Introduction: How to Tune Up a Bike

There is no need to go to a bike shop to get your bike tuned up when you can do it yourself for only a few dollars.

In this instructable, we will go over how to tune the shifters and adjust the brakes on most bikes. We will not go over how to change the brake fluid or cables.

Derailleurs look quite complicated, and they are, but it isn't hard to adjust them to get them to run smoothly. I taught myself how to do this while building a budget mountain bike over the course of a year and have tuned my bikes for a while now.

Warning: I am not a trained professional and this instructable may not work for all bikes. You are doing this tune-up at your own risk and I cannot be held responsible for you damaging your own bike.


A small flathead screwdriver

5mm hex key

Step 1: Determine What Brakes and Where the Derailleur Adjustment Screws Are.

We need to find what kind of brakes the bike has. Generally, there are 3 common types: V-brakes, and disc brakes, which have two sub variates, Hydraulic and mechanical. V-brakes are found at the top of the fork and just below the seat post and they press onto the rim of the wheel to stop the bike. Disc brakes are exactly what they sound like; discs. The discs can be found at the hub of the wheels and the calipers are bolted onto the frame and fork near the hubs. Refer to the pictures to identify what type of brakes you have.

Step 2: Mechanical Disc Brakes (Skip to Step 4 for V-brakes or Step 3 for Hydraulic)

To tune the brakes we will tighten the lever and realign the pads with the disc. This will solve the calipers rubbing on the disc and tighten the brake lever so it doesn't hit the handlebars and keeps you safer because you will get more braking power faster.

1. First we will check the brake lever and make sure it doesn't pull too far. If you want the brake lever to be tighter you need to adjust the cable tension adjuster - see pictures.

1a. Loosen the tensioner and then tighten the little nut on it to hold it in place. See pictures for nut.

2. To stop the pads from rubbing on the disc you need to loosen both mounting bolts.

2a. Then pull back on the brake lever and hold it.

2b. Then tighten the bolts back up, while still holding the brake lever.

This should have tightened up the brake lever and stopped the pads from rubbing on the disc.

If it didn't then look on the side of the caliper facing the wheel and loosen the silver bolt a few clicks and then repeat steps 2 - 2b.

Feel free to leave a comment if you are still having trouble.

Step 3: Hydraulic Brakes

Hydraulic brakes are harder to work with mainly because they don't have as many adjustable parts as mechanical brakes but they still are easy to fix and tune.

This bike has a rubbing disc so the first thing we are going to do is loosen the bolts mounting it to the frame and then hold down on the brake lever. Now if you look at the third image very closely you can see that the disc is pressed against one of the pads so we need to move the caliper over so that there are even amounts of space on both sides. Push each side of the caliper around until you are satisfied with the amount of space and then, holding the caliper in place, tighten the bolts and voila! You have fixed it!

If there isn't enough space to stop the disc from rubbing remove the wheel and wedge a screwdriver in between the pads and wiggle it, pressing the pads so they move back and leave you with more space. Never press the brake lever while the wheel is off. If you do the use a screwdriver to move the pads back apart. Now put the wheel back on making sure that it's clamped on tightly.

Step 4: V-Brakes

I don't have a bike with V-brakes handy but I have worked on them.

Last but not least we have V-brakes. Loosen the bolt holding the cable down and pull the caliper up higher or lower to the point where the pads are about 1/4 - 1/2 an inch away from the rim and tighten the bolt down again.

If your wheel is warped you may need to have the pads farther away from the rim to ensure they don't rub. Or you can take the bike to a bike shop and have the bike shop true it.

Step 5: Tuning the Derailleurs

We are going to do a simple tune on the derailleurs. To start we are going to shift the bike into gear 1x1. Then we'll start with the front derailleur. Find the adjuster screws. Then, loosen and tighten the low screw until the derailleur cage is only 1 mm away from the chain on the inside.

Go to the rear derailleur and find the adjustment screws. Then adjust the low adjustment screw until the top sprocket on the derailleur is perfectly aligned with the largest gear on the rear wheel.

Now shift the bike into its highest gear, in this case, 3x8, and find the high adjustment screws.

Adjust the front derailleur high screw until the outside of the cage is 1mm away from the highest sprocket on the crankset.

Then move to the back and adjust the rear derailleur high screw until its top sprocket is perfectly aligned with the smallest gear on the rear wheel.

Step 6: You're Done!

Yay! You made it through the tutorial and now should have a tuned-up bike. If it didn't work then please comment and I can try to help you.

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