If you haven’t ridden your bike all winter long, be sure to tune it up before you hit the trails. Here’s what you need to go to get it ready to ride once again.
Give it a Second Glance
Take the time to look over every part of your bike. Note any dings or damage, but especially damage to important-but-often-overlooked parts like brake cables, handlebars, frame pieces, and more. If there’s anything that might affect your bike’s performance, give it a ride to evaluate it. You may also want to get a professional opinion.
Even if you can’t or don’t want to fix everything now, it’s important to know what is going on with your bike. If an issue suddenly becomes worse or begins to affect your ride, you’ll know what’s going on. You may also decide to take more care in certain situations because of a known issue.
Scrub Your Bike
If you left your bike muddy (shame on you!) or it has gathered some dust sitting around, sprinkle it with a light mist. Make sure you don’t send a steady stream of water anywhere near your hubs, headset, or bottom bracket. These can take in water which can make your bike rust from the inside out or cause it to creak when you use it.
Using a gentle dish soap, work up a lather all over your bike. If you want to, use your nails or a toothbrush to scrub in hard-to-reach places. Rinse again, then wipe everything down with a soft towel. Shake or bounce the bike when you’re done, to make sure you’ve removed all the excess water.
Clean Your Chain
Sure, you just cleaned your whole bike, but your chain deserves some extra TLC. Wipe it down with a towel, while checking for cracks, breaks, excess dirt, and rust. You can take the chain off and soak it, but most riders find that a little degreaser goes a long way when it comes to cleaning your chain. WD40 is fine, or you can buy one specially made for bikes.
If you decide to go the degreaser route, make sure you also have a small brush and some magnets on hand. Spray between each link, use the brush to work the degreaser deep inside, then run the magnets over each link to remove metal filings. Be sure to wipe the degreaser off with your soft towel. Let it dry completely before you lube your chain.
Speaking of lube, that’s part of the process, too. Most riders like a wet lube, unless nearly all of your riding is dry (and, let’s face it, it’s spring…nothing is dry…). You’ll know you have enough lube when you can barely see it but you get oil on your finger if you touch it.
Check Your Brakes
Good brakes are key, especially when you’re getting out after a little while away. You want to know, for sure, that you can stop when you need to! Test your brakes. If you have to pull the handle all the way to the handlebar before they engage, you hear scraping, or you experience a wobble, it’s time to make some adjustments.
If you don’t know how to adjust your brakes, it may be time to take your bike to a shop for some lessons. You can find videos online, but these adjustments aren’t always universal and you’ll want to be sure you know how to do the work on the bike you have.
You should also check the thickness of your brake pads and look for wear and tear. If they are less than 1.5 mm thick or show signs of damage, replace them before you ride this spring. That way, you won’t have to worry about them again for a while.
Fix Your Shifting
Ride slowly on a flat surface to test your gears. Shift from one to the next until you’ve hit them all. If any of them have problems or everything seems to jump around and the bike skips gears, it’s time to make some adjustments.
Once again, if you’re not sure how to do this, it’s time to get some professional help. Watch the guy at the local shop work on your bike once, and you may not have to take it to him again. Many shops also offer tune-up classes where you can work on your bike under the supervision of a professional who can give you the how-to for your specific model.
Check your derailleur for signs of wear, too. Look at the place where the cables end on the frame. It’s not uncommon for them to fray or pull through. Replace them now so your bike can work well all summer long.
Getting your bike ready to ride this spring should take about an hour unless you need to consult with a pro. Pretty soon, you’ll be back on the trails taking on new challenges and improving your skills.