Even the most fair-weather riders among us have to agree that it’s looking a lot like cycling season out there. Longer days, lighter evenings, a smattering of warm sunny days (some of them even on the weekends) – what’s not to like! So if your bike has been collecting dust and cobwebs in your shed or garage, or acting as an alternative clothes horse in a corner of your bedroom, it’s surely time to get back out on the road or trails and get your bike ready for the season ahead.
If your bike hasn’t been ridden for some time it’s definitely a good idea to give it the once over before pulling on the lycra and planning a 30-mile route. Start by giving your bike a good clean all over, being careful to not use water too liberally. It’s the perfect opportunity to also check your bike for cracks in the frame and any other signs of wear.
One of the most important checks you should make is your tyres. Check them for cracks, splits, tears and worn tread – they will begin to perish over time. Pump them up to their optimum pressure and then maybe go and have a cuppa. If you come back ten minutes later to flat tyres you know you need to get those tyre levers, patches and glue out! Next check the spokes to ensure they are all intact and spin the wheels to make sure they are running true.
Assuming all is okay on the wheel front, you should then inspect the brake pads and check that they are evenly worn. Check also that the pads make contact with the wheel rim at the same time when the brakes are applied. If not you’ll need to make a few minor adjustments to the tension. Spin each wheel and apply the brakes to check they are working effectively.
Now check your drivetrain – if you ever thought you needed a bike stand, now is the time! Raise the bike frame so that the rear wheel is off the ground and spin the pedals whilst also shifting through the rear gears (extra pair of hands anyone?!). If you spot any gears skipping you may need to adjust your rear derailleur. You may also then need to double check your chain, cogset and chainrings for possible wear – chains do not last forever and a worn one will damage the cogs and rings. Go through the same check for your front derailleur and make any necessary adjustments. If all is okay, use some chain lube to keep things in good working order, wiping off any excess, and oil the derailleurs.
Cables that are dirty or rusty will affect your bike’s performance. Brake and derailleur housings may well need changing every few years depending on how much you use your bike. It’s something that can be done at home or you may prefer your local bike mechanic to do it for you.
An hour at the beginning of the season is not that much of a sacrifice – it’s far better to discover any problems at home than to suffer mechanical failure far away!