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Servicing your bike regularly is both important for the bike and for your own safety. What you do to the bike as far as maintenance goes and how often you do it is a direct reflection of how and what you use the bike for.
For example, bike messengers use their bikes every day for long periods of time. In this case, these bikes should be serviced pretty much every day. If you are more of a casual rider or take the bike out for a spin on the weekends, maintenance once a week should suffice.
The important thing to remember is that no matter what the bike is used for or how often, check it before and after each ride. Make sure that the gears are working properly, the handle bars are tight, the tires are at the right level, the brakes are good to go, etc. This type of attention should be paid with every ride, while other more in depth maintenance can be done at longer intervals.
Bike videos on the Internet outline the major things to look for and how to go about fixing them the right way.
By checking before and after each ride you can notice things that might need fixing. A little maintenance can stop something minor from becoming a big problem that could result in an injury or damage to the bike.