Roughly 100 million Americans are regular cyclists in the United States, the New York Times reports. Whether you’ve spent the past winter cycling regularly or are planning to get back on the saddle this spring, it’s important to get your bike in tip-top shape for the new season. While it’s always a smart idea to get your bike checked over at a reputable bike shop, there are also a number of simple steps you can take at home to get your bike ready to ride this spring.

Clean your bike

Vittoria Rubino 700x23c clincher tires on my bike
A clean bike is a fast bike

Cleaning up your bike will not only get it looking the part, but it’s also an essential part of bike maintenance. Regularly cleaning your bike helps ensure all the parts perform well together, slows down general wear and tear, and reduces the chance of you needing expensive replacements. Bear in mind, if you have allergies, it’s important to protect your skin and avoid certain cleaning ingredients that may cause a reaction. For example, formaldehyde, ammonia, and sodium lauryl sulfate are common cleaning ingredients, which can irritate both the skin and throat. Instead, opt for natural, plant-based products. Alternatively, simply use a bucket of soapy water with some rags and a toothbrush.

Check your wheels and tires

Check your wheels are true – slowly rotate them while keeping an eye out for wobbling and the brake pad rubbing. You can also check for bad bearings by slowly turning the front wheel. A true wheel should be free from any side-to-side wobbles and be in perfect alignment. Be sure to check for rim damage and tighten any loose spokes. As for the tires, winter conditions can cause grit and glass to stick to the rubber. So, check for any unwanted debris stuck in the tires. It’s also important your tires are round on top and not “squared-off” from excessive riding. Additionally, check the sidewalls are free from abrasions, cracking, and dryness.

Check the chain and derailleur

Check your chain for excessive wear, rust, dirt, kinking, and excess tension. You may need to give it a quick clean or remove it altogether to place in solvent. If chain-suck has been an issue for you recently, that means the chain’s probably stretched and needs replacing (in addition to the cassette and a few rings). As for the derailleur, ensure the cable can move freely in the housings. The housing should be free from kinks and cracks. You may also find there’s limit screws that need adjusting. It’s important the derailleur hanger aligns correctly so the merch cage lines up with the chain.

These simple tips will get your bike in excellent condition for spring riding. However, if you’re ever in doubt, take your bike into a reputable bike shop. A professional mechanic will conduct a safety test (which is usually quick and inexpensive) and you’ll have peace of mind your bike is safe to ride all season long.

Jane Sandwood

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