Spanners (8, 10, 15 mm)
  • Screwdrivers (Phillips & flat head)

Three spring scenarios

Depending on whether you use your bike in winter or not and where it is parked when you are not riding it, slightly different tasks await you in spring.

time requirement 15 minuntes

If your bike goes into a dry cellar after the golden autumn and you don’t touch it until Easter, you will hardly need more than fifteen minutes.

time requirement 30 minutes

If you don’t let winter weather deter you from cycling, cleaning will take much longer. Dirt and especially salt leave stubborn traces that take time to remove.

time requirement 60 minutes

You should plan the most time for the inspection if you haven’t ridden your bike all winter and it has been standing outside unprotected. It will be as dirty as a bike that has been ridden frequently, and you will also need to check all parts thoroughly for proper function. Rain, snow and frost can take their toll, particularly on the drivetrain, in just one winter.

Cleaning comes first

A clean bike is a smooth-running bike, and it is much easier to identify which parts have reached the end of their life when they’re not hidden behind dirt. So, before the inspection, a good wash is in order. All you need is a bucket of lukewarm water with a few drops of biodegradable washing-up liquid and an old rag.

Clean the frame, saddle and handlebars with plenty of warm water first before you move on to the wheels. Only at the very end should you turn your attention to the drivetrain. This is where you will usually find stubborn, oily dirt that you don’t want to spread over the rest of your bike with the cloth. You may have to put a little more effort into this. Fresh, hot water with dishwashing liquid or drivetrain cleaner made specifically for bicycles will speed up the process. Although it sounds tempting, more aggressive cleaners (such as brake cleaner or paint thinner) are not a good idea. They not only attack the paint but can also damage other parts.

Let’s get it rolling

Checking the tyres and inner tubes

This stage starts with a thorough examination of the tyres and inner tubes. You can begin this the night before and fill the tyres with air. The information on how much pressure you need in your tyres is printed on the sidewall of the tyre. If the pressure has not significantly dropped by the next day, then the inner tubes are still fine and do not need to be patched or replaced. But the tyres may also have suffered from wear and tear or a long period of storage. First check that they still have sufficient tread, especially on the rear tyre. Many tyres have markings that make this easier.

Especially on bikes that are only used occasionally, you should also look for cracked or brittle spots in the tyre. If the tyre has no tread or is damaged, it must be replaced before the next tour.


If your tyres keep the air in, that’s half the battle. But as you’re looking at the wheels, there are two more things you can check out in this step. First, lift the wheel off the ground and give it a little push with your other hand. Does it turn without resistance or is it reluctant to pick up momentum and quickly stops again? If the latter is the case, it is often because something is dragging against it (e.g., mudguards or brakes) which you can fix relatively easily yourself. If the wheel still doesn’t turn smoothly and perhaps even makes grinding noises, you need to go to a bicycle repair shop.

You should also check if the rims are out of true. You can do this by rotating the wheel and holding a small piece of wood or plastic as a reference point to within about one centimetre of the rim. If you notice large swerves of the rim, then a visit to the workshop is due.

Nettoyer les pneus

The drivetrain and gears

Sitting tight?

Start your inspection of the drivetrain by checking that the pedals and cranks are still tight. You can easily tighten loose pedals yourself, but for the crank, you need to have some experience to rule out a damaged bottom bracket. If you have derailleur gears on your bike, now is also a good time to check whether the rear derailleur or derailleur hanger is still straight or has been bent inwards due to a fall. If the derailleur cage clearly deviates from the vertical, you will have to replace it. The best place to get advice is a bicycle workshop.

The chain

You will notice issues with the drivetrain quite quickly if you ride your bike regularly. Grating noises, jumpy gears or even gears that don’t shift at all are difficult to ignore. In many cases, such problems are related to the chain. If it’s rusty or individual chain links are stiff, then it’s time to replace it. You can check the wear of the chain with a chain gauge, but it is only worth buying if you really cycle a lot. For the vast majority, correct oiling is much more important. Never use penetrating oil such as WD-40 for this – it only helps for a short time and then flushes the very last bit of lubrication out of the chain. In any case, use bicycle chain oil, apply it carefully to the inside of the chain and wipe off the excess after a short waiting time.

The gears

Many problems with the gear system are not caused by the derailleurs, but by the Bowden cables that run from the shift levers on the handlebars to the derailleurs. Check them thoroughly along their entire length. If they are cracked, rusty or even kinked, they need to be replaced. This is a job for experienced mechanics or a bike shop. If the cables look acceptable but you still have problems shifting, the tension is probably too low. You can adjust the tension with the screws on the shift levers, the rear derailleur or the hub. It’s not difficult, but there’s no shame in going to the bike shop for this either.


You should only work on the brakes yourself if you know exactly what you are doing. Mistakes in maintenance and care can have serious consequences. If you are sure that you are not in over your head, start with a purely visual inspection. Kinked, rusty or frayed cables must be replaced. A visual inspection is also the first step for hydraulic brakes. Are the hoses kinked or is brake fluid leaking somewhere? If you don’t feel any clear resistance on the brake lever when braking or if you can pull the lever all the way to the handlebars, you need to bleed the brake. This is also a repair that is better done in a bike shop.

The same applies to the pads: if they are worn beyond the wear indicators, new ones are due. You can also recognise worn pads by the fact that they no longer grip properly, even though they are firmly in contact with the rim or brake disc. Loud squeaking indicates contamination with oil – in this case too, unfortunately, new pads are required.

Bike lights – a year-round consideration

Sure, winter is when you need your lights the most, but you should be able to rely on your lights all year. If you have a dynamo system on your bike, check all connections and cables. If you have a battery-powered light, connect it to the charger or check the batteries now as a precaution. Don’t forget the reflectors! After a long winter, they are often dirty, especially those on the pedals and in the sidewalls of tyres. Remove dirt from them if you haven’t already done so in the course of cleaning your bike.

One last check of the bolts

Once you have cleaned the bike and it is standing in front of you with inflated tyres and a freshly oiled chain, there is one last step to do. Systematically go through all the bolts on the bike from front to back and top to bottom and test each one to see if it has loosened. But it’s important not to overtighten – using too much force is not good either. It is simply a matter of finding any loose bolts, especially in safety-relevant places such as the stem or brake discs.

If in doubt, head to the professionals

It is possible to carry out a bike inspection yourself for most parts without any previous experience. If you don’t fancy it or don’t feel confident enough to work on parts such as gears and brakes, then simply take your bike to the nearest bike shop.

The costs for a bicycle inspection there start at around 35 pounds for simpler city bikes. E-bikes or full-suspension mountain bikes require more work and are therefore usually more expensive. In addition, wear parts such as tyres or brake pads may need to be purchased, depending on what is required. But be careful: all workshops are particularly busy in spring. It’s best to book an appointment well in advance.

Spring bike inspection checklist

  • Is your bike free from dirt?
  • Are the tyres inflated to the correct pressure?
  • Do the wheels turn freely and without grinding?
  • Do the cranks and pedals turn smoothly without play?
  • Have you cleaned and oiled the chain?
  • Are the shift cables in good condition?
  • Can you shift smoothly through all gears?
  • Are the brake cables/hoses in good condition?
  • Can the brakes be dosed well and pulled on quickly?
  • Are the lights working and reflectors clean?
  • Are all bolts screwed in firmly?

Doing your own bike maintenance is easy with the tips and checklist presented here. And if you take a few minutes to look after your bike every now and then during the year, the spring inspection won’t even take a quarter of an hour. Enjoy your first ride in the sunshine!

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