Ready to Ride

Spring tune-up tips before you hit the trail

Temps are rising. Snow is melting. The itch to dust off the ol’ bike and hit the trails (or road) is growing. But before you jump in the saddle, you’ll want to take a moment to make sure your bike is in good working order.Pump it up

“The number-one thing people don’t realize is that bike tires lose air every single day: about two to three psi [pounds per square inch] everyday,” said Luca Fagundes, an avid mountain and road cyclist. “Often people will think they need new tubes or tires, but pumping up the tires first might be enough to get back out onto the road.”

Transitioning from a trainer

If you’ve spent the past several months using an indoor trainer, there are a few key aspects of your bike you’ll want to check over before heading outdoors.

First, give the rear tire a once-over, looking for any uneven wear or flat ridges on the tire that extended trainer riding can produce.

“Depending on the type of trainer you’re using, it can really wear down that back tire,” Fagundes said. “You’ll also want to check to make sure you’re not seeing the tire thread coming through the rubber.”If everything looks good, make sure you put the wheel back on your bike correctly.

Inspect the chains

Although inspecting the chains should definitely be done before riding outdoors this spring, it’s also something Fagundes suggests making part of your weekly maintenance routine.

“You definitely want to lube up the chain weekly,” he said.

Using a biodegradable degreaser and an old toothbrush, gently scrub the chain clean of any leftover debris; then apply a good-quality chain lube.

Ready to Ride

“Chains will stretch over time, so I also check for that,” Fagundes said.

If you ride year-round, as Fagundes does, you may consider replacing the chains more often – he checks to see whether he needs to replace chains every quarter – but most avid, year-round riders should put it on their radar to replace their bike’s chains each spring.

To prolong the life of your chains – and your bike in general – clean the bike after every ride.

“You don’t want to put a bike away dirty,” Fagundes said.

As with cleaning the chains, use a biodegradable degreaser and an old toothbrush to clean everything, including the frame, pedals, seat and brakes. Make sure the bike is dried off before putting it away because water especially can shorten the lifespan of your bike’s components.

Check the derailleur cables

“Sometimes if the bike has been sitting in a really cold garage over the winter, the cables can get out of adjustment,” Fagundes said.

Before adjusting the cables, he recommends taking care of the chains first because dirty chains can sometimes be the culprit in causing shifting issues.

“If not, you might need to make some adjustments to your bike, either yourself or by taking your bike to a bike shop,” Fagundes said.

YouTube offers a wealth of bike-related tutorials, but most bike shops also offer reasonably priced spring tune-up services.

Put safety first

Keeping your bike in good working condition is paramount for a safe ride, but it doesn’t hurt to add a few precautions beyond that. Aside from the given of wearing a well-fitted helmet, Fagundes suggests adding safety lights and even a rearview mirror that mounts directly to the handle bar. A spare tube, tire pump, tools and a patch kit are also good to have on hand.

“All of those things are good ideas to carry with you, but if you have the stuff, you also want to make sure you know how to use them,” Fagundes said.

And, because we live in northeastern Wisconsin – the land of biting flies and mosquitoes – it never hurts to take a can of bug spray along for the ride.