It’s sunny! There are wildflowers to be seen and trails to be ridden! Just like your bike, you probably feel as if you, too, have been hidden away in storage all winter, just waiting for the first hint of spring. To ensure that your first bike rides of the year are safe ones, however, now is the time to do some basic maintenance on your bike that will have you whistling a happy tune without the accompaniment of squeaky wheels!
1. Start at the Bottom
2. Spring Clean
A clean bike (and bike bag) is a happy bike! If your bike has been stored in a dusty garage or shed, chances are it doesn’t quite have that new-bike gleam you remember.
To get your bike ready for spring, take a bit of degreaser to your drivetrain to remove built up dirt and grime. Then, take a damp rag or washcloth dipped in slightly soapy warm water and wipe down the whole bike. Not only will this brighten up your bike’s appearance, but it will also extend the lifespan of your bike by removing any corrosive road spray that’s built up.
Be sure to dry the bike thoroughly, especially on any moving and metal parts; a wet bike is a rusty bike!
3. Brakes and Chains
Once your bike is clean, squeeze your brakes. You want to feel resistance against your hand. If they push in easily, your brakes may be worn down which means it’s off to the bike repair shop with you.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to check your tension! If your chain is too tight, it can bind and damage your gears. If it’s too loose, it can pop off while you’re riding. To get your bike ready for spring, press your fingers against the top chain - it shouldn’t move more than ¼ to ½ inch. If your chain tension is good to go, take the time to oil the chains with a dry lubricant to prevent grating and stop squeaks in their tracks.
Be sure to add a bit of lube to the rear cog, chainring, crankset, and wheel bearings! You want to make sure you’re hitting all moving parts.
4. Check Your Reflection
No, we don’t mean look in the mirror! Get your bike ready for spring by taking it outside in the evening and making sure that reflector strips and bicycle lights are still in working order. There’s nothing more dangerous to a cyclist than an invisible bike, so clean or replace reflector strips as soon as they seem to fade.
5. Check Your Saddle Bag
Pop Quiz: Do you know what you currently have stashed in your saddle bag? While you’re out for a ride, you never know when you might need to fix a flat, repair a chain, or tighten up a loose bolt. If you're not sure if you have these essentials (or if they're in working order!), get your bike ready for spring by unpacking the bag and checking through everything.
Whether you're going out for quick casual rides or all-day excursions, you should have a multi-tool, patch kit, spare tube, and a mini hand pump or CO2 cartridges.
6. Dress it Up!
What, you think your bike doesn’t want a new spring wardrobe? Take the time to get your bike ready for spring by adding some features that will make your bicycle more useful, and thus, more likely to be used regularly!
A stylish helmet, water bottle/coffee holder, comfort-grip handlebars, or even a new, custom-made seat can all help make your bike more comfortable to ride and useful for more activities. Oh, and don't forget a stylish bike bag.
7. Review Your Fave Bicycle Routes
Now that your bike is in tip top shape, it's time to decide where to go! If it has been awhile since you biked in your city, chances are that there have been some bike infrastructure improvements that will make your bike commute even better than it was last year.
Early spring is the best time to start getting your bike ready for the warm weather! Follow these tips and you'll be out on the road in no time!
Editors Note: This post was originally published in May 2014 and has been revamped for comprehensiveness.