Thursday, April 5, 2012

Getting Your Bike Ready for Spring

We’ve had a few glorious days, and it got me thinking about biking.  I stopped by my local bike shop to ask them what I need to do for my bike, to get ready for spring riding. Express Bike  is run as a training program for young people.  I spoke with Dave Lee, one of the shop professionals who teaches bike repair.  if you’d like to check them out!  They do great work and charge between $45-60 for a spring tune-up.  They are at 1158 Selby Ave. in St. Paul, MN  55104

Q:  What do you really hate to see when someone brings a bike in? 
A:  Rust!  To prevent rust, you must keep the moving parts lubricated.  It’s easy.  Just buy a bottle, and have the tech show you on the chain where to drip the oil, between the little moving plates—not in the middle of the chain.  (Dave showed me a sweet technique where you keep the lube bottle still and just rotate the chain.  I would have made a mess.)  Then you take a rag (turns out rags are very important) to wipe off any excess.  Lube any other moving parts and you are set.   Keep two kinds of rags with you on your bike—an oil rag and a clean rag.  With the clean  rag, wipe off your bike if it gets wet.  Give it a nice gentle hand soap bath once in a while (no pressure water or hoses that could water into the mechanisms.) Keep it as dry as possible between rides.  

Q:  How often should I have been doing this?
A:  If you are commuting (and they are seeing many more people doing this—even in the dead of a Minnesota winter) you might need to lube once a week if you are on wet and grimy streets.  For weekend trail riders, maybe once or twice a season, or once a month if you are doing some distance.   If it gets noisy—lube!

Q:  Do I really need to spend money on a spring tune-up?
A:  It can prevent problems you don’t want to happen on the road or trail.  First we make sure the bike is safe—that all the brakes work well, that the wheels are tracking straight, and that there hasn’t been any damage that you don’t know about.  We have seen bikes hit by cars where the integrity of the frame just wasn’t there—and the owner didn’t know.  Also, we check the tires for any dry rot or problems so it is much less likely you’ll blow a tire out.  A tune-up can also really extend the life of your bike, especially if you aren’t completely vigilant about things like lubing! 
Q: Any tips on buying a new bike?

A:  A couple of thoughts.  You need to be able to swivel comfortably on your bike to be safe in traffic, to see in all directions.  There are many new handles out now that can be substituted for what comes standard that allow you to sit up and more easily look around.  Swept-back handles are very popular.  Also, get the bike that fits how you will use the bike.  There are lots of seat options, so don’t settle for an uncomfortable ride.  Road bikes are great—on the open road.  But if you are trail riding, or commuting, they might not be the best.  For people who weigh more, there are tires that make the ride more comfortable and the tires aren’t as puncture-prone.  Look for the size called 700 X 32.  Not all bikes can fit the larger tires.  But if you aren’t usually “bunny-hopping” potholes, you probably don’t want a racing road bike.   
Q:  When should I tune up a new bike?

A:  Come back in after about 100 miles.  Why so soon?  Most places include this initial tune-up in the purchase price.  That’s because cables can stretch out, spokes may need to be aligned, the brakes may get sloppy, the shifting may not be as crisp.  Everything settles in and just needs tweaking.

Q:  What about safety?
A:  No matter how much safety equipment you wear, lights, fluorescent vest, leg reflective strips, you need to ride as if you are not wearing any. Be as alert as possible as a rider.   Do wear a helmet, and if you have a fall, turn it in for a new one.  Most helmet companies have a replacement program.  
Q:  What cool accessories are people using to enhance their bike experience?
A:  Mini pumps that can stash in a bag, road repair kits that have a few tools and tire repair, a nice back pack that isn’t too big or hot, a new bike helmet, safety lights, and a great lock!  When the time changed away from daylight saving in the fall, we were swamped by computers suddenly finding themselves riding in the dark.  If you are commuting or shopping, look at a rear rack, panniers or perhaps a retro fun basket.    Enjoy your bike.   

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