When it comes to Winter, it’s safe to say most of us probably fall into one of two camps. The die hard wrap up and hit the trails kind, and those of us whose bike rests in hibernation covered beneath a season’s dust and cobwebs.
So, if Spring’s warmer days and lighter evenings have you fired up and heading out for your first ride, spend a little time getting your bike fit for the trails. These basic bike maintenance tips will help ensure a safe and efficient ride all season.
Before you take your bike out for a spin, it deserves a thorough tune-up. Most checks are easy, but if you’re unsure or don’t want to get your hands dirty, there’s always your local bike shop.
A clean bike not only looks loved, it extends the life of its components. Use a biodegradable cleaner, a towel and old toothbrush to clean the frame, chain, chain rings, cassette, derailleurs, pedals, brakes, and seat using as little water as possible. Also, remove the seat post and after cleaning it add a small amount of bicycle grease before reattaching to act as a barrier against rust.
Brakes are vital to provide control over speed and manoeuvrability. Check the brake pads which wear down over time, and replace them if they show excessive wear. Squeeze the brake lever and watch the brake pads. They should hit the rim at the same time. If they don’t, you can adjust your brakes. If you think they aren’t working properly, the safest option is to let a bike shop carry out the repairs.
Wheels (rims) hold your tyres in place, providing stability and smoothness while riding. Clean the wheels with alcohol using a clean dry cloth. Inspect the rims for nicks, scrapes, and dents. Spin each wheel one at a time. They should move smoothly without wobbling. Damaged rims cause uneven wear to tyres and brake pads, which can shorten their lifespan. A wobbly rim is a simple fix which a repair shop will handle better.
A bike’s drivetrain includes the pedals, chain, chainring, derailleur and rear wheel cassette. The drivetrain transfers the power from your legs to the rear wheel, providing the force that moves the bike. With help, raise the rear wheel and spin it, whilst shifting through the gears which should be smooth and easy to perform. Inspect the chain, chainrings, derailleur and cassette for wear, missing teeth, dents, scrapes etc. If shifting isn’t smooth, a repair shop can adjust the derailleur.
Tyres fit around the wheels (rims) to protect them and permit travel over a variety of surfaces, smoothing out shock, making for a more comfortable ride. Check tyres for splits, cracks or tears, especially along the sides. Check the tread for uneven or excessive wear. If the brake pads were out of alignment, make sure they’ve not damaged the tyres. They’re fairly inexpensive, so if in doubt have them replaced.
Cables are made of tightly coiled metal wire in plastic housing. Cables connect the shifters and brakes on the handlebars to the derailleur and brake pads. Inspect the cable and surrounding rubber housing for cracks, crimps, rust, dirt and looseness. Have any damaged or worn out cables replaced, and if you ride your bike year-round, consider replacing cables annually.
Oil lubricant coats the chain and other components of the drivetrain, helping them last longer and work more efficiently. It also reduces the accumulation of dirt and grime. Apply lubricant evenly to the chain while slowly rotating the pedals in an anti-clockwise direction. Lubricate the moving parts on the derailleur, the pivot point on the brake levers, and any exposed cable wire. Wipe off excess oil with a clean dry rag, especially on the chain. Minor rust spots can be fixed by rubbing with steel wool.
Here’s a handy anatomy of a bike just in case you’re not sure which bits are which! Happy Spring time biking.
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