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With spring just around the corner (hopefully), it’s nearly time to pull your bike out of storage and get pedalling. Even if you’re all geared up to hit the pavement, your bike will probably need some TLC if it’s been stationary all winter. And since no one wants to do the bike walk of shame after something pops, rolls, or drops off, we’ve put together some quick tips to make sure your bike is in top-notch shape for spring.
Tip #1: A clean bike is a happy bike
Even if your bike has just been sitting in your garage all winter, it’s probably accumulated some dust. And if it’s been sitting outside in the snow, it’s definitely in need of a good wiping down. A clean bike will last longer, and when your rims are sparkling clean, we bet you’ll feel faster. (That’s science, right?)
Bikes aren’t too fussy about how you clean them. You can use a mild dish soap, some warm water, a clean rag, and some good old fashioned elbow grease to wipe everything down. Ta-da! Your bike is now clean and officially faster than it was before.
Tip #2: Give your chains some extra lovin’
Your chain (and associated bits) shouldn’t have any grit, gack, or dirt stuck in it, but if it does, never fear: it can be cleaned with the same water and dish soap you used to wipe down the frame. We recommend filling a squeeze sports drink bottle (like one of these) or a spray bottle so you’re not dumping water everywhere, but you do you. After you’ve wet it and let it sit a couple minutes, use a soft brush to dislodge any chunks of gunk – a toothbrush or paintbrush will work in a pinch.
Equally as important as cleaning your chain is drying it and lubing it up. Rinse the chain with clean water then use a disposable rag to dry it thoroughly. Once it’s dry, apply a bit of chain lube (you can get it at Canadian Tire for less than $10). Pedal backwards a couple times to distribute the oil, then wipe off any excess.
If the chain is super rusty, if it slips or falls out while you’re pedalling, or your bike no longer shifts smoothly, you may need a new chain. The good news is that a new chain is pretty cheap (like $15 cheap), but you’ll need specific tools and maybe a hand from a mechanic to change your chain. You can check out YouTube DIY videos if you’re feeling ambitious, or you can head to a DIY night at your local bike shop and learn from the pros. (We like the Good Life Community Bicycle Shop and Lifecycle!)
Tip #3: Check your tires…
You don’t need any fancy equipment for a basic tire pressure check – just give ‘em a squeeze. If the tire feels mushy or squishy, you’ll need to add more air. If your bike hasn’t moved all winter, we promise you’ll need to top ‘em off.
If you’re in a pinch, you can use an air pump at a gas station. Sometimes they’ll even let you use it for free, so long as you’re polite when you ask if they’ll turn it on for you. But if you’re planning on cycling regularly, you really should invest in a tire pump – your tires should be filled to the recommended PSI (usually listed on side of your tire), and a tire pump will give you the best control over that.
In any case, if the pump you’re using doesn’t have a pressure gauge, that’s still OK – just fill your tires until they’re firm. It’s better to slightly underfill your tires than overfill, so if you think your tires are full, they probably are.
While you’re topping up your tires, you should also check your treads. If your tire treads are very worn or there’s cracks in the side of the tirewall, it’s time to replace your tires. Head over to a bike shop and they’ll be happy to give you a hand.
Tip #4: … And check your brakes
Call us crazy, but we think that being able to stop effectively is maybe the most important part of riding a bike. Check that your brakes are working properly by squeezing the brake lever – if it touches, or nearly touches, the handlebar without any resistance, your brakes need adjusting.
There’s a couple different styles of bike brakes and we’re not qualified to tell you how to replace them or what the issue is, so if your brakes aren’t responsive then you need to ask a pro about looking at your brake system.
Finally: Take it for a spin!
Now’s the fun part! Grab your bike and head out to your favourite spot. While you’re out there, listen for rattles, clanks, squeals, or scraping sounds – that’s your bike trying to tell you something. And if your bike doesn’t shift smoothly, your brakes feel sluggish, or the handlebars won’t turn easily, that’s your cue to pedal your way over to a bike shop and think about paying for a springtime tune-up.
We hope with these quick tips you’ll be performing incredible fiets in no time! Happy biking, MRU!