The weather has been... well ok we won't talk too much about the weather as it has been raining a fair bit in the last while but I swear it can't rain all the time and when you catch those sunny days you will want your bike to be in ready-to-ride condition. A lot of people bring their trusty steeds up out of the basement between April and June to drop off at the local bike shop for tune ups but the truth is, a lot of the bikes only need a few small and simple adjustments that can be done at home with little know how. Below are a few things to consider when bringing the old rig out of the garage that may just save a few bones at the shop.


1. Give your bike a bath!

If you do anything for your local mechanic, bring your bike in at least basically clean. A good wipe down with some soapy water and a rag is usually enough. If your bike still has last year's mud on it (for shaaaammme) then you will want to clean it more thoroughly. Wipe the frame, pedals, handle bars, wheels and tires with your soapy rag.

***Pro Tip*** If you've got it, put some spray on wax on your frame. If makes it a lot easier to clean next time, often just hosing it down can work. If you don't have any, ask your mechanic about the wax they sell at the shop; they will be happy to help you out.

2. Clean the drive train.

Your drive train is the system you use to propel yourself on your bike. Your pedals, cranks, front rings, chain, derailleurs, and rear cassette will want your attention. Using a clean dry rag, with a free hand pedal the bike backwards and let the chain run through the folded rag in your other hand. Give it a few good turns. If the chain is REALLY caked, you may want to use (or purchase) a chain cleaning tool and solution. Using a clean portion of the same rag folded, fit the crease in between the rings on the rear cassette, that big hunk of spinning toothy metal on the back wheel of your bike. You will be AMAZED by the amount of grease, grit and grime that builds up here. It's also a good idea to clean the rings of the rear derailleur. Just follow the chain down and you will come across two small sprockets that are often missed by the casual cyclist that could use some love. Repeat the same for the front rings. You can also use tooth brushes or sturdier, bike cleaning wire brushes to really get that caked up grime off your bike.

***Pro Tip*** A bike stand REALLY makes this part of the job a lot easier so your bike is up off the ground at a comfortable height and you can more readily turn the pedals to get the chain moving. It is also easier to switch gears this way if the chain is in the way of where you need to clean.

3. Oil your chain.

You will need a bottle of chain oil but the good news is, unless you are riding and cleaning your bike A LOT a little bottle can go a long way. Now that your bike and drive train are all clean and dry, you can apply your oil. Back pedal your drive train to get the chain moving and tip the bottle over the rear cassette and let just a very small stream of oil dribble out as you move the chain. Give the chain a few revolutions so the oil gets a good coat. It doesn't need to be dripping with oil though, just enough that it is lubricated.

4. Check your tires.
Finally, check the air pressure of your tires. If your bike is a road bike, the tires should be pretty hard. If your bike is a mountain bike, the tires will tend to be a bit softer. Somewhere on the wheel wall, you should see some numbers printed that indicate the size of your tire and what the pressure should be. The numbers in front of 'psi' indicate the amount of air pressure they can safely hold. For this you will need some sort of air pump or compressor with an indicator of the psi in the tire. Suspect your have blown a tube? You will need some tools for this job called tire levers. They help you get the tire off the rim. And of course, you will need either a patch kit or a fresh tube to replace.

Now you're ready! Your tires are PUMPED, your frame is CLEAN, your drive train is clean AND lubed, you're ready to rock! For your first ride it is wise to treat it like a test. See that your brakes work and you can change in and out of each gear. If your brakes don't stop you on a dime, or you feel like you have to squeeze the levers really hard to slow down or stop, the brake cables may need to be adjusted or possibly replaced. Same thing if your not changing gears smoothly or the chain is slipping in certain gears. Unless you know what you are doing, it's smart to bring the bike in to the shop for these issues, especially the gearing (adjusting this can be SOOOOO frustrating!).

If you do need to bring you bike in, having done all of the above first will make your mechanic happy. She won't have to do those parts so she can work AND you'll be able to tell her what you think the problem might be.

Need a shop to bring your bike to? My favourites are listed below!

http://www.ancastercycle.ca/

http://www.freewheelcycle.com/