Bicycle Tune-Ups

My husband Patrick is the Dr. Frankenstein of bicycles. He takes a wheel from one, a seat from another, a pedal from a third, and patches together working bikes. He came by these skills early on. Instead of buying new, Patrick’s dad brought home old wrecks he found here and there. Patrick and his brothers tore them apart and pieced them back together.

But the upkeep has become too difficult for my busy husband. So I need to find a tune-up shop for the family bikes.

“Our basic tune-up is $60, and that includes all the basic adjustments on the bicycle,” explained Kevin Lee, service manager at Adams Avenue Bicycles (619-295-8500). “Adjusting the brakes, adjusting the shifting, checking the bearings and the hubs [where the wheel is mounted to the bike], checking the bearings and the headset, and checking the bearings and the bottom bracket. It also includes tensioning the wheels, so you’re keeping the wheels in true [no wobbling around] and making sure all the spokes are tight. Pretty much putting a wrench on every one of the nuts and bolts on the bike to make sure everything is tight and sound.

“The deluxe tune-up we call the El Jefe,” continued Lee. “It’s the same adjustments as the other tune-up, but we take the whole bike apart — take the cranks off, the wheels off, the gears off, the chain off — and we clean everything in a parts washer. Then we put the bike back together and relubricate it and do all those adjustments. So, $60 for all your adjustments; $100 if you want us to also clean it.”

Lee recommends getting a tune-up once or twice a year, depending on how much the bike is used. “It’s important to check your chain wear. The chains stretch out — they actually wear out the whole drivetrain. Check the chain for stretching. That’s something that can be replaced. When it starts stretching — when it gets to the 75 percent worn-out point — it wears out the chain rings on the front and then the gears on the back wheel. I tell customers to do this check two or three times a year. A $16 chain or $120 worth of gears? It’s worth it to put a $16 chain on frequently.”

“We do what is essentially a drivetrain clean,” offered mechanic Roger of Bernie’s Bicycle Shop in Ocean Beach (619-224-7084). “We take off the cranks, the chain, the gears, and the back hub and the derailleurs, clean them in the solvent tank, and then give the bike a bath with soapy water. While we have the wheels off, we squirt a little grease in the hubs, regrease the cranks, put it back together, and then readjust the brakes and the derailleurs and true the wheels. We charge $55.”

Roger recommends a tune-up every 1000 miles. Right now, turnaround time is about three to four days; in summer, it can be up to three weeks.

Mission Hills Bike Shop (619-296-0618) offers three service options: basic tune ($45), complimentary tune ($75), and the pro-tune ($120). “A basic tune,” explained the mechanic, “is if the bike needs a little lube, a wipe-down on the dust, and some adjustments of the brakes and derailleurs. The complimentary tune, which we see the most of, is when the wheels need to be trued, plus a lube and adjust on everything. With the pro-tune, we do a thorough cleaning, including the drivetrain. We clean the chains and true the wheels. With that, there’s 10 percent off any components that might be needed to also repair the bicycle, because we are doing a full service.”

Pacific Coast Bicycles in Pacific Beach (858-581-2453) offers tune-ups for a single speed for $20 and for a bike with any type of gearing for $40.

“If you neglect your tune-ups,” said James Zumwalt, mechanic at Holland’s Bicycles in Coronado (619-435-3153), “your cables will stretch and your cables will start to mis-shift.” Basic tune-up is $30; $50 tune-up includes straightening the wheels.

“We recommend getting bikes from a bike shop,” Zumwalt continued. “They always offer a free lifetime tune-up on the bike. If you buy the bikes from us, you get the basic tune-up free for the life of the bike. So you can pass the bike down to your kids after you are done riding it and you will still get a free tune-up.”

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“We recommend getting bikes from a bike shop,” Zumwalt continued. “They always offer a free lifetime tune-up on the bike."

Not all bike shops will grant you special status in the form of free tune-ups for the life of the bike. In fact most of them don't do free tune-ups. The first couple of tune-ups will be free, sure, but after the first couple of tune-ups most shops will charge you a fee. If there is a bike shop that claims to offer free tune-ups for the life of the bike then the consumer would be wise to make sure that the bike shop makes that claim in writing, especially if you're going to pass the bike down to other family members. If it is not in writing expect to be hassled when you go back to the shop in the summer of 2020 expecting a free tune-up.

I've used Mission Hills Bike Shop for everything from a spoke replacement to installing a new crank set -- this shop is quality and the mechanics that work there are pro. Prices are fair and the entire staff is extremely knowledgeable. Highly recommended.

Richard La China


That is way too much money for a tune-up. Take your bikes to a shop called Bernie's Bike Shop located in Ocean Beach; A young man who charges services for a much fairer price than most bicycle workers...this is around the same price as what bicycle corporations charge for tune-ups also...ridiculous.

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