Spring cleaning for your bicycle
With the promise of warmer spring weather ahead, it's time to dust off your bicycle and give it a tune-up for another season.
Cycling is a great way to get some exercise and leave your car at home -- and save on gas. But before you grab your helmet and hit the road, there are three main things you need to check on your bike:
- your tires
- your chain, and;
- your brakes.
Tim Southam, an avid cyclist and spokesperson for Mountain Equipment Co-op explains how to tune up your bike and offers great tips for getting your two-wheeler ride-ready.
Check your tires
"Bike tire repair is a basic skill you need to have," says Southam, who recommends buying a foot pump with a built-in pressure valve. "It's a really good investment for someone who is even a casual rider," he says. This type of pump allows you to adjust the pressure quite easily; you basically stand on the base and use both hands to pump air into your tire.
If you're curious about how much air you need, just take a look at the tire itself. The pressure range will be stamped on it.
A tire with more air will ride faster on the pavement, while a tire with less air has more of the rubber touching the ground, giving you more traction. But avoid over- or under-inflating your tires. "I'm always amazed when I cycle to see people riding on tires that are way under-inflated," says Southam. "The resistance is reduced if the tire is properly inflated, making it easier to ride your bike and more pleasurable," he says.
While checking your tires, make sure both wheels are securely connected to your bike frame and tighten all quick releases.
Clean and lubricate your chain
A dirty chain makes it harder to pedal. To easily clean your chain without too much mess, Southam recommends using a chain cleaner, a plastic device with round brushes that you can fill with cleaning solution, snap onto the chain and glide along it as you rotate the crank.
"You want to be careful you're not using solvents," warns Southam who suggests using a "green" chain cleaner that doesn't contain harsh chemicals.
Once you've used the chain cleaner, wipe down the chain with a rag to dry it and then apply chain oil -- be sure not to use too much. You'll want to use a dry lube if you're cycling mostly in dry weather and a wet lube if you'll be riding in the rain.