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Using Trails

How to Get Your Bike in Tip-Top Shape in Under 10 Minutes

By: Katie Harris
November 10, 2014

Photo by DJ Damien
Photo by DJ Damien

Let’s face it, we don’t all have time to give our bikes a full tune-up every time we want to take it out for a spin. But, whether you’re an avid bike commuter or a weekend trail warrior, your bike still deserves some love.

For the time-crunched, the following steps can help you get your bike shined up and riding smoothly in less time than it takes the pizza delivery dude to get to your house.

The Once Over

Take a peek at your bike. Does anything stand out? Is a cable sticking out somewhere it shouldn’t? Are your tires a bit flat? Is your frame covered in mud? Deal with the most visible issues first, especially if they’re related to safety.

The Wipe Down

Grab a clean shop towel or an old t-shirt. Starting from the front of the bike and working to the back, wipe down your frame, keeping an eye out for major dents or the chipping of paint.

The Pump Up

You’ll find the appropriate tire pressure written on the sidewall of your tires. For mountain bike tires, the typical range is 30 to 50 per square inch (psi). For road bike tires, the typical range is 80 to 120 psi. Hybrid tires fall in between. Read the sidewall, grab the pump and bring your tire pressure up to the proper inflation. It will lessen your resistance on the road and make riding much easier!

While you’re focused on your tires, scan them for major wear or, worse yet, something embedded in the tire.

Photo CC reway2007 via Flickr
Photo CC reway2007 via Flickr

The “Brake Up”

Look at your brakes. Are the brake calipers centered? Are your brake pads worn down? Most brake pads have wear indicator lines, but if the brake pad looks dangerously close to its metal housing, then it’s time for a replacement. It’s a relatively easy fix; but remember, your brakes are paramount to your safety on your bike. If you don’t feel comfortable doing these repairs yourself, take your bike to a shop, and they’ll be happy to take care of it for you. Functioning brakes are an absolute necessity!

The Spin Cycle

Spin your wheels. Literally. Do they stay within one plane, or do they wobble as you spin them? If they wobble, you’re tires are “out of true.” It’s time for a more in-depth tune up. Take them to the shop before they get worse.

The Lube

After you’ve wiped your whole frame down, shift your attention to your chain. Flip your bike over (being cautious of your saddle, of course!), and with the rag, grasp the chain behind the chain ring. Turn the pedal backwards, allowing the rag to gather the built-up gunk from the chain. Apply lube to the chain while you continue to turn the crank. Do this for one full rotation of the chain. Note: you don’t have to pour on the lube; one drop per gap is fine.

Continue to spin the pedal and allow the chain to loosen up. Next, bring your rag to the chain and wipe off the excess lube. Now that’s what we call a well-oiled machine!

Photo by AJ Brustein
Photo by AJ Brustein

The Phone Call

If you have found any major issues during your speedy fix-up, find the phone number of your local bike shop, and give them a call. Set up an appointment to have your bike checked out by a professional.

Invest 10 minutes into your bike, and you’re ride will feel like new! And for the things you aren’t comfortable doing on your own, there is no better excuse to establish a relationship with a local bike shop. Now, let’s ride!

Katie Harris

Katie Harris is a climate justice advocate, bicyclist and beekeeper who lives in Bellingham, Washington. Katie is inspired by and works on projects in the built environment that have benefits for climate + community + health, like trails, stormwater infrastructure and parks.

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