(Photos © J. Maus)
Editor’s Note: This article was written by guest author Tori Bortman. Tori is very active in the local bike scene. She’s a co-host of the KBOO Bike Show, a promoter of bike polo and women-only alleycats, and she’s the proprietor of her own bike mechanic training business, Gracie’s Wrench (which we reported about two years ago and was featured in The Oregonian this past Sunday).
Today she shares a few tips about how to coax your battered bike (and psyche) out of the winter doldrums and into the sunshine ahead!
In the past few days the undeniable signs of upcoming warmth and sun are here. The green sprouts of leaves carpeting tree branches. Crocuses and daffodils. The sweet song of the first robins to return from the south and the lengthening days thick with lazy twilight. Wait. What’s that other sound?
Ahem… I believe that’s your bike.
Is it whispering to be let out from the basement or garage into the warm sun? Or maybe that’s the whining shudder reminding that winter’s rain and road grit have not been so kind? Spring cleaning can bring some fresh perspectives, so here are a few ways to show your bike some love and start the season off right.
“Sometimes it’s the little details that make the biggest difference.”
— Tori Bortman
Start by clearing your rims with a clean, dry rag (avoid cleanser as fluid will smear the schmutz) to remove all the pumice-filled road grime and brake dust. This will increase power and quiet your brakes. Remove your wheels and scuff up the surface of your brake pads with emery cloth, a file or sand paper to ensure any build-up doesn’t transfer back to the rim surface.
We can all appreciate looking spiffy, so while your wheels are off take the opportunity to clean off your frame with a light cleanser and rag. Avoid washing your bike with a hose or lots of water that can get into bearings and wash the valuable grease away. Be sure to floss between the nooks and crannies that might not usually get your attention. Sometimes it’s the little details that make the biggest difference.
Use some WD-40 or other solvent (like Citrisolve) sprayed onto a rag to clean the old grime off your chain. Run the chain through the rag instead of spraying the chain directly as it can leave a residue that will ruin the fresh oil you apply after cleaning. Warning! WD-40 is not used as a lubricant but as a cleanser and is in no way a replacement for properly oiling your chain. After cleaning and thoroughly oiling your chain be sure to run a rag over it again to keep from attracting any new dirt—one of the most important steps, never to be skipped! If you’re riding regularly this is can be a weekly ritual that gives you a chance to look things over on your bike.
Inflate your tires to the highest side of the recommended range imprinted on the sidewall of the rubber. Surprisingly, this combined with oiling your chain can often make your ride feel brand new.
Next, your helmet. It’s not actually part of your bike but shouldn’t be overlooked. Check for any cracks in the plastic or foam. Most helmets break down in three to five years (sometimes less) and will need to be replaced. Damaging UV rays along with accidental drops and bumps while you’re not wearing it can add up.
As you roll out into that sunshine take notice of your bike as you ride. Do the brake levers pull all the way to the handlebars when you stop? Does your bike not want to shift without coaxing? Are there any strange rattles you’ve just gotten used to? If you answered “yes” to any of the above it might be time to take your bike into your favorite shop for some professional service. Or maybe this spring will be the time to grow your knowledge with a bike maintenance class. Either way, enjoy the strengthening sun on your skin, the spring breeze (chilly as it may be), and the cherry blossoms promising winter’s end.