Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Time to break out the ol' bike

It might not be beach weather outside yet, but it's certainly nice enough to bring the bicycle out of hibernation.

With the snow and ice remnants of winter finally melting away, cycling advocates around Mankato are starting to make their presence felt on two wheels. It's a great area for biking, rife with trails, hills and inviting sidewalks for biking (while being mindful of traffic, of course).

Cycling is an activity with a lot of appeal. It's good exercise, it's a cheap form of transportation and it's a relatively inexpensive hobby if you want it to be. And as Eric and Christie Nelson can probably tell you, great adventures can be had on a bicycle as well.

I've taken my bike (an $85 Kuwahara road bike that I picked up off of a scrap heap in college) out for a couple of rides so far this spring. Neither ride was anything special; one ride was to go to work, the other to check out the Red Jacket Trail and bike to Good Thunder. Both rides also ended in rather forgettable fashion: With a flat tire and a healthy amount of walking.

While flat tires and other mishaps will occur on a bike ride (especially when the tubing on your tires has had multiple patchwork jobs done on them, like mine have), this helped remind me of an important step I neglected when breaking the bike out for the first time: the spring tune-up.

It's important to make sure everything on your bike is in good condition when taking it out of winter hibernation. Just because the gears were working properly last fall doesn't mean they will do the same this spring. It's better to get all the tune-up out of the way before heading out for a ride, because take it from me, it's a long walk home from the turn-around point.

You can get a tune-up done at any of the bike shops in Mankato for around $40 (I called Flying Penguin, Nicollet South and Scheels for rates, all about the same), and the tune-ups mostly consist of the following:
  • Adjusting your breaks
  • Truing (alligning) your wheels
  • Lubing the bike chain
  • Checing/setting the ball bearings on the wheels
  • Checking the derailleur (gear changing mechanism on the bike)

However, if you want a rundown of things you can look for yourself (according to the three bike shops I called):
  • Lift your wheels off the ground and spin them one at a time. Are the rubbing against the frame of the bike?
  • Lift your rear wheel and try pedaling your bike with your hands. How is the chain moving? Is it getting stuck on points or not running smoothly?
  • Check tire pressure and know what PSI you should inflate your tires to.
  • Check your breaks while riding slowly. Is your bike stopping promptly when you're applying them? Are they making a squeaking sound when you use them?
  • Try shifting between gears? Is it a smooth transition? Is there a delay in the shifting?
  • Check your cables running from your gears and breaks. Are they damaged? Are they strung too tight or too loose to the point where they're affecting your ride?

1 comment:

  1. You're right - walking from the turn-around point isn't a lot of fun. Just pulled the bike out for the first time this season...to get a flat tire!

    I guess the bike will be going into Scheels for the annual tune up. I've been reading your blog for a while (nice job, by the way!), but of course thought I and my bike were invincible. I've learned my lesson! I figure since the tire needs work, I might as well be proactive on the rest.

    Keep up the good work with the information. It's an interesting read and a little motivation for the Mankato Marathon.

    Here's to seeing you on the trails/road someday.