By Dan Ibbitson, ownew of Sheldonville Bicycle Repairs
More daylight and warmer temperatures are upon us, which for most of us signifies the start of spring and increased outdoor activity. For most cyclists, the riding season is beginning as well, so it is time to pull the bike from its winter hibernation. But before you strap your helmet on and go, it is important that you inspect your bike thoroughly.
Here’s a list of things to check:
- Tires. It seems obvious, but tire wear can be overlooked. As your tires wear, the tread surface thins allowing debris to easily puncture the tire. Typically, the rear tire wears faster than the front. If you see a distinctive flat tread wear surface, have your local repair shop take a look to determine if you need to replace one or both of your tires. Check your tire pressure before every ride. Never exceed the maximum pressure that is indicated on the sidewall.
- Wheels. Spin your wheel and look out for any distinct wobbles as it rotates. Also, look at the brake pads as the wheel turns and notice if the rim rubs the pads at any point. If you have brakes that rub, wobble, or both take the bike to your local repair shop for adjustment of the wheel.
- Brakes. Brakes are important obviously, so checking them for wear and proper operation is critical. Take your wheel(s) off the bike and visually inspect the brake pads for embedded objects that can damage your rim. If you see small stones, metal, etc., remove them from the brake pad. Most pads have wear indicators on them similar to automobile tires so be diligent about checking. Squealing brakes can mean many different things, so consult your local bike shop if it becomes chronic. If you have disc brakes, which are typically found on a mountain bike, checking disc brake pads for wear, rubbing issues and squealing issues should be handled by your local bike shop.
- Drivetrain. A drivetrain consists of your crank arms (arms that attach to the pedals) chain, chainrings, cassette (your gears in the rear wheel), bottom bracket (bearings that hold the crankarms to the bike), front and rear derailleur (the mechanisms that shift your chain) and your shifters (the devices that you move with your hands to shift gears) and cables (connects shifter to derailleur.) Proper shifting from gear to gear is what most cyclists complain to me about when they come to the shop. Sluggish shifting, “ghost” shifting and “hard” shifting can ruin anyone’s ride. Many factors can contribute to poor shifting including bad shifting technique, worn out cables, bent derailleur, worn out chain, worn cassette, and/or worn chain rings. If you are having shifting problems, confide in your local bike shop to diagnose.
- Lube your chain. Depending on the type of riding you do will determine the frequency of lubing your chain. Mountain bikes typically need chain lube more often than road bikes because of the increased exposure to dirt and moisture. Ask your local bike shop about what type of lube to use on your chain.
And lastly, keep your ride clean. A clean bike is a happy bike and, more importantly, a well running bike. After you ride do a quick visual, check for dirt and debris. If you have picked up some road crud or dirt/mud from the trail, take some soapy water (3-5 gallon bucket with a few drops of dish soap) and a soft bristled brush, along with your hose (no pressure washers, please) and dampen the surface of your bike and clean with the soapy water and brush, then rinse. Then take an old towel or drying cloth and wipe away the excess moisture. A bio degreaser can be sprayed on the drive train to remove grease and oil as well. Let it sit for a few minutes and then rinse with the hose. Once it’s dry, re-lube the chain.
Bicycles have many moving parts. Keeping these parts clean, lubricated and adjusted properly will give you a trouble free and enjoyable riding experience.
Dan Ibbitson is the owner of Sheldonville Bicycle Repair, 277 Hancock St., Wrentham, MA 02093. He’s available to help bike owners with their maintenance and repair issues.