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Time to Get Ready for Prime Bike Season: Prepare Your Bike Now

Updated: May 11

by John Zappa - bike advocate and chief rider

The weather is finally getting nicer in Chicago and a lot more people are riding their bikes. While it seems easy to just get out the bike and start riding, there are a couple of important things you can do to make it a more pleasant ride. In this two-part series, we will first look at how to prepare your bike, and in the second article, yourself.

1) Clean your bike

A clean bike will not only look better, but it will also perform better. A dirty drivetrain can cause your bike to shift poorly and wear out faster. To clean your bike, you can use a bucket of soapy water and a sponge or rag. Avoid using a high-pressure hose, as it can force water into the bearings and cause damage. Alternatively, your local bike shop may offer cleaning as a service. Here’s a great example of a bike shop in Chicago that takes cleaning to a new level. And here's a detailed guide on how to clean your bike.


Does your bicycle chain look like one of these sad cases?


2) Inspect your bike: cracks and rust

Before you start riding, it's essential to check your bike for any visible signs of wear and tear. One of the most common issues is a rusty chain. In the worst situations, the bike is unrideable because the links will not flex. More commonly, some lubrication applied to the chain will help significantly. It's also imperative to look for cracks or other damage to the frame, wheels, and tires. ​If you see signs of cracks or other damage, take the bike to a shop for a more thorough examination before you start riding it.

Broken crank arm - original photo courtesy of Bike Breaker Hill by David Shrock.
Hairline crack on crank-arm - original photo courtesy of Broken Bike Parts by Felix Wong.
 

3) Inspect your bike: cables and tires

While reviewing for cracks, also check your cables and housing for any signs of fraying or damage which is far more common. A trip to the bike shop can easily fix these issues. Lastly, make sure that your tires are inflated to the correct pressure. Don’t know the right pressure, check the sidewall on the tire for the recommended PSI. If you have a pump, but no gauge to determine the actual pressure, a quick rule of thumb is this: squeeze the tire between your fingers, if you feel it compress it needs more air. ​​

4) Check your brakes

​Your brakes are one of the most critical components of your bike. Test your brakes to ensure they are functioning properly. Make sure your brake pads are not worn out and that they make good contact with the rims. If you have disc brakes, check the rotor for any signs of warping or damage. Here's a short video from a Washington bike shop on how to check and maintain rim brakes.


5) Pre-ride bike check

Lastly a quick pre-ride check is always a good idea. Here's a short video which does a great job of recapping what to inspect before you head out the door. All good suggestions like making sure your quick releases are tight, wheels centered, brakes aligned and working, and tires inflated to name a few.


6) Bonus tip

If you have lights (which you should!) make sure the batteries are charged or replaced. See the comment below from one of our readers. ​


Summary

If you haven't been riding, now is a great time to get started. Just remember to prepare your bike in a few easy steps:

clean your bike, inspect your bike for cracks and rust, look at the bike's cables and tires, and check your brakes.

before you roll out the door.

Are there steps you do to prepare your bike before riding? Share your suggestions in the comment below.

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