Get Your Bike Tune Up in Time for Summer
If you already prepped your bicycle before storing it for the winter, you're a step ahead of the maintenance needed to safely get you going this summer. But even if you didn't, these maintenance tips can help get you back outside and pedaling in no time.
Maintenance Basics for Your Bike
A clean bike is simply a healthier, happier bike. So start there. Give the entire bicycle the once-over with a damp cloth, using a mild soap if necessary. Don't be afraid to get the dirt out of all those little cracks and crevices with an old toothbrush—paying special attention to the pedals.
Once your bike is clean, give it a good eyeball inspection. You're looking for worn parts or cracks in the frame, especially on welded areas. A cracked frame or weld can be a serious sign of structural damage, so have a bike shop look at anything suspicious.
Now's also a good time to lubricate your seat post. Mark your current seat height with a pencil (or piece of tape), apply a light layer of grease to the post beneath the mark, and return the seat to its original position. Just be sure to use grease that conforms with the material of your bike post, since they may differ between manufacturers.
If your bike's been sitting idle for a few months, your tires are almost certainly low on air—especially in cooler climates. So while the tires are slightly deflated and pliable, use your fingers to inspect them for any cuts and excess wear. It's important to replace tires if you come across deep cuts or multiple ripped treads.
You won't get far without inflating your tires to their recommended level. Start by verifying the recommended Pounds per Square Inch (PSI) level located on the side of the tire and then add some air, checking the inflation with a tire gauge.
Many bicycle brakes have an "indicator line" to mark the point at which they need to be replaced. If yours don't, a good rule of thumb is to replace them when the pads are worn to the thickness of a dime. If they're still at least as thick as a nickel, you should be okay.
A quality bike chain typically lasts about 2,000 miles (depending on your riding style). If you're not sure how many miles are on yours, check the chain for signs of wear—like stretching. Twelve full chain links should measure 12 inches; if yours is longer than that, it's time for a replacement. A worn chain makes shifting awkward and inefficient, and can cause excess wear on other drive-essential parts of your bike.
If your chain's in good condition, then you're ready to lubricate it. First, soak a clean rag with degreaser; then grasp the chain as you use your hands to backpedal. This helps remove grime. Afterward, re-lubricate the chain, applying an even coat on the inside and outside of each link. When you're done, wipe off any excess, since leftover lube will attract dirt as you ride, causing more wear on your chain.
Take a minute to shift from gear to gear. Transitions should be smooth—skipping or jerkiness may signal a problem with your derailleur, chain rings, or even cables. If you're handy, you'll find plenty of online resources to help you diagnose and repair any shifting problems.
Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help
If you'd rather not bother with do-it-yourself bicycle repairs, you can always let an expert at your local bike shop take it for a spin. A professional bike servicing is often time and money well spent.
Use Your Head and Check Your Helmet
Once you're done looking over your bike, you'll want to check your bicycle safety gear next. Your helmet is the most important part of every ride, so make sure it's still in tip-top shape.
t may be time to replace your helmet when you:
- Have been in a crash. Even if it looks okay, it's best to replace it after any major impact.
- Have used it for 5 years or longer.
- Have transported it roughly or have spent an excessive amount of time in intense sun and/or heat.
- Notice fading color, fraying, cracks, or a distorted liner.
The Great Outdoors Comes with the Occasional Great Danger
It's not all fun and games out there. The next time you hit the road on your bicycle—or head out into the wilderness on two wheels—remember that bicycle helmets and sun protection are necessary elements of your summer bike excursions. Check out our article on how to Make Your Summer Activities Safer for more tips.
Once Your Bike is Tuned Up, Protect it
While we don't offer bike tune-up service, we can cover your bicycle under one of our homeowners insurance or renters insurance policies. Get an easy no-obligation quote, call us at 1-800-ALLSTATE (1-800-255-7828), or near you to see how Allstate can help you save.
Published: June 2011