Dare I say bike riding season is upon us, so time to dust off your 10-speed out of hiding and take it for a spin. Before you go, take the time to give your ride a quick look over and tune-up to ensure the bike is safe to ride and ready to rumble.
After a long, cold winter, tires will naturally lose air pressure. Low air pressure increases your risk of flatting, decreases the comfort of your ride and, perhaps worst of all, slows you down. To learn the exact air pressure to pump into your tires, simply look on the sidewall of the tire. You’ll see the recommended pounds per square inch, or PSI. Bike tires are all different, with mountain bike tires in the 35 to 50 PSI range and road bike tires closer to 120.
I recommend a good floor pump with an easy-to-read gauge. During the summer, I check my tires once every week or so to pump them back into the recommended PSI range. If you ride frequently, weekly checks will do. If you ride infrequently, check the pressure every time.
Your bike chain is essentially the powertrain that transmits the work your legs are doing into your bike’s rolling speed, so give it the TLC it deserves. A clean chain is more efficient than a dirty one and will endure more miles before needing replacement.
Good chain hygiene includes keeping the chain lubed for all your riding and cleaning the chain frequently enough to properly remove the grime that naturally attaches itself to the lube. To clean a chain, use an old rag to wipe off the dirty grease. With your rag on the chain, slowly move the pedals backwards to wipe down every link. Then reapply lube. Be sure to wipe off any excess lubricant or you’re likely to come home with funky chain tattoo marks on your right calf.
Lance Larson, owner of Larson Cyclery, recommends mountain bikers wipe down the chain and reapply lube after each ride and roadies do so once a week. He also recommends a dry lubricant, such as Finish Line Dry.
It should go without saying, but checking to be sure your brakes work before heading out on a bike is a must. A bump to the bike over the winter may have dislodged the brake cable or knocked a brake pad out of place.
Check the brake mechanics by giving each brake handle a squeeze. Next, inspect the brake pads. If the pads are worn to the point where you no longer see any indentations, it means the top layer of rubber has worn down and needs to be replaced.
When wheels fall out of alignment — usually the result of an impaired spoke, the wheel will wobble. Pinpoint the guilty spoke by slowly spinning the wheel and watching where the tire moves closer to the bike pad. Inspect the spoke directly opposite the trouble spot and you’ll likely find the spoke that needs adjusting. Truing a wheel is part science and part art, so don’t be shy about taking the wheel to a bike shop for professional repair.