A quick way to keep your bicycle humming

Let’s keep your bike humming between annual tune-ups at your local bike shop. It’s all too easy to quickly give your steed the once-over and let your excitement of being in the great outdoors get the better of you.

Follow these quick pre-ride tips that will keep you safe while still keeping you … um…pumped up! Every time you ride, don’t forget the ABCs of bike safety. If something doesn’t seem right and you’re not sure what to do, have a bike mechanic look it over.

Air 

Always check your tire pressure. You’ll find the maximum allowable tire pressure embossed on the sidewall of your tires, in psi/lb foot units. A correctly pressured tire will give you a comfortable ride, reduce the likelihood of getting a flat tire in the middle of a ride and improve a tire’s longevity.

It’s best to use a tire pressure gauge or, better still, get a pump or a digital inflator with a built-in gauge; this investment will pay off at every pump.

While you’re at it, take the time to look for cuts and cracks as well as debris embedded in the tire. If you notice the wheel is not spinning right or appears wobbly or the brakes are rubbing, you can make quick adjustments or make a note to take the bike to your local bike store for a look.

Brakes

Let’s not have any illusions about the importance of the four little pieces of synthetic rubber poised across your spinning wheels, waiting for your order! Test by squeezing your brake levers, one at a time. Your bike should stay immobile when you ty to push it with the brakes applied.

There are user-friendly brake adjustments you can make at the lever end as well as at the caliper end. A few turns either way will ensure that the brakes “bite” with the correct amount of pressure yet don’t rub against the rim. Check the cable for any slack, kinks or breaks. Replacing cables is cheap insurance.   

Chain

This is the heart of your drivetrain. You don’t want any of your efforts wasted due to inefficient transfer of power from your legs to the rear wheel. Worse, a poorly maintained chain will damage derailleurs, result in poor gear changes or skipping – or it might snap.

Check for lubrication. If the chain is dirty, dry or rusty, it is best to clean it with a degreaser first, followed by an application of a bike lubricant (not WD-40!), applied sparingly. Do not lather it on; just a few drops, while spinning the crank, will suffice. Excess lubrication attracts dirt and dirt will degrade the chain. Also check to see that the crank/chainring (the “big rings” up front) doesn’t wobble side-to-side and the derailleurs are operating smoothly.

One last thing

Finally, quickly check that the front and rear quick release or thru skewers hold the wheels tightly, with no play.

And that’s it; you are done. Now go forth, feel the breeze and rack up the miles!

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