Spring is the in the air. You pull open the garage door, push aside the snowblower, stash away the skis and find your poor old bicycle sitting where you left it last October. A rush of warm happiness overcomes you -- the bike’s happy to see you too.
But before you take your ride out for the season, you must first make sure its mechanics are in order. Ensuring your bike works properly is important not just for avoiding injury, but also for having an enjoyable ride and a little peace of mind when you're out cruising.
To help out, we talked to Rob DeHoff, owner of Varsity Bike & Transit in Minneapolis. Rob's philosophy of bike maintenance is that "a little can go a long way" - and in that spirit, here are Rob’s basic tips on how to prep your for spring riding.
1. Air up the tires, lube the chain
“90% of your bike maintenance will be one of those things,” says Rob. Especially if the air hasn’t been checked for a few months of extreme temperatures, or if that chain has a few red rust spots. And an important note when it comes to chain greasing: don’t use WD40 and don’t use 3-in-1, get the stuff that’s designed for chains that won’t catch the grime. The rule of thumb is if your chain is frozen solid with deep mars-red rust, it’s time to replace it.
2. Ride your bike around the block
“Maybe even take it off a curb or two -- but not up a curb. That’s important,” advises Rob. Riding around the block gives you an opportunity to feel how the bike handles and, almost as important, listen to what’s rattling or squeaking or mysteriously clicking from somewhere near your gears.
3. Find your comfort level, within reason
"Everyone has their own tolerance for noise and ‘character’ in their bike. Figure out what’s OK for you and what’s not,” says Rob. Exceptions to this rule are vital functions like the brakes - those should always be in working order. But if you can stop and start and are fine with how things feel, you should be able to enjoy your ride stress free.
4. What’s not OK, take to a shop
“Any good shop can help work with you to fix what’s needed; they’re there to help!” Rob explains. From beginners to experts, getting a once-over from a professional at the beginning of the year is good advice. Mechanics can spot things you may have missed and assist with finding parts and getting your ride singing in tune.
So there you have it! We promised they’d be basic. Once you've followed these steps, Rob also suggests checking out events and workshops in your local bike community. It's a great way to hone your technical bike repair skills, swap parts, and have fun riding! The Minneapolis Bike Coalition and 30 Days of Biking in the Twin Cities, and Chicago Cycling Club in the windy city are just a few examples of the good people out there in the world of bicycling.
Now grab that bike, you're ready to roll!