Colorado Springs has lot of great bike shops, but there are a few key areas of bike maintenance that are easy to learn and do at home. Taking care of these few basics will go a long way toward keeping you riding smoothly, safely and confidently on the trails and roads.
If you’re just now digging your bike out of the garage or shed or haven’t ridden it in a while, start with a safety check. Pump up the tires (they likely deflated over the winter), and inspect them to make sure they’re sitting straight on the rims and have no cracks in the rubber. Inspect the quick release levers on both wheels to ensure they are tight. And make sure the brakes are functioning before you start riding!
Clean and Lube the Chain
A clean bike is a quiet bike, meaning a dirty chain will make grinding, crunching or squeaking noises. A clean chain will not. Bicycle-specific tools and degreasers, including chain-cleaning kits, are available at local bike shops. The best household items for the job are degreasers, such as dish soap, and old toothbrushes. Get the chain and gears wet – don’t use a power washer; they can harm the bearings in your wheels and bottom bracket – and then scrub with soap and water.
Once your chain is clean and dry, apply a thin layer of lubricant to each link to keep it running smoothly. In the dry and dusty environment of Colorado Springs, “dry” lubes work well. They start wet, but the liquid quickly evaporates and leaves behind a waxy lubricating film. In dusty conditions, dust sticks to wet lube and your chain gets gritty and dirty quickly. Dry lube needs to be applied more frequently, but attracts less dirt and grime. While household degreasers work for cleaning, go to your local bike shop for bicycle-specific chain lube. The stuff you use on creaky doors makes a giant mess of bicycle chains.
Solve Shifting Problems
Adjusting derailleurs can appear intimidating, but many shifting problems can be solved with a twist of a screw. If your gears on the back wheel are skipping or the chain is chattering, start by adjusting the cable tension. On the back of the derailleur, where the cable enters, there is a barrel adjuster. It probably looks like a plastic collar with grooves that make it easy to turn. Turning it clockwise reduces cable tension and moves the derailleur to the right. Turning it counterclockwise increases cable tension and moves the derailleur to the left. Turn the barrel adjuster slowly as you turn the pedals, it may only takes a partial turn to align the derailleur arm and fix your shifting. For more significant problems, like a bent derailleur hanger, cracked or rusted cables and housing, or a chain that shifts off the gears altogether, take your bike to a mechanic.
If there’s one thing that absolutely has to work on a bicycle, it’s the brakes! If you have rim brakes, examine the brake pads for excessive wear. You should also make sure the brake pads are not rubbing the tire or dipping below the rim. If so, it’s an easy fix to realign the pads squarely on the rim. Using an Allen wrench, loosen the fastening bolt on the opposite end of the pad and reposition the brake pad evenly against the rim, leaving a small gap at the top to ensure the pad doesn’t rub against the wheel. Then retighten the bolt.
If your bike has disc brakes, it’s harder to see whether your pads are worn out because they’re somewhat hidden inside the brake caliper. It is very important to have them looked at, however, because every mechanic has stories of bikes coming into their shop with pads worn all the way down the steel/aluminum backing plates. This can cause serious damage to the disk rotor and the brake caliper. Similar to your car, if a bike’s brakes are making grinding or squealing noises, it’s a sign that they need attention and repair right away.
Get a Tuneup
Colorado Springs has many great bike shops and knowledgeable mechanics. Do yourself a favor and let them get your bike in tip-top shape. You’ll have a lot more fun this summer on a well-tuned bicycle! Here’s a roundup of recommended shops:
Colorado Springs Bike Shop 719-634-4915