Tune In. Tune Up for Spring

Bike Mechanic Oliver Swainson
Bike Mechanic Oliver Swainson

Spring is here! For those of us who stick with fair weather riding, it’s that time of year when we dig out our bike from the shed where it was hibernating all winter, pump up the air and ride. But wait! Before you hop on that bike, it’s important to do a quick spring check up to make sure your bike is safe to ride. It’s easy as ABC.

A – Air: Check the air in the tires and make sure they’re inflated to the correct pressure. Use a pump with a pressure gauge to make sure you’re inflating the tire to the recommended pressure for your tire model. Your tire will have the recommended pressure printed on the side wall of the tire. Riding on under inflated tires greatly increases your risk of getting a flat and over inflating could cause the tire to burst.

If your tires are flat and it’s been a while since they were last pumped up, it’s a good idea to also check that your tubes and tires still hold air. Do this a day in advance of your ride then check it the next day to ensure you don’t have a slow leak. You don’t want to go off riding only to discover your tires have deflated several kilometres from home from a slow leak.

B – Brakes & Bars: Being able to stop quickly and reliably is critical for safe riding. So is quick and responsive steering. Before taking off, grab your brake levers, give them a squeeze and try to roll your bike forward and back. Properly set up brakes should lock up the wheels completely when under pressure. Check that your brake pads are not worn out and that your brake levers are set so they cannot touch the handlebars when squeezed fully. Get the pads replaced and brakes adjusted if needed. Next, check that the levers are securely fastened to the handlebars and not prone to sliding into a difficult to reach angle. Finally, stand in front of the bike and grip the handlebars with the front wheel between your legs. While holding the wheel securely with your knees try turning the bars left and right. The bars should remain locked to the wheel direction and not slide or move.

C – Chain: Less critical to your safety, but equally important to getting anywhere at all, check your chain and drive train for rusk, squeaks and squeals. If you have multiple gears, try running through them all and check that everything shifts smoothly and reliably. Get rid of friction and help combat rust by applying bike chain lubricant to your chain. Unlike WD40 or engine oil, bike lubricants are specially formulated to endure the unique conditions your bike has to handle without evaporating or gumming up the works with excessive dirt attraction. Regular application of a quality bike lube will keep your bicycle running quickly, smoothly, and rust free for many kilometres to come.

Lastly, if you have any questions or concerns about whether your bike is safe to ride or if you identified an issue during your ABC check, it’s highly recommended that you bring the bike in to a local bike shop and have a trusted professional look it over. Most bike shops will give you a free, on-the-spot check and appraisal of your bicycle. They can help identify any malfunctioning parts, what the risk of riding with them is, and offer a free estimate for how long and how much it will cost for a repair.

By Bike Friendly Oliver Swainson, mechanic at City Cyclery

1 thought on “Tune In. Tune Up for Spring”

  1. Hi Oliver . Good to see you still hanging out with bikes. At All Saints church people are starting to ask about the bike a thon again. I’ve got some biking photos with you in them. I’ll drop in to see you some time. Art Roth

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