Spring maintenance: give your bike some love!

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*** We now offer online scheduling for regular bike maintenance. We also offer same-day service (drop off in the morning, pick up in the afternoon). Check out our Bike Repair page to book an appointment***

With the clocks springing ahead this week, there's more daylight in the evening to ride your bike! However, if your bike has been sitting in the garage all winter, it probably needs a little love to get back on the road again. Your local bike shop (LBS) can help you get rolling for a reasonable rate, with friendly service. Here are a few tips to get your bike ready for spring. 

General Cleaning

  • You can wash your bike with a bucket of soapy water and a sponge. Rinse with a hose. Avoid directly spraying water in your hubs, your headset, or your bottom bracket. If you live in a smaller apartment, your bathtub can be a good place to do this. 
  • Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) is a great cleaner for any parts that have accumulated gunk (especially your drivetrain). Remember to lubricate any moving parts after you've cleaned them with alcohol. 

Chain and Gears

  • Lubricate each link of your chain with an appropriate bike chain lube (there are lots of good choices out there - we use a lubricant called "Tri-Flow," which is used in shops around the world, and smells like bananas!). Wipe it clean with a rag. Despite what your uncle told you, never use WD-40 as a lubricant. 
  • Get your chain's wear level checked by your LBS. Your chain is a part that needs to be replaced every so often, and replacing it regularly can help keep other parts on your bike running smoothly, too. 
  • If your chain wears down too much, it can cause collateral damage your gears, requiring replacement of multiple parts. Replace your chain regularly for best longevity of your parts. 
  • Over time, your shift cables can wear down and deteriorate. This can lead to unresponsive shifting (especially when shifting toward a harder gear on your rear cassette, or an easier gear on your front crankset). While you can sometimes tune your gears on your own, getting a professional to look at the whole shifting system can be the way to go. If you're not shifting smoothly, visit your LBS. 

Brakes

  • Check to make sure that your brakes can bring your bike to a "hard stop". You shouldn't be able to pull the brakes all the way into the handlebars.
  • You can adjust your brakes using the barrel adjusters on your brake lever, or see your LBS for more advanced calibration. Having a torque wrench really helps for safe braking. 
  • Brake pads wear out, and are inexpensive to replace. See your local bike shop for parts, and friendly service. 
  • Brake cables should be lubricated every season (and more often if you ride every day). Replacing your brake cables can help give you more responsive braking, ask your LBS if this might be why you're not stopping so quickly anymore! 

Tires, Wheels, and Hubs

  • Inflate your tires with a pump that can measure your tire pressure (or come borrow ours when you stop in for coffee). Each tire has a recommended pressure setting, or range of pressure settings on the sidewall. Inflation above or below this range risks a flat tire, and a walk home. Depending on your bike, and riding habits, you might want/need to inflate your tires as frequently as once per week. Any more frequently than that, and think about getting a new tube installed. Hand pumps are great if you're out on the road and you get a flat, but they should only be used in a pinch, and aren't recommended for regular home use. 
  • Bike wheels are an amazing display of physics. The spokes pull tension evenly from the hub to the rim, keeping a strong, stable, lightweight circle for you to roll on. Over time (or if you hit a pothole), your wheels can fall out of "true", which means they wobble side to side when they roll. Truing your wheels is a job best left to professionals, unless you've invested in a serious home-based bike repair shop. Truing your wheels can help your wheels last longer, and will definitely make your ride smoother. We include wheel truing in every regular tuneup service. 
  • Your hubs need to be serviced regularly, and it's not always obvious they need love until it's too late! We've written about this before. The greased ball bearings that keep your wheels spinning are essential components of your bike, and if they aren't maintained your bike will, a) be slower because you'll be grinding metal-on-metal while riding, and b) need parts replacement sooner than a well-maintained bike. If you don't know when the last time your bike's internal parts saw some grease, we can help you get back to rolling in no time. Schedule an appointment, or drop your bike off with us.  

Safety

  • All of the above parts of your bike contribute to your bike's safety while you're on the road. There are a number of other things your friendly bike mechanic will help look for, usually as part of any regular service. We'll check for things like bolts being secured to the correct torque settings, and we'll look for cracks in the frame. We're also good at identifying little problems before they become big problems, saving you time and money down the road. Having your bike professionally serviced *at least* once per year should be part of your cycling routine. Getting professional service helps keep your bike rolling for longer, and saves you money in the long-term by keeping your bike in a good state of repair. 

Taking care of your bike will help it take care of you. Regular maintenance will keep you rolling safe and smooth, and help avoid major problems down the road.