Victoria is a great city to cycle around for a bunch of reasons – low traffic, quiet residential areas, bike lanes– but most importantly, the mild climate makes it feasible to cycle all year. That said, some days it can be difficult to convince yourself to get outside when it’s windy or pouring rain (or changing out of your pyjamas just doesn’t seem like a viable option), and you and your bike may take some time apart for a season. Whatever the reason, come springtime it’s usually a good idea to give your bike a tune-up to make sure everything is running smoothly before heading out for your first ride of the season. Here are some tune-up tips to ensure that you start the season on the right foot (or pedal, if you prefer).
Start with a clean slate! Nobody likes a dirty bike, and rust or grime can cause more serious mechanical problems, plus regular cleaning can extend your bike’s lifespan and save you money in the long run. Make sure you clean each and every part of the bike (preferably with a biodegradable cleaner) looking for any damaged parts along the way.
Now that everything is clean, ensure it runs as smoothly as possible by oiling any and all moving parts – chains, pulleys, cassettes, etc. Anything that moves on the bike is subject to getting stuck in place without proper lubrication. Keeping these parts oiled up will make your riding more efficient and help the individual pieces last longer.
Look over the entire bike closely, tightening all screws as you go. Each part is important to hold the entire bike together (pedals, cones on the hub of the wheel, etc.) but pay particular attention to your three contact points: the seat, pedals and handlebars. These are the places where your body touches the bicycle directly and any malfunctioning there could lead to an injury for you! Ensure that you tighten the saddle and seat-post, the pedals and crank arms, and each part through the handlebars.
Inspect your brakes! Well-functioning brakes are essential for obvious reasons. Inspect your brake pads (the rubberized pieces that rub against your wheel) to make sure that they are wearing evenly. Squeeze your brakes to ensure that the brake pads are hitting the rim at the same time. Also, ensure that the brake surface is clean of any dirt or grime.
Run through each one of your gears (back and front) with your shifter to check for any problems – skipping, reaction time, any clunking, etc. If there are problems here (after cleaning and oiling), check your chain to see if it may need to be replaced. Chains are reasonably affordable, and a new chain can prevent damage to the cassette and the chain ring
Lastly, ensure that your tires are in good condition. Make sure they are wearing evenly and that there isn’t anything stuck in them (especially if it was in a public storage area or left outside over the winter). Nothing ruins a first ride back quite like getting a flat. If the tires are all in good condition, pump them up!
If you run into any problems with your bike that you aren’t comfortable fixing (or if you have questions that no amount of frantic Googling can answer), bring your bike to a local bike shop for a professional to take a look – a typical tune-up costs between $50-$80.
If everything on your bike is running smoothly and seems to be in good condition, get outside and enjoy the nice weather!