For the weekend warrior, once every three to four months is about right. For most leisure or family riders, typically once a season (usually in spring) is sufficient. As for what we need to do to the bike, it all depends on the condition of it.

At the shop we’ll first look at the drivetrain for wear and tear. That’s the chain, cassette, derailleurs and crank. It’s the key part that moves the bike. Following that, I’d look at brakes, cables and the suspension for any fluid leaks. If all’s good, we’d clean it out and oil it up.

When you set out to ride the first thing to take note of should be the brakes. Make sure that they’re biting well by squeezing the levers. Next check your gears. Don’t start riding off the moment you get on your bike. Take a moment to spin the crank to gears as the gears might have been adjusted in transit or when you weren’t riding. The chain might sometimes get caught in the cassette.
If any of the above don’t seem to be working right, that’s probably a good sign that its time to get your bike tuned up. Start by just calling your LBS and explaining whats going on to them, and typically they’ll recommend next steps for you. There’s also the DIY route, but if you’ve read this far and I haven’t bored your to death because this all seems super basic to you, then I recommend giving the LBS a call. As simple as bike maintenance can be to a cyclist with all the right tools and gadgets, it can be cost and time prohibitive if you don’t know what you’re doing and are in a hurry to get on the road.