Spring is a time of happiness and joy, with revitalised cyclists waking from their winter slumber. Those who refused to hibernate show the signs of a tough winter gone by, with cracked knuckles and dry lips and three sets of leg warmers in rotation through the washing pile. Those who did hibernate simply have to dust off their steed and hit the road...
Or do they?
When winter came knocking you promised to wash your bike one last time before stashing it away 'til spring. But you forgot and conveniently remembered when you walked in to the garage kitted up for a ride only to be let down by a dilapidated bike. Fear not, though, it'll take a few easy fixes to get her roadworthy and ready to ride!
To get your bike back to it's former glory, follow these quick safety checks and maintenance tips! Hopefully you won't need to drop your rig off at the local bike store, but if you do, surely it will be a minimal service (you hope...)
Check your brake pads for wear to the point of needing to be replaced. It might have slipped your mind over the winter period that your pads were quite worn, so replace them now for a fresh start. In fact, even if they're only 50% worn, consider replacing them anyway to avoid the need to do it later. While you're working on the brakes, check to ensure your rims or disc rotors don't rub.
Even if your gears were working during autumn, things might be completely different now! A whole season of corrosion and stagnation could leave your gears well and truly stuffed. Even if you're not riding the bike, gear cables can corrode - in fact, they're more likely to show signs of corrosion due to lack of use. A quick fix can be to drip a minimal amount of chain lubricant down the gear cable casings - this is only until you can get the cables replaced. DO NOT take this approach with brake cables, because a snapped brake cable is a little more than an inconvenience at 20 miles per hour - Better just replace them.
Tires and Tubes
You might think about tires only, but tubes can age dramatically when they're deflated and deformed inside the tire itself. Instead of pumping your tires and riding away, pump your tires the night before and check for deflation overnight. When it comes to tires, same rule applies. Check the tire sidewalls for cracking, and the surface for cuts.
There's no harm in cleaning your chain regardless, however, you might just get away with a quick wipe down and a lube. Check your chain for corrosion and rust and decide whether it should just be replaced. If you had left sufficient lubricant on your chain before stashing it away, it'd be fine! But that rarely happens.
Now that your bike is ready to roll, it's also wise to check over your riding equipment. You might find it valuable to check on your spares, ensuring spare tube, tire levers, and pump all work as expected. Actually, try using your pump, as they can seize up through lack of use.
With regards to your spare tube, it too can crack and degrade - so it pays to unroll it, inflate then deflate it for future emergencies.
From a clothing perspective, your riding kit should all be fine. But while you're at it, just run an eye over your helmet as a safety concern. Not from seasonal lack of use, but more from an age perspective, helmets can show wear and tear. Sweat pads that barely exist, or polystyrene that's hardened over time and lost integrity due to ultraviolet exposure (sunlight). Ideally, a helmet should be replaced every two years, but check manufacturer recommendations.
Bike Storage Checklist
Perhaps a little late for northern hemisphere people, but if you live south of the equator this list maybe handy in a month or two.
- Inflate the tires - Especially if your bike will be sitting on its wheels. This holds the tires shape and makes sure there are no creases or folds in the rubber casing which could develop into cracks. The tires will lose pressure over time so check them periodically (if possible) or remove them completely and lay flat. It depends how long the storage will be.
- Clean the frame and components - Give your bike a good wash and make certain it is completely dry.
- Lubricate chain/cables - Degrease and lubricate the chain and add some lube to the gear and brake cables, making sure it runs into the outer casing. This will prevent corrosion. While you're at it, add a dab of lube to any exposed suspension components (like fork stanchions) and a drop of water dipsersant to the steel hex bolt heads to prevent rust.
Hats off to you if you rode all winter, you truly are hardcore. If this is you, it might be worthwhile dropping your bike off for a service at your local bike shop, just to avoid any issues in the coming sunny weeks. Enjoy your riding, and enjoy the warmer weather... no doubt, you've been itching to get back onto the bike!