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Is your bike ready for the season?

By Christopher Ashley

Well done if you’ve managed to keep your bike in top condition through winter. But let’s be honest, not all of us have space inside our house to comfortably maintain our bike. Let’s see what you can do.

First make it clean

A middle aged man washing down his mountain bike after a muddy ride in Golden, BC

Now that the weather is warming up slightly, there may be a couple of hours over the weekend where the temperature is bearable. Get outside and take a hose to your bike, wash it down with a mild detergent. Repeat after me – don’t use a power washer. I don’t trust a hose. I use a watering can.

Listen to it

Man oiling the chain on a bicycle

When you pedal, does your chain sound like a nest of squeaky rats? That’s probably the salt off the winter roads that’s wearing your chain and could make it stretch. Use a chain cleaner such as the Park Cm5 to wash all the gunk and grease off. Then use a good wet lube on that chain and it could last you till the summer. What’s your favourite chain lube?

Look at your bike

Are your tyres straight? Probably not given all the potholes that winter punishes the roads with. Spin your wheels and see if they look like warped vinyl on a record player. Your local bike shop will true your wheels to make sure they’re straight for a fairly inexpensive fee.

A bicycle technician truing a wheel

If you want to have a go at truing your own wheels, you can buy a spoke wrench and truing stand for less than £100. Keeping your wheels true means your brake pads will wear evenly, your bike will stop more safely, and your bike will go faster. A word of warning – truing wheels is dangerously addictive. You’ll quickly become good at it.

Don’t be lazy, clean everything!

If you haven’t been using mudguards, one thing that is often overlooked is the seat post. You should regularly loosen and tighten your seat post to make sure it doesn’t become fused to the frame by gunk and corrosion. Don’t forget to mark the post before you move it.

man checking saddle

Check your bottom bracket and headset are safe. I rode a mountain bike all through winter once, and neglected the headset which I thought would be immune to the effects of weather given its distance from road and trail spray.

Seriously, it can save you some bruises

Unfortunately the bearings in my headset gave way with absolutely no warning when I was on a busy road. Suddenly I couldn’t turn my handlebars to the right. Luckily I reacted quickly and the driver behind me was alert at the wheel.

Bicyclist Crashing

Ever since then, I’ve had my local bike shop look over the bottom bracket and headset around this time of year, every year. One day, I’ll get round to teaching myself how to re-grease the bearings, and splash out on headset and bottom bracket tools – but for now, I’m happy to pay the pros to do it for me. After all, keeping your bike safe is about keeping you safe, leaving you free to focus on enjoying the ride.

Next month we will be talking about first spring rides and going out to the mud so be prepared and stay safe!