How To: Prep Your Bike For Spring

How To

Spring officially arrived back in March, which means it’s time to dust off your bike and get back out on the road. But before you start turning those pedals, it’s a good idea to give your two-wheeled machine a little love. Whether you spent the winter splashing through ice and mud, sweating away on a trainer, or not riding at all, your bike could almost certainly benefit from a quick once-over. Here’s a basic check list to get you rolling:

Scrub-a-dub dub: Using mild soap and warm water, bathe your bike. It will brighten its appearance, and lengthen overall life by removing salty sweat and corrosive road spray that can eat away at the frame and components. After washing, apply a degreaser to the drivetrain to remove any remaining grit and grime. Then re-lube critical moving parts.

Tire Check: Winter riding is tough on tires, especially if you use a trainer, whose roller can wear away the center of a tire quicker than normal use. If your tire looks worn down or flattened, or if you see other signs of wear, it’s time for a new set of rubber.

Chain Love: Check your chain for stretch and wear using a ruler and lining up the one-inch mark with a chain pin. Now look at the 12-inch mark. It should line up exactly with another chain pin. If it’s off by 1/16 of an inch or less, no worries. But if it’s between 1/16 and 1/8, it’s time for a new chain. If it’s more than 1/8 off, replace your chain and cassette because a severely worn chain also wears out the teeth of your cassette. If you don’t replace them together, the new chain is likely to skip on the old cassette’s worn out teeth.

New Cables and Housing: Just like with your drivetrain, corrosive sweat from trainer rides, or grime from slushy winter roads can cause cables and housing to gunk up. That’s why spring time is the right time to replace cables and housing. When installing, coat the new cables with a little lube. This will further improve your bike’s shifting and braking performance.

Tune It Up: If you’re not a competent home mechanic, head to the local bike shop and get your bike tuned up. Just remember that spring is a busy time, so get to your shop early before the service center is completely booked.

Bag Check: Whether spinning around the block, or heading out on an all day epic, it’s wise to bring along everything you’ll need to fix a flat and make minor adjustments. That means your saddle bag should contain a spare tube, a pair of tire levers, a small hand pump or CO2 inflator, and a multi tool. If you’re not sure what’s in there right now, take a look before you head out.

Get Fit: While you’re sprucing up your bike, also consider getting a bike fit – especially if you’ve changed components such as your saddle, stem, pedals or shoes. Even the smallest changes can effect your on-bike comfort and efficiency.

Plan An Adventure: There’s nothing like having a goal to jumpstart your springtime riding. Whether you sign up for difficult multi-day gran fondo in Europe, commit to entering a local race later in the summer, or simply plan to log a few long rides, you’ll gain a little extra motivation.

How To: Prep Your Bike For Spring Gallery
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Adventure Planning

There’s nothing like a major down-the-road goal to inspire you to start riding again.
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Brake Check

Before heading out on an all-day epic, make sure your braking and shifting are operating smoothly.
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Chain Love

Check your chain for wear, and replace it and the cassette if necessary.
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Winter Grime

Riding in the winter can be tough on your bike. Make sure to give it a solid once-over now that spring is here.
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Get Fit

A bike fit is akin to an annual physical for cyclists.
About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures in British Columbia, Belgium, Brazil, Costa Rica, France, and Peru among many others. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in January, 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and edited a book on cycling tips. When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying the great outdoors with his wife Lisa.


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  • Sam says:

    “Just remember that spring is a busy time, so get to your shop early before the service center is completely booked” a little late for that, we are already into prime time for spring tune up, with shops scheduling quite far out.

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