Mud season is here in New England . . . that means spring can’t be far away! Time to roll out your bike, old new, expensive or cheap, if they can be ridden they should be ready to be ridden. Here are some tips to get your bike ready for another year of cycling. If you get it done straight away, then there is no reason not to go for a ride as soon as the spirit moves you. My first instinct when the sun peak out and melted the ice on the drive was to roll ‘Daisy’ right into the living room and get started.
If you have kids have them cleaning their own bike, especially if you are cleaning yours at the same time. Get them into the habit of taking care of their bikes and they will make your investment in their bike last longer.
Cleaning – I am always amazed how many people just park their bike and spend little time cleaning it. Any conscientious biker will wipe down their bike before and after each use. Dirt, grime and road salt are so easy to avoid. and cleaning it off will easily extend the life of your bike and its moving parts. Clean everything tires, rims, seat, chain, chain rings, cassette, derailleurs, pedals, brakes, even your basket and panniers. Many people have recommended Simple Green, but any good biodegradable cleaner will do, I try to stay away from harsh chemicals because i don’t want to lose the ancient decals on my bikes.
Tires – Check tires for splits, cracks,and tread for uneven excessive wear. Replace the tires if needed. Tires and tubes are relatively cheap, and much cheaper than having blow out on the road just because it needed to be replaced.
Wheels – Clean the rims with a cloth and rubbing alcohol, some of the road tars are tough to remove. If your bike is ancient like mine, rust and spots on the chrome can be tackled with a good chrome polish. There is even biodegradable non toxic chrome polish that even kids can use. Check the balance of the wheel does it spin straight or is it untrue? If you can make the minor adjustments to the wheel with a spoke wrench go for it, if not take the wheel to the shop and get it up on a truing stand. Uneven wheels cause brake wear, difficulty steering and a bumpy ride.
Brakes – Check the brake pads, make sure they are wearing evenly. If they have any uneven wear, get new ones, they are another inexpensive item that can save you lots of trouble being replaced before they become a problem. Check the brake cables, do the pads strike the rim at the same time when applied? Adjust the brake arm tension screws so the brakes are even.
Chain – Elevate the rear wheel and spin the pedals, you may need help doing this unless you have a stand, you can always use the bike rack on your car. You should be able to shift through all the rear gears smooth; if it skips any gears try adjusting your rear derailleur. If the problem persists take it to the shop, if you use your bike a lot you may just need a new chain. They are relatively inexpensive and are another thing to keep in perfect working order to prevent problems on the road. If you can change the chain yourself you probably don’t need my advice, I only have 3 gears and they are all internal.
Lubrication – get out the bike lube, apply even coat to the chain, on the inside and outside of each link and between the pins and rollers. Let is set and then wipe off the excess with a rag. Apply lube to all the pivot points on the front and rear derailleur, as well as any hinges and levers on the brakes.
Check your gear – If you have a seat bag with essentials, check to make sure everything is in order. For just kicking around town I carry a first aid kit, a spare tube, tire levers, puncture patches, multi-tool, c-wrench, pen note pad, small bungee cords, zip ties, a bandanna, disposable camera.
Springs coming get ready to ride.