Although some folks are still enjoying what snow can be found, others have already shifted toward traveling on two wheels. Bicycle season is approaching, and nothing kills the spirit of the season more than finding your bike still caked with red mud from last fall’s trip to the desert. When your tires are flat and your drive train sounds like a rusty organ, don’t hyperventilate; a few minutes with a garden hose, an old rag, and a few items from your local bike shop will have you riding smooth again.
Scrape Off the Mud, Sweat, and Blood!
The first step in getting your bike running well is to clean it. Not like shove-the-old-pizza-boxes-off-the-coffee-table-to-make-room-for-dinner type of clean, but a really deep-down, mom's-coming-to-town, wholesome sort of clean. It’s springtime for Pete’s sake. Take the bike out in the backyard and give it some love with the garden hose. Next, with some sort of earth-friendly, bio/citrus/hemp-based, hippie-conscious degreaser, scrub the built-up grimy gunk and little green army men out of your drive train (that’s the gears, the derailleurs, and the chain). An old toothbrush works well for this, just don’t put it back in the bathroom.
Give It a Lube Job
Once the bike is clean and dry, it's time to lube it up again. Lubricants are a man’s, women’s, and bicycle’s best friend. They keep everyone happy for much longer than without them. Hit the chain, pivots on the derailleurs, and cables with a couple of quick squirts. The best products are all a matter of opinion, and you know what they say about those. If you have any questions about which lube is right for you, ask your favorite professional.
Visit the Grease Monkeys
If things still aren’t shifting or stopping quite right, it may be time to buck up and take the bike in for a tune. The mechanics at all the local shops are there to help you have fun on your ride and will happily align the components, make the wheels straight (true), and check that you can stop when you want to. They may be greasy and a bit ornery, but don’t be scared to ask them questions and heed their advice. Deep down they’re people too.
A FEW MORE TIPS
Here are some other good maintenance recommendations for the beginning of the season.
Replace your chain once a year. This will prolong the life of your drive train and improve your shifting.
Air up your tires to 40 or 50 psi (mountain). You will feel much faster.
New cables and housing are an easy way to improve shifting.
Tighten all your rear suspension bolts. Your pivots will thank you.
Replace the spare tube you used up on the last ride of the season.
Check your helmet for cracks or that it actually still exists.
If you're in a hurry, bring your mechanic a six-pack.
Ben Donatelle works at Summit Bike and Ski Shop in downtown Bozeman.