Get your bike ready for spring riding!by SRP on February 23, 2023
Get your bike ready for spring riding by Anna Walters, Bikes Make Life Better
If your commuter bike is anything like mine, it’s probably spent the last few months hibernating in storage while the outside world experienced various forms of inclement weather. And I understand that “cold” doesn’t exactly qualify as “inclement,” especially when unaccompanied by wet stuff falling from the sky. But still.
Now that we’re entering the spring season (*and* extended evening sunlight once daylight savings hits on March 14), it’s time to dust off the cobwebs, and give that commuter bike some TLC. Here’s a quick checklist for getting your bike ready to roll again after the winter hiatus.
Check and adjust bike systems
If you have a bike stand, throw your bike in it. It’s much easier to inspect your bike and make adjustments when it’s off the ground. If you don’t, you can always hold up the rear wheel and work the pedals with your free hand when needed.
And if your bike hasn’t been out of commission for that long, but you’d still like to give it a little love, do the ABC Quickcheck. This takes little time and ensure that your bikes components are functioning properly.
Gears: Run through all of your gears, paying attention to any clicking or grinding sounds as well as skipped gears (when you shift once but the chain moves two or more cogs on the cassette). The most common reason for out-of-whack gearing is improper cable tension. Luckily that’s an easy fix, since you can increase or decrease cable tension by using barrel adjusters on your bike (look for a round knob that is usually found where the bare cable exits the plastic housing). You can turn barrel adjusters clockwise or counterclockwise to adjust the tension. For more on how to re-tension using barrel adjusters, check out this quick video. Note there may be other reasons your gears are grinding or skipping, like a bent derailleur hanger or worn out chain. This video shows you how to troubleshoot the whole system.
Tires: Air ‘em up. Bike tires will lose air, even if they’re just sitting in the garage. Having appropriate tire pressure can make or break the comfort and ease of your ride. It’s also a good idea to pump your tires, and then re-check the pressure in 24 hours. If a tire loses more than 75 percent of its air overnight, get a new tube. If you are running tubeless tires, make sure the goop inside is still in liquid form. If not, then clean your tire and apply new sealant.
Brakes: For bikes with rim brakes, it’s good to inspect your brake pads for wear and replace them if there is less than a quarter inch of pad left. Installing new rim brakes usually isn't too tricky (see this video for help). If you have disc brakes, you can check the pads by removing the wheels and looking into the space where the rotor spins. If the pads are less than 3mm thick, including their metal holder, replace them (and see this video for how). Hydraulic disc brakes require a little extra maintenance—you’ll need to bleed them every six months.
Frame: Wash and inspect your frame, especially if you’ve been riding around all winter in the rain—dirt and grime can accumulate. Also check for chipped paint, loose bottle-cage rivets, or cracks in the frame itself (not just scratches on the paint). If you find a crack that doesn’t appear to be cosmetic, experts say to stop riding the bike until you can get the frame repaired or replaced. Check out more advice on this topic here.
Tighten bolts: Check all the nuts and bolts on your bike to make sure they’re on tight, and look for bolts that may have become stuck.
Clean and oil your ride: Keeping your bike clean and well lubricated, especially your crankset, is the first step to having a fully functional bike. You should always wipe down your bike after riding in the rain, but you can also do more of a “deep clean” periodically without taking everything apart (you may want to remove your wheels). Pay lots of attention to scrubbing off grime and grit from the crankset and cassette. You’ll also want to clean and oil your chain (never use WD-40). In most instances you can simply use rag with dish soap to clean the components of your bike. Qtips work for some of those hard to reach places.
As always, if you find a problem with your bike that you’re not comfortable fixing yourself, take your bike to a local shop.
For some excellent bike maintenance video how-tos, check out Madegood’s bike section.