Obviously pages could be written about each of the items on this list, and indeed they have been in a variety of books and web sites. My favorite online reference is Sheldon Brown's site, and for a more organized and comprehensive physical book, I use The Bicycling Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance & Repair (according to reviews, don't buy the ebook version). This book got me started in bike maintenance so it holds a special place in my heart, but has still stood the test of time.
The work listed here would typically cost $75-150 at a Chicago bike shop, so learning to do it yourself definitely pays off.
Initial evaluation and tune-up of a bike with unknown history:
- Overall clean—wipe down everything with a damp rag (water and/or cleaner/degreaser)
- Frame—Check for cracks or anything bent out of shape
- Tires at correct pressure (see my tricks for successful use of patch kits)
- Check tires for splits/cracks, check glue on tubulars
- Wheels mounted properly
- Wheels true
- Spoke tension even
- Chain and drivetrain clean and lubed (may need to remove rear wheel to floss between cogs)
- Measure chain for wear ("stretch")
- Check cogs and chainrings for excessive wear
- Brakes and Shifters
- Brakes adjusted and clear the rims, levers do not bottom out on handlebars
- Brake pads have life remaining and are centered on rims when applied
- Shifting smooth and precise
- Lubricate derailleur pivots/pulleys, brake and shift cables, few drops of oil in 3-speed hubs
- Check pressure on air-sprung suspension
- Lubricate dust wipers
- Check rear suspension pivot bolt torque
- Clipless pedals—lubricate springs and pivots
- Headset adjusted; not loose or gritty
- Handlebars, saddle, front wheel are square with frame
- Saddle at right height with tight mounting bolts and seatpost binder bolt
- Bearings spin smoothly with hydraulic resistance: front and rear hubs, bottom bracket, headset, pedals (adjustments are easy enough, but overhauls are pretty time- and mess-intensive)
- General review for cracks, damage, or loose nuts and bolts (especially chainrings, cranks, pedals, brakes, headset, stem)
- Remove seatpost, wipe off, reapply grease
- For threaded headsets, remove stem, wipe off, reapply grease
- Clean rims with rubbing alcohol
- WD-40 can be used to clean and degrease, but not really to lubricate well since it is so thin. Chains, for example, should use a heavier bike-specific wet lube or dry Teflon lube. I've had success with White Lightning Clean Ride and Tri-Flow.
- Don't turn the bike upside down on the ground to work on it—you'll damage the seat, handlebars, shifters, or cables. Instead, hang the bike from some hooks, posts, even a tree branch if you don't have a repair stand. I once mounted my trunk rack to the wall of my garage and it was great.