Top tips: Getting back on your bike this spring
In the next month or so, bike mechanics across the UK will be in sudden demand. It’s always the same at this time of year as fairweather cyclists re-find their desire to get out on two wheels – and, at the same time, realise that gears, chains, brakes etc have become a little worse for wear over the winter.
Many cyclists will also be looking froward to a cycling holiday or tour later in the year, so getting back in the saddle is important for training purposes.
Over the winter, many cyclists will have hung up their bikes in garages or stored them in sheds. Few will have treated their bicycles to any TLC before putting their bikes into winter hibernation. And, in any case, a bike that has not moved for many months in a row is highly likely to have tired and seized components and a lack of grease and easy motion.
A quick spin round the block will reveal some of the problems with a bike, while any riders who are foolhardy enough to set out on a longer bike ride without first checking all the parts and components are likely to end up being forced to phone a partner or for a taxi to bring them shamefacedly back home again with a broken bike.
The next step is usually a trip to the local bike mechanic or a call to a mobile mechanic with a list of bike repair problems. But before you head off to your favourite and trusted mechanic it's worth checking your bike to see what is wrong and what you can put right yourself.
10 steps to getting your bike on the road
Hold your bike upright and rotate the pedals backwards. Does the chain run smoothly without jumping or rattling? Are the chain and gears rust-free? Is there any dirt on the chain? Make sure you clean the chain with degreaser to ensure it is properly clean and running smoothly. Then add a light summer-type oil.
Lift the rear of the bike by the saddle. Turn the pedals forwards while changing front and rear gears. Do the gears change smoothly, or does the chain sometimes not move on to the next cog?
Does the bottom bracket bearing (where the pedals rotate) feel smooth? Check whether you can feel any side-to–side or up-and-down play in the pedal crank arms.
Lift the front and rear of the bike so that the wheels can be spun round simultaneously. Look along the length of the heel as it spins, and between the brake blocks, to see if there is any wavering of the wheel/s. You might even find that the wheel rubs against the brake blocks. If you think that the wheel is not true, head to your local bike shop or mechanic.
5) Brake blocks:
Take a close look at the brake blocks to see if there is any wear. The most important thing to look for is the grooves in the blocks. If the grooves have disappeared it’s time for new brake blocks.
Also have a look at the rims of the wheels. The rims are the part of the wheel that the brake pads rest on when you pull the brakes. The rims can become worn with over use and they may also need to be replaced.
Look for small holes, cuts, cracks and general wear and tear of the tyres. Replace your tyres regularly and choose tyres to suit the conditions, for example smooth tarmac (perhaps while on a cycling holiday) or trails. Inner tubes might also need to be re-inflated after a winter spent in the garage!
The headset is the component that attaches the handlebars to the bike. You do not want to see or feel any movement in this. To check, steady the bike and rock it forwards and backwards. If may be that the headset needs to be tightened or you might need new bearings so if you feel any movement head to a bike mechanic for advice.
9) Bits and pieces:
Check items such as handlebar tape, electronic gadgets, water bottles cages etc to make sure they are all in good working order.
10) Bike service:
It’s worth having your bike checked over every few months to be sure that it is in good working order. Nick Green, a mobile bike mechanic from Milngavie, near Glasgow, who runs Hammer & Cycle
, points out: “Rather like your car service or a trip to the dentist, it is usually cheaper to have your bike regularly checked for problem rather than wait for a problem to arise. A bike service or check over is not costly and could mean you stay repair free while you enjoy a summer of cycling.”