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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Spring Cleaning your Bicycle

Its Spring again!

The birds are chirping, the raccoons are frolicking, people are starting to get out their short shorts... and you've just discovered a leak in your garage which caused your bicycle to be snowed/rained on all winter long.

Or maybe you left your bicycle outside in a snowbank all winter long.

Or maybe its just covered in dust, grime and mud because you shoved it away in a corner in November and didn't bother to clean all the mud off it after sloshing through the muddy streets on it.

Well its pretty much guaranteed that you now need a tune up, so here's a checklist for you to go down.


#1. Refill the tires. They're probably looking kinda flat, and even if they don't give them a top-up to the proper PSI. Don't overfill them however, use a pressure gauge, read the PSI requirements on the side of the tire and fill accordingly. Overfilling the tires can cause them to burst at the worst possible moment and have "catastrophic wheel failure"...

#2. Clean all the rust off the chain. Most bicycle shops don't sell stuff for removing rust (too many people are afraid of accidentally removing paint) so you may need to visit a hardware store to buy some CLR to remove the rust. Remember to wear latex gloves and avoid contact with your eyes because its very acidic. I recommend brushing the CLR on with a wire brush.

You may also need to degrease your bicycle chain and then add fresh oil. Be sure to use environmentally friendly bicycle oil. WD40 will only make your chain worse because WD40 collects dirt and the next thing you know your chain is full of grit.

#3. Check the brakes are in perfect working order. I like having perfectly tuned brakes. Check your brake levers too.

#4. Check your shifters are working too. (If they are not working properly I should warn you this isn't a skill normally taught to beginners, so either consult Barnett's Manual or visit your local bicycle mechanic. Note to Self: Make A Comprehensive Guide for Adjusting Shifters.)

#5. If you or your kids are growing, you may need to adjust the handlebars and/or seat height.

#6. Take it for a quick spin and make sure everything else is in working order. ie. The handlebars might be a bit stiff.

You could be extra paranoid and take your bike in for a complete tune up, but I should warn you this is the BUSIEST time of the year for bicycle shops, so be prepared for a long wait. (As in, weeks or even a month before you get the call saying you bike is tuned.)

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Charles Moffat is equal parts bicycle mechanic, cyclist, painter, sculptor, fantasy writer, poet, website designer and pun maker. For more details see



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