June 24, 2015

7 Tips on Preparing Your Bike for the Summer

As the weather gets warmer, many of us will be inclined to cycle more often – whether it’s riding to work every day or taking long rides at the weekend. But with the changing season comes a responsibility to make sure your bike is tiptop condition, in order to stay safe and comfortable this summer.

Take some time to go through these seven tweaks and checks to ensure your bike is summer-ready.

1. Cleaning

Unless you’re particularly precious about your bike, the chances are it won’t get cleaned too often. Warmer weather is the perfect time to clean your bike thoroughly, making it easier to check for damage or wear.

Start by standing up the bike (or use a workstand) and rinsing it down to remove all debris. Then use an appropriate cleaning agent with a sponge and warm water to really give it good going over. (We like Fenwicks’ Stealth Road Cleaning Kit from Cycles UK). Be sure to pay particular attention to the wheel cassette and brake track, where dirt collects.

When your bike is looking shiny again, give it a rinse and dry off with a clean rag.

2. Drivetrain Inspection

Inspecting the drivetrain is one of the most important things you can do for your bike – particularly the chain, as this is what drives it along. Check the pedals, chain-ring and derailleur for wear or scrapes, then check the chain by lifting it from a section of the chain ring. If you can see three or four exposed teeth, this suggests excessive wear and you will probably need a replacement.

Clean the chain properly using a rag and dedicated chain cleaner (try the Muc-Off Quick-Drying chain cleaner). Rinse and dry off.

Finish by re-lubricating your chain with a greaser that’s suitable for summer riding.

3. Gears Check

Check that the front derailleur is correctly aligned – it should give you fast and reliable shifting between gears. One way to test this is by spinning the wheels while the bike is upside down and changing through every one of the gears.

If you hear rattling or the chain ‘skips’ between gears, you may need to look at realigning your front derailleur. This can be done at home with the help of an online tutorial, but if you’re not sure it’s something your local bike shop can help with.

4. Wheel Rim & Spokes

When it comes to the wheels, check that your spokes are correctly tensioned. If you don’t know how to do this by ear, you can use a tension meter, a dedicated app, or even a guitar tuner! If they’re not up to scratch, consider adjusting or replacing them.

Next, check your bike’s wheel rims. Spin each wheel and pay attention to where the wheel is placed. If it moves side to side, it means the rim is not a flat disc. If it moves up and down, it means the rim is not a perfect circle.

You can use a wheel jig (also known as a truing stand) to realign the wheel so it is ‘true’. Otherwise, ask a nearby pro to do the job for you.

5. Summer Tires

You may wish to swap your tires to ones more suited for summer riding – a must if you switched to winter tires six months ago. But even if not, there are still some crucial checks you need to carry out to ensure your tires are well maintained.

Start by checking the sidewalls and rolling surface for cuts and scrapes, then use a tread-depth gauge to check for wear to the tire tread. Follow by making sure they are pumped to the correct pressure – you can pinch the tires between your finger and thumb or use a pressure gauge for a more precise measurement. It helps to know the correct pressure for your bike’s model.

6. Brake Renewal

Your brakes are one of the most important things to keep in working order – for obvious reasons. Check for ridges or uneven wear patterns on the brake pads, then spin the wheels to check that the brake pads lock immediately when you clasp the lever. They should meet both sides of the tire at the same time, and the lever should not stick.

If the lever feels stiff, your brake pads are worn or you feel the cables don’t have enough tension, take your bike to an experienced mechanic who will be able to help you out. They’ll also show you how to adjust the brakes yourself with the brake arm tension screw.

7. Potential Upgrades

While some people might be tempted to get a new set of wheels for the summer months, it is possible to get that ‘new bike’ feel with just a couple of small upgrades. As well as refreshing your tires, for example, renewing your bike’s contact points, chain, pedals or saddle can give it a new lease of life – not to mention enhance your ride to be a more comfortable one.

When you’ve checked your bike thoroughly and performed the necessary tweaks, there’s no reason your bike shouldn’t give you hours of fuss-free riding, all the way through summer.

By Aimee Whitehill
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