Story last updated at 4/8/2009 - 11:03 am
Cyclists don't need to be told what season it is. We know that our long winter wait is finally over. Our wheels are screaming to roll, but first they must be properly prepared.
Lots of undesirable things can happen to our bicycles while being cooped up alone in our attics all winter. Attention should be given to a few tune-up items so bikes and their owners will ride happily ever after, or at least until the snow comes back.
If you don't have a bike repair stand, most of the tune-up can be performed with the bike turned upside down, with the saddle and handlebars resting on the ground.
Clean: Not only has our equipment collected dust over the last several months, but there very well may be a layer of grime still left over from the last riding season. An old toothbrush and a biodegradable cleaner (e.g. Simple Green, citrus cleaner) are the perfect pair to release the grease from all parts of the bike.
Due to dust and dirt clinging to the lubrication on the chain and drivetrain, this part of the bike will have collected the most grime. It can be tempting to forego an extensive cleaning of the gear cassettes, but the cyclist who perseveres in this chore will enjoy much smoother pedaling action.
Inspect: During the cleaning process is a good time to test the bicycle's components and inspect for issues that may need special attention. Especially in older bicycles and mountain bikes that have endured large amounts of shock, it's important to confirm that the frame is free of cracks or other signs of wear. Make sure that all nuts and bolts are tightened, but not over-tightened.
With the wheels free of obstacles, spin them to check for trueness. If they spin straight, no adjustment is necessary. If they wobble a little, small adjustments may be made with a spoke wrench. If they wobble a lot, professional truing assistance may be needed.
While the wheels are spinning, check the brakes. Listen for rubbing sounds and look to see if the brake pads strike the rim during wheel revolution. Many brakes may be simply adjusted with the right size hex key, but if you are unsure of your brake repair skills, it is worth the money to have professional certification of your stopping power.
Tires are one of the first things that need replacing in older bicycles. Check tires for splits, tears and excessive wear. In the event of replacing a tire or tube, always use proper tire levers, never a screwdriver or other tool that may damage the wheel or tire.
Lubricate: Lubrication is often overlooked but it is the lifeblood of a bicycle, especially in a wet climate. Most professionals don't suggest using WD-40, as it is not only a lubricant, but a solvent as well. There are as many different types of chain lube as there are riding conditions, so choose the lube that your bike will like.
The chain should be lubed after being cleaned. There should be an even coat of lube on each link and between the pins and rollers.
Other spots to apply a few drops of lube to are inside cable housings, on the pivot points of derailleurs and on the retention mechanisms of clipless pedals. Waterproof grease may be applied to open wheel bearings, cables and seatposts to prevent seizing.
There isn't much mechanical skill required for a spring tune-up, but for those who'd rather have a professional touch, Glacier Cycles offers basic tune-ups for $50. For details, call 789-7050.
Once your steed is spruced up, mount and ride safely. If the road is your trail, be cautious of motorists, pedestrians and other cyclists. Use turn signals, light yourself at night and never assume right-of-way. When you get home, store your ride in a safe place out of the rain to avoid rust.
With the snow now absent, road riders may want to think about training for the Juneau Freewheelers Bicycle Club's first time trial on May 1. The club will also facilitate weekly group rides by road and trail throughout the summer. For more information about group rides and races, visit juneaufreewheelers.com.