Haven’t ridden your bike in a while? It doesn’t take much to get your bike back into riding shape. With a bit of knowledge, most simple fixes can be done at home and will save you a trip to the bike shop. Here are a few tips to get you and your bike back out on the road:
Regular cleaning helps prolong the life of your bike and its parts. Before heading out (or, even better, after each ride), take a damp rag and wipe down your bike, focusing on the areas where dirt and grime accumulate. Pay special attention to the brakes, crank, cassette/cog, and wheels. The last step is to give the chain a good wipe as well. This will dirty your rag, but it’s worth it. Grime and dirt accumulate on the chain and get spread to the chain-ring, rear derailleur (especially the gear pulleys), and the cassette. A good citrus degreaser is the best cleaner (e.g. Simple Green, etc.).
Immediately after cleaning, be sure to re-lubricate any moving parts. Wiping off the dirt is great, but you often take all the lubricant along with it. A silicone-based lubricant is best (e.g Boeshield T-9, Tri-Flow, etc.). You will want to apply a coat on the chain and derailleurs (pivot points and pulley axles). Wipe off excess when done as too much lubricant will just attract dirt. This will keep things running smoothly and silently, which helps you stay focused on enjoying every inch of the road.
Check Tire Pressure
Make sure your tires are inflated properly before you ride. In addition to making your bike more susceptible to getting a flat tire, low pressure can make the bike feel heavy, sluggish and much less fun to ride. Over-inflating your tires can create a dangerous situation in which your tire comes off the rim and is not ridable. Most bike pumps come equipped with a pressure gauge. Road tires generally take 90–120 PSI, while mountain bike tires generally take 25-35 PSI (check the PSI specs on the tire).
Backroads Pro Tip
On bumpier surfaces, a slightly lower pressure is preferable, while higher pressure creates less drag on smoother surfaces.
Check Your Brakes & Wheels
Before you get to flying along those beautiful roads at quick speeds, be sure you’ll be able to safely stop. First, make sure your wheels are seated and correctly secured in your bike. Look at the wheel and see that there is equal spacing on both sides to the frame. Lift the bike and spin the wheel. The brake pads should not rub. Check that your quick release levers (the levers that secure your wheel to the frame in the center of the wheel) are firmly closed with good pressure.
Next, squeeze the brake levers and rock your bike back and forth. Do they firmly hold the wheels in place? Note that you should be able to pull the levers close to the handlebars without the levers actually touching the handlebars. This will make for a comfortable braking position.
Lastly, for bikes with non-disc brakes, take a look at the brake pads. They should evenly land on the metal rim and not rub the tire or slide below the rim. If you see any issues when reviewing your brakes, it is best to take it to your local bike shop for adjustments. These are typically simple repairs for them, and you can be confident you will have proper stopping power when needed.
Take your bike for a short ride around the block to make sure that everything is working okay and fix anything loose that might be rattling before heading out for a real ride. Once you’re ready to go for a ride, don’t forget to bring water, and it’s always wise to pack snacks and wear layers.