If you didn’t clean and tune up your bike before relegating it to the garage or attic for the winter, shame on you. However, you can still make amends, and your bicycle will forgive you in time for the spring riding season.
The best time to give your bike a tune-up is before it goes into storage for an extended time. As you ride throughout the year, dirt and grime accumulate on the chain, derailleurs, gears, and bearings of your bicycle. If left on the bike all winter, this grime will combine with grease and oil and start to “set up,” or dry out on the bike. But since you didn’t clean it before its hibernation, you have to do so now.
Apply a fresh coating of grease to the bearings as well as some oil on the chain. As you go to the bike shop to get a really cool new helmet, you’ll see many bikes lined up for new chains because of lack of proper lubrication.
Clean and inspect the frame. Frames do age and wear out. There may also be damage to the frame due to accidents or abuse, like when you rammed it parking the car in the garage. If it’s time for a new frame, it’s time for a new frame — better (and safer) now than later.
Make sure your wheels are trued. If your wheel set has spokes that are out of tension or the rims are out of true, they could be slowing you down or could cause your wheel to fail. Most casual riders are surprised to find that even a very misaligned tire can be used again if trued properly.
Make sure tires have suitable tread left, are inflated properly and are not cracked. This is important. Always look at the side wall of the tire on your bike for the recommended pressure. If you’re taking it in to a bike shop for any cable replacements or major overhauls, watch the clerk write on the order what pressure you require.
The exception to this is when riding off road. For a bumpy descent, deflate your tires 5-15 psi before rough ride for a smoother ride with better control — softer tires also save you from a pounding. Don’t go below the minimum pressure shown on the sidewalls of the tires. Re-inflate up to maximum pressure for smoother trails or pavement.
Your bike should be cleaned, lubed, and dried after every sloppy or dusty ride. Fill a bucket with warm, soapy water, and use a mild detergent or an automotive soap. Give the bike an all-over scrubbing with a large, soft, nylon brush. Either douse the bike with a bucket of clean water, or spray it gently with a hose — high pressure from a hose forces water into greased bearing surfaces, and can damage critical components such as hubs, headset, or bottom bracket.
Dry the bike with a soft rag or paper towels, then re-lubricate the chain and derailleurs and wipe excess lube off the chain.
Your bike’s fit and healthy and ready to go. Now for you…