Getting your bike ready to ride after winter, here are 9 Spring Maintenance Tips to help!
#1. Inspect your frame for cracks - Cracks usually occur near welded areas, or where the frame is butted. Probably the most common spot is the underside of the down tube, just below the head tube. On carbon frames, it can be difficult to tell if you’re looking at a scratch in the clear coat or a crack in the frame. If your fingernail can catch on the blemish, it might be a crack. If you have your suspicions, go to the shop.
#2. Check cleats for wear - Worn-out cleats can be dangerous, with less predictable entry and release. They also offer less stability as the cleats float around in the pedal jaws, making you feel disconnected from the bike and ultimately reducing the amount of power you can lay down. Some manufacturers have wear indicators on their cleats. For other brands, watch for gouges and scratches at the engagement points at the front and rear of the cleat. If you have to tighten the tension of your pedals for them to hold your cleats in place, replace the cleats.
#3. Adjust or replace your brakes - Glazed brake shoes cause weak braking and impolite squeals. Use sandpaper, a file or an emery board to buff off the glaze and roughen up the pads. Also pick out dirt, grit or pieces of metal that have become imbedded in the pad. If the pad has hardened so much you can’t scratch it with your fingernail, or if it’s worn past the indicator line, replace it.
#4. Check wheels are clean and true - Dirty rims interfere with stopping power, so first clean the rims with a slightly abrasive pad, or just scrub hard with a rag soaked in dish soap, and then rinse and dry. Then, check to see if your wheels are wobbling. On warped wheels, the ride is rougher, you have less control, and you could end up on the ground if the wheel folds or a spoke breaks. Stop in to the shop for a true/ dish job.
#5. Remove and lube your seatpost - Mark the height of your seatpost with tape or a pencil, then remove it, wipe it clean and, if it’s steel or aluminum, smear a light layer of grease over the section that goes inside the frame. For carbon, apply a layer of Tacx Dynamic Assembly Paste, or Scott Carbon Grease, which, like regular grease, prevents the post from bonding to the frame but is gritty enough to stop the common problem of slippage.
#6. Clean or replace your chain - Place the edge of a 12-inch ruler over the pin of one link. The 12-inch hash mark should sit over another pin. If it doesn’t, the chain is worn, which reduces shifting efficiency and causes excess wear on the rings and cassette; replace it. If the chain is fine, soak a clean rag with degreaser, and with your bike in a work stand, grasp the chain with the rag as you backpedal to remove grime. Then put a drop of lube on the top of each link and backpedal a few revolutions.
#7. Clean up your shifting - You can make your shifting smoother than a well-organized bank heist simply by cleaning your drive train. Scrub your cassette, derailers, jockey wheels, and chain, with a toothbrush and degreaser. Shift rear derailer into the easiest gear, release shifter and cable tension, allowing slack in shift cable. Release cable housing from all cable stops, expose cable, clean and lube. Re-insert cable ends back into stops. Do the same with the front derailer cable. If shifting is still rough, cables may need to be replaced.
#8. Inspect helmet for damage - When you replace your helmet depends how much you used it, how roughly you transported it and how much it was exposed to sun and heat. Fading color, delamination, frayed straps and distorted internal foam (not to mention cracks) indicate it’s time for replacement. One rule: Always replace your helmet after a crash. (Some manufacturers even offer special replacement warranties on crashes.)
#9. Check tires for cuts and wear - Deflate the tube to about half its pressure, so the tire is still shaped but pliable. Rotating the wheel in the frame, manipulate the tire with your hands to expose cuts in the sidewalls or tread. If you find any that go either entirely through the tire, or are deep enough to make you anxious, replace the tire. Rule of thumb for mountain tires: If five or more treads are ripped away, the tire is ready to fail systemically and should be replaced if you want to avoid lots of flats.