As spring nears, set aside the winter bike or at least wintry thoughts for a moment to consider the condition and potential maintenance needs of your fairer weather cycle. There are several areas of your bicycle worth checking over in preparation for the warmer months. With a little practice, this check-over can help catch problems before they become hazardous annoyances or increase the cost of repair. Knowing what points on your bicycle need to be examined lets you monitor the wear incurred over a season and learn to anticipate maintenance needs.
Step 1: Keep the bike upright
Assessing your bike’s condition and performing repairs is much easier if you have a repair stand to hold the bike. Many stands are available but Park Tool and Feedback make some of the finest. Unencumbered by the acrobatics of keeping the bike upright, you now have your hands free to proceed with your checklist.
Step 2: Check the rubber
The tires of your bicycle are a good starting point. Slowly rotate a wheel, looking for excessive surface wear and cuts that might let the tube poke through. Check all the tires’ surfaces, not just the portion that contacts the road. The sides of the tire are also subject to abrasion or cuts from material encountered while riding. If your tires are still in usable condition, check the pressure and adjust as needed.
Step 3: Brakes
If the brakes feel less responsive than you prefer, there are several factors to consider. The brakes may simply need to be adjusted. They might also need new pads. Most modern rim brake pads feature a series of vertical indentations that act as a visual wear indicator. If your brake pads are thin and little or no marking is visible, it is time to replace them. If you have disc brakes, check the pad wear by checking that the amount of pad remaining exceeds the thickness of a nickel. Consider replacing or at least keep a close eye on them as they are near the end of their usable life.
Step 4: Check the drive train
Your chain, cassette, derailleurs and crankset probably need a dose of cleaning at least, possibly a new chain. The rollers and plates of your chain gradually slough away, leaving an increasingly ill-fitting chain that eventually needs replacement. If you think the chain is worn, a tool can accurately measure wear. Many options exist but some of the best are the Park CC-2, Prolink Chain Gauge and KMC’s digital model. On the Park CC-2, a reading of 0.75 indicates a chain in need of replacement. Depending on several factors, a cassette or freewheel might outlast two or three chains. Riding style, regular cleaning, and frequency of lubrication all effect the expected lifetime of a chain. Eventually you will need to replace the cassette or freewheel but with a little cleaning and monitoring, it can enjoy several chains before retiring.
There are many other aspects of bicycle maintenance that could consume several pages but these represent a good starting point. If you have any questions about the topics here, stop in the shop or call. We are here to help.
When you are done with all this work, get out there and ride somewhere new!