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Road Bike Maintenance Guide: Prep Your Bike for Smooth Rides


All photos courtesy of Shimano

True cyclists are ready for anything—and they're always ready to head out on a ride! This article will help you prep your road bike for another fantastic season filled with sunshine-soaked miles and exhilarating trips with fellow riders, or make sure you're equipped for consistent rides during the colder months. It’s always important to inspect and perform fundamental maintenance checks on your road bike to ensure it's always in peak condition for your rides.

Consider having a professional inspection and tune-up at your local bike shop to prepare for the upcoming season. If you feel confident assessing wear and tear or potential damages, feel free to do it yourself. However, if you're unsure, the experts at the Shimano Service Center are always ready to assist you.

Hydraulic Disk Brake System

Brake Pads – Regularly inspect your brake pads to gauge their remaining lifespan or determine when they need replacing. The raised material on the pads that comes into contact with the rotor should be visible beyond the metal spring clamp securing them. If the material appears thin, it's time for a replacement.

A clear sign that your brake pads need immediate replacement is the distinct metallic grinding sound you'll hear when braking. This is an indication of worn-out brake pads that could potentially damage your rotors if not replaced promptly.

Calipers and Hoses – Check for wear on your brake hoses or instances where the outer casing may have worn through. Be vigilant for oil near or on the brake calipers or levers. These signs suggest that some system components may need repair or replacement. You can consider changing the hoses and rebleeding them yourself, or you can take your bike to your local shop for professional repair.

Rotors – Regularly inspect each brake rotor's condition. Discoloration on the rotors suggests they need cleaning or replacing. While surface wear is expected, excessive wear can lead to diminished braking performance.

Additionally, ensure your rotors are true. If you spot a slight bend in the rotor or hear a friction noise when spinning the wheel, your rotor might be bent. Utilize a rotor straightening tool or seek professional help from your bike shop.

Brake Levers – Test your brake levers by pulling them. Do they feel unusually soft? Can you pull them all the way to the handlebar? These signs can point to potential issues, such as air or contaminants in the brake hoses or a fluid leak. To fix this, perform a brake bleed using Shimano's user-friendly bleed funnel, or head to your local bike shop for assistance.

Rim Brake System

Brake Pads – Regularly check your brake pads to determine their remaining lifespan or if they need replacing. If the pad material has worn down significantly or hardened over time, consider getting a new set.

Cables and Housing – Dirt and other residue can accumulate in the brake cable housing over time, impairing the rim brakes' functionality. Squeeze the brake lever and observe any unusual or stiff resistance; this could indicate it's time to replace the cables and housing.

Also, note that cables can stretch with frequent usage. If the lever doesn't offer enough resistance and can be pulled all the way to the handlebar, the cable might need tightening at the brake caliper.


Chain - A chain wear indicator tool can help determine whether the chain has stretched beyond its optimal range. Regular chain checks are crucial because a worn-out chain can accelerate the wear on other more costly components, such as your bike's chainrings and cassette. Ensure you check your chain throughout the season and replace it as necessary.

Additionally, always keep your chain clean. If it's dirty, use a brush and degreaser to clean it, and then re-lube the chain.

Derailleur Pulley/Jockey Wheels – Inspect the teeth of your derailleur pulley. It may be time to replace the pulley wheels if they appear sharp or pointed. If they're clogged with dirt, thoroughly scrub and wash each pulley with a degreaser and brush until clean. Remember to apply lube specifically to the chain rollers and not indiscriminately on the pulley wheels, where it will attract more dirt.

Rear Derailleur - The rear derailleur plays a vital role in shifting performance and contributes to a positive biking experience. Inspect the shifting with your bike in a stand, or ask a friend to hold the bike with the back wheel off the ground. As you rotate the pedals, shift through the entire cassette.

Are the gear changes smooth and reliable, or has the shifting deteriorated since the bike was last in use? Has your bike been knocked over without your knowledge? If the shifting seems off, inspect the derailleur hanger to see if it's bent and ensure the mounting bolt is securely fastened.

If the bolt is secure and the hanger is straight, you may need to make micro-adjustments to the derailleur using Shimano Di2 adjust mode. For bikes with shift cables, the barrel adjuster can be used to re-index for improved shifting.

Charge the Di2 Battery – Even during periods of inactivity, the Di2 battery, which powers your electronic shifting, can gradually deplete. For newer 12-speed Di2 systems, connect the charging cable to the rear derailleur to charge the battery. For 11-speed Di2 systems, plug the charger into the junction box and allow the battery to fully charge. If the battery isn't charging, inspect the connections of the Di2 wires with the supplied Di2 plug tool. Or consider getting a new battery for the season and recycle

Before setting off on every journey, it's a good idea to check the battery level on your bike. To do this, simply hold down the front derailleur shift button corresponding to the chainring you're currently using. This avoids causing any damage to the derailleur. Pay attention to the color of your battery indicators.

A constant green light indicates a battery level of 75-100%. A blinking green light means it's between 50-75%. If the light is red, this implies you have less than 50% battery life remaining – it's time for a recharge!

Cassettes and Chainrings – If you notice worn, sharp, and pointy teeth, it might be a signal that you need a new cassette or chainrings. If they're simply dirty or grimy, clean them thoroughly using degreaser, soap, and water to ensure optimal shifting performance. Don't forget to lubricate your chain after cleaning the drivetrain!

Further, ensure the cassette lock ring and chainring bolts are tightened to the correct torque. They should not be movable by hand. If they are, tighten them and use a torque wrench to ensure they're properly secured.

Cranks – It's crucial to inspect your cranks for any damage. If damage is detected, replace them immediately. Additionally, confirm that the cranks are firmly attached to the frame by giving one crank arm a solid push and pull from the side. They should not show any movement or make any noise. Lastly, examine the crank arm bolts on the non-drive side to ensure they are not loose. Either torque them to the specified value or seek assistance from a local bike shop.

Bolts and Bearings

Carry out a thorough inspection of your bike with a torque wrench to make sure everything is tightened to the required specification. This value is usually indicated on each component in Newton meters or can be found on the Shimano website and in user manuals. The bar and stem bolts are particularly important as they ensure secure steering and handling.

Likewise, check the derailleur mounting bolts, seat clamp bolt, and saddle fixing bolts. Applying the correct torque will prevent any slippage and will increase the lifespan of parts and fasteners. Consider replacing any worn bolt heads to avoid the risk of stripping fasteners or damaging tools.

Bearings – Evaluate the condition of the bearings in your bike's headset, bottom bracket, hubs, and pedals. If they feel crunchy or display too much play during regular use, they may need servicing or replacing. Some bearings can be cleaned and repacked, but fully sealed designs may need to be replaced. Headsets and threaded bottom brackets are generally the most DIY-friendly for replacement. If special tools are needed to remove or install bearings, like those in press-fit bottom brackets or hubs, your local Shimano Service Center can provide assistance.

Tires and Sealant – Sealant that has not been used for a while can solidify and turn into a rubbery latex pancake. Shake the tire and listen for a sloshing sound. If there isn't one, the sealant might have thickened. To check visually, remove one tire bead from the rim and position the opening at the bottom. If no liquid sealant collects at the base, take off the tire, remove the old sealant, and replace it with a fresh one.

Check the tires for wear or serious damage. If the rubber seems cracked or excessively worn, you might need new tires. Also, if the casing is visible through any slashes in the tread or sidewall, it's time to get new tires.

Set yourself up for a successful ride by ensuring your bike is clean, checked over, and ready to go. Keep your equipment in good condition and replace any parts showing significant wear and tear.

While this list of maintenance checks might seem lengthy and overwhelming, once you've covered each component, you'll be reassured that your bike is ready for the season.

If you're unsure about anything during these checks, don't hesitate to take your bike to your local Shimano Service Center for a professional inspection. They are the experts, and they'll be delighted to make sure your bike is safe, in top condition, and ready for whatever the road throws at you this year.

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