Sunshine and warmer days and side streets bursting with cherry blossoms are all great reasons to get your bike out and dust it off. Is your bike ready to ride? Here are a few tips to get your bike ready for a new season of smooth riding.
Wheels First things first, your tires will most likely need air. Make sure to fill them up to the appropriate pressure; this will be written on the side of your tire. Spin your tires to make sure they pass cleanly through your brakes, fenders and forks without rubbing. Watch the wheels as they spin, if you notice any wobbling at the rim, they will need to be trued (the spoke tension will need to be balanced). If you see bulges, large cuts, cracking or fraying, then you should get a new tire.
Chain Is your chain clean? Is it lubed? To clean your chain simply back-pedal it through a cloth. Once it’s clean, lube it up. Then run the chain through the rag again to remove excess lube from the outside surfaces where it will only attract more dirt and get on your clothes. While we’re on the topic of cleaning, make sure your drivetrain and cogset are clean and don’t have built up dirt and grime (like mine always do). More instructions here.
Gears Are your gears shifting smooth and silently? If they are not clicking into place properly you might need to make adjustments to the cable tension, or possibly have your cables and housing replaced.
Brakes Is your bike stopping properly? If you have brake pads, take a look at them to see how worn down they are. If the pad is worn to the ‘wear line’, or there are no grooves left along all or part of the pad, or there’s very uneven wear, then they need replacing. Squeeze your brake levers and note if there’s any noise (grinding or squealing) or if they don’t engage right away, in which case your brake pads or cables might need adjusting. You should be able to confidently squeeze your levers as hard as you can (off the bike) without cables slipping or the lever getting too close to the bar. How close is too close? If the brake lever touches the bar, that’s much too close, and that bike is unsafe to ride.
Tighten Make sure nothing on your bike is loose. Check the bolts on your handlebars, including the brakes and gear shifters. Check to make sure the seatpost and stem are secure and not raised above their maximum lines. Also check the bolts on any accessories such as fenders, racks and baskets.
Bearings Everything that spins on your bike depends on bearings. You can tell pretty easily when it’s time to seek expert help. If a wheel jerks to a stop, or the steering feels like it has notches, then those bearings are too tight. If a wheel, when held firmly at the rim and jiggled side-to-side, is felt to clunk or rattle, then those bearings are too loose. If these problems appear, your bearings need adjustment, overhaul, or replacement.
The “Drop Test” Pick your bike up about 3 or 4″ and drop it (while keeping it upright) on the wheels. This won’t hurt it. If you hear or feel anything rattling (aside from the chain or your lock) then investigate further and decide whether it’s a safety issue or something that if maintained now will save you time and money in the future. If necessary, take your bike to your favourite mechanic for a tune-up, sign up for some lessons or supervised shop time, or get yourself a good maintenance book.
All set? Grab your helmet and lights (with fresh batteries) and head out for a lovely spring ride.
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