Leaving winter behind and preparing your bike for riding

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The moment of riding through blossomed fields and forests approaches us and in now time we’ll be riding through flowers! Of course, this is good news even for those that rode all-winter long and have no stopping point for the cycling season. However, for mere mortals, winter equals training indoor at the gym or on the trainer, or even means completely taking a break. Even those outside this category have a different, maybe more ragged bike to deal with winter’s hostility. Anyway, for all persons involved, spring’s first rays sound the wake up-call for bringing out that favourite bicycle. Still, is it a good idea to hop directly on it? Shouldn’t we check it out first? There is a hefty list of problems that can pop-up during winter and you can even try to recall the fixings you wanted to do last autumn, but forgot about them. So, here’s a list of 10 things you should check before  rocketing out the door riding.

bicycle-springTires – of course, verifying the pressure is top. This doesn’t cover all however. If you use tubeless tires, check the sealant at least, and at best remove the tire from the rim and use a new can of fluid. It happens very often for the sealant to dry off, harden and fail to deliver the needed performance, a thing which, according to Murphy’s laws, will occur in the worst possible moment. If the tires are worn, you know what to do and never eliminate the option of fitting the bike with new ones, even if wear doesn’t seem a big issue.

Shocks – the shocks will not work properly if they lack the right pressure. During winter, air may have slipped out and it’s not a big task while it can prove very wise to send the shocks to a complete check-up at a specialized service, even more so if you plan on riding them all-season long for the coming years.

Chain – you probably did not thoroughly clean your chain after your last ride. This means there is a greater chance that it can jam and rust. It needs to be removed, washed, degreased, cleaned and lubricated. However, you can check first is your current chain can still be used with a simple tool that you can purchase for next to nothing. If the wear indicator exceeds 0.7mm, replacement is needed, and if wear reached 1mm, you might want to mount new sprockets and maybe new chainrings.

Bottom bracket – not all bottom brackets are as water-tight as we wish. During riding season, small water intakes fail to leave their mark thanks to intensive usage. However, a long break brings the possiblity that they can jam and rust, which spells total disaster. Take off the chain and spin the crankset. If you notice the slightest drag, you should replace the bottom bracket. For certain, you are safer off if you remove the bottom bracket anyway, clean it and grease it.

Cable hoods and cables – no brainer here. After a full-season of riding, replacing the cables is not only a simple operation, but it also works wonders in term of braking and shifting performance. We usually go for changing the hoods as well, but some people might call that over the top.

Brakes – Unmount the wheels and take a close look at the brakes. If the pads look worn, replace them. If the rotors look worn, replace them. When looking at the pads of a disc brake, notice how the pistons are gliding. If you spot an irregular movement, it might be the effect of not being used for several months. If the levers work uneven or the travel increased so they’re getting to close to the handlebar, you might have air in the system which you need to remove.

Wheels ­– check them for play in the hubs and check how they spin. Not even the slightest lateral movement is allowed, while the wheel refusing to spin means the bearings met with water and the outcome wasn’t happy. Also, turning the wheel can indicate if the rims are deformed, if the tire sits right on it, if the braking surface of the rim is still in parameters or if the brake rotors are straight.

Screws – differences in temperature might have loosened the screws. Grab a set of allen keys or wrenches and check how tight all the screws of all the parts are put together – saddle, stem, derailleur etc. When dealing with carbon parts, use a torque wrench if possible, in order to apply the recommended pressure.

Headset – the handlebar should move freely, without any interruptions, and shouldn’t present any irregular movements. One of the most sensitive parts is this one, so it should be one of the easiest to check out.

Last, but not least, look for all the items and accessories you tipically use. Over winter, a very strange phenomena occurs that makes all of them dissapear in the most unlikely places of the house. You can do without the stress of looking for them 10 minutes before the ride and not finding them. This is also the only point of this list that cannot be put in the trust of someone else but yourself.

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