Considering the eight hours of persistent wind and snowfall we received on Friday, March 20, it was hard to tell that was in fact the first day of Spring. The weather had reached up to 50 degrees just days earlier, and area cyclists hit the streets and were able to enjoy the sun with a few less layers.
Despite the appearances that day, spring is, in fact, here. For those who keep their bikes in the basement or hanging up in the garage for the colder months of the year, it’s time to put the tires back on the pavement. For some it’s simple enough to hop on the bike’s saddle and start pedaling. For others, there are some of the things I feel riders often forget when they get anxious to ride again.
Area bike shops are going to see a lot of business in the coming weeks, but if you are interested in doing a few things yourself to help you get your spring riding off to a good start, here are a few tips.
Before you start doing any work on your bike, make sure you have a helmet. According to helmetsonhead.org, “Nearly 75% of all fatal bicycle crashes involve head injuries and no more than 17% of those fatally injured were wearing helmets.”
Don’t be a statistic. Bern and Specialized both make good helmets but a cheaper brand, Bell, also provides so decent head protection.
You’ll want to pump up your tires to their maximum capacity. Before you do this though, Joe, the lead mechanic at Kater Street Bikes says that tires that have been left unattended all winter should be inspected first.
“If you leave a tire uninflated on a concrete floor it could dry rot. It’s rare but it happens,” said Joe.
The tire’s recommended pounds per square inch is usually printed on the side of most tires. A high PSI can make for a bumpy ride but it also reduces the amount of tire making contact with the road and puts less strain on your legs when pedaling.
If your bike is a dirty, it helps to give it a thorough wipe down with a cloth and a degreaser. I recommend Pedro’s Oranj Peelz Degreaser. It’s made specifically to remove grease from chains but I use it on the entire bike. Plus, it has a nice citrus smell to it. It’s also important to head out with a shinny and lubricated chain. The chain can be the dirtiest and hardest thing to scrub but with a degreaser and a soft wire brush this can be done with a little extra effort.
For lubrication I recommend Boeshield T-9 Waterproof Lubrication. This should be applied to most moving parts on the bike. These include the chain, the bottom bracket, the hubs of the front and rear tires, brake joints and even inside the brake cables.
When things move smoother it makes for an easier ride. The one thing you should know about T-9 is that it’s not like the old can of WD-40 that’s hiding somewhere in your basement. After applying T-9 you have to wait for two hours before you can ride. It needs time to dry to a wax which helps repel dirt and water. If you do ride before it dries, the result is a bunch of dirty gunk that gets caked on the gears which you have to clean off again and reapply the lube which turns into a dirty cycle of bike work you don’t want to do. So, wait two hours.
Once you are on the road, there are a few things remember. With the warm weather comes a huge influx of other cyclists on the road. This can make for sticky situations if you happen to be coming into a four-way stop intersection at the same time as another cyclist. To navigate this and any other dangerous situation it’s important to keep your fingers near your brake levers at all times. The quicker you can apply pressure to the brakes, the more likely you’ll make it out of the situation unscathed. Or, not scathed as much.
When riding, it’s important to pay attention to your surrounds and this includes what you’re approaching on the road. Over the winter, some sections of the road are decimated by expanding ice the pounding of car tires. This creates large and hazardous pot holes that can come out of nowhere. Be mindful of how you avoid them and don’t veer off into traffic while doing in.
If you bicycle needs some serious work here are a few recommended bike shops in the city:
Via Bicycle at 606 S 9th St. They have a large selection of used bicycles and provide quality repair work.
Kater Street Bikes at 609 S 16th St is a small operation but its the go-to spot for residents of Graduate Hospital.
Bicycle Therapy at 2211 South St. They specialize in higher-end bikes but their service and repair work is top notch.