The spring weather is here, so what better time for a bike ride to see the flowers, birds, and, as my Mom would have said, “get the stink blowed off you”? But, after you dig your bike out of that pile of junk in the garage and wipe the dust off it, you want to make sure it’s ready to ride. Here are some tips on how to do that.
Bikes are not supposed to squeak. It’s true. Don’t believe the hype. Oil is good, but more oil is not better. Excess lubrication attracts dirt, which can cause premature wear on parts. Dribble some oil along the entire chain, backpedal the bike a few turns and then wipe the chain down with a rag.
If it’s been a while since your last ride, odds are that your tires are going to need some air. If it’s been a long while since your last ride, your tires could be dry-rotted and unsafe. You don’t want to pump up a dry-rotted tire because the resulting explosion can scare the neighbors.
If your tires have fine cracks, usually along the sidewalls, it’s time to replace them. Otherwise, you want to pump them up to the level of tire pressure printed on the sidewall of the tire. One note of caution here: Please, please use a bicycle pump. Gas station air pumps are usually set at around 100 pounds of pressure or more and will easily explode your tires, once again scaring the neighbors.
Riding around on under-inflated tires is bad for several reasons. First, it makes pedaling your bike a lot harder. You cannot imagine how much it increases the rolling resistance. Second, it can be dangerous. Cornering on a soft tire can cause you to slide out and crash. Lastly, your tires protect your rims and wheels. Hitting a pothole with a soft tire will probably dent your rim and replacing dented rims can be very expensive.
And, speaking of rims, you want to make sure your brakes contact the rims when you squeeze the brake levers. This is a major safety concern. Bad things happen when your brakes don’t work. Also, look closely at the rubber of your brake pads. Does the rubber look very thin and kind of worn out? Brake pads are molded with wear lines in them and if your wear lines are gone you need to replace the brake pads.
Giving your bike a once-over to make sure all the bolts are snug isn’t a bad idea either. I used to tell people to tighten bolts until you hear something snap and then back off a quarter turn, but too many folks missed the joke. Don’t do it. I’m joking.
Lastly, wear a helmet. Always. I don’t care how good/careful you are, accidents happen too fast to prevent.
Have fun getting the stink blowed off!
By John Hinderliter (http://www.johnhinderliter.com/)