As the weather warms and the sun reappears, many of us look forward to getting back on the trails and riding our bikes around town in the spring.
But when you first take your bike out for a spin, maybe you find that the gears aren’t shifting or the brakes are making a horrible noise. Ignoring these issues can be bad news as little annoyances can turn into bigger problems.
Fortunately, a little bit of basic maintenance could help you avoid a big price tag miles down the trail. Whether you’re a warm-and-sunny-day rider or use your bike for transportation, maintenance can also provide a superior riding experience.
Learn the basics and find a class
Clean and inspect your bike at the beginning and end of each riding season. If you see any cracks or think something is bent, bring it into a mechanic.
Re-lube the chain if you rode your bike in the rain, if it isn’t shifting as usual, or if it is noticeably louder than you remember.
Check the chain for stretch. If you’re an occasional rider (weekly or several times a month), you should do this during your seasonal cleaning sessions. If you’re a frequent rider (daily or several times a week), you should check your chain every time you clean and re-lube it, which should be about every week or every other week. To make sure you do this, keep a ruler or a chain checker* next to your lube to make it easy.
Take a class and learn some basic skills to keep your bike in good order. Two helpful skills you can learn in a class are how to change a tire and check the brakes for wear. Many bike shops offer classes at a reasonable cost, and some bike shops and non-profits provide open shop hours where you can go to use tools and get some assistance.
Bring it to a mechanic
Although a tune up will cost money, remember that it could prevent a lot more in damage to your bike if you neglect it. Think about it this way: do you skip oil changes on your car or ignore the mechanic if she or he tells you the car needs new brakes? The same basic maintenance rules apply to your bikes.
Find a mechanic you trust. The Choose to Reuse website includes a listing of bike shops. Every bike mechanic will do their best to get your bike back in working order. If a mechanic sees that even with repairs, the bike would be unsafe to ride, they will not do the repairs. Additionally, sometimes it can be hard to find a specific parts on old bikes, which may cause a more expensive repair.
And if you’re shopping for a new bike, remember that some bike shops make a business out of fixing up or refurbishing old or used bikes.
*A chain checker is an inexpensive tool, $5-$10, usually with hooks at one end that slip into the chain and metal pegs at the other, which will fall in-between the spaces on the chain if it needs to be replaced.
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