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.