It doesn’t matter that the sun is shining and the birds are singing. Don’t take your bike out until you get it ready to roll.
“If your bike has been sitting for a while, the first thing to do is check to see if the tire pressure is down. Tires will slowly leak over time, so you have to replace that lost air. If tire pressure is too low on a road bike, there’s more tire surface on the ground, so your efficiency goes down, and you have to work harder to pedal,” says Nicholas Clark, the bike tech and manager at Sports Den in Foothill Village.
He adds, “If you don’t have an accurate tire measuring device, you should take it into a shop. Too much air is also bad, you can blow a tire up if you have too much pressure in it.”
Mountain bikes are the other spectrum. Too much tire pressure causes you to lose traction. The lower the air pressure, the more traction you get, but if it’s too low, you run the risk of having the bead come off the rim. Hint: never, never try to fill up a bike tire with a gas station air pump. (Can you say Ka-Boom!)
The next most important thing is to check your chain. If you’ve had it on the bike for a few years, it may be worn out or stretched, and ready to snap. You won’t be able to check that without the proper tool. Clark’s advice: “If you don’t have any equipment or experience, the best thing is to take it to a shop and have the chain checked out. Most shops will provide a basic tune for $25 to $35. For that, they will clean the chain, check to see if the gears need to be adjusted, and put the proper tire air pressure in. They can do it a lost faster and easier than you can, unless you’re a bike geek.”
“If you don’t take it to a shop, you should clean and lube your chain, most spray stuff you get for your chain will clean and lube it at the same time,” he says.
Clark says that one of the best things you can do is to take your bike out for a “feel” ride before any planned excursion. “Take a small ride, around your neighborhood, shift all the gears to see that they are shifting well. See that the brakes are okay. I would definitely not take a bike out after it’s been sitting in the basement or garage and just start riding hills or trails, because if something starts breaking, you’re not going to be happy,” he advises. (No kidding. I could tell you nightmare stories about some of my first rides of spring).
When you do take that first real ride, carry some biking survival stuff: a patch kit, a spare inner tube, a pump, a small repair set with allen wrenches and tire levers. You will need the tire levers to get the tire bead off the rim to replace or patch the tube. Always bring a patch kit when going out for a ride. Important: check the glue in the patch kit to see that it hasn’t dried up. That’s one lesson you really don’t want to learn from experience.
Once you’re ready to roll, it’s good to keep one thing in mind; in fact, it’s one of Clark’s most important pieces of advice: “It is biking. Some trips are going to go bad because some parts will go bad. But don’t let it discourage you. Keep riding.
Editor Wina Sturgeon suggests Little Cottonwood Canyon’s Pipeline Trail as a great spring conditioning ride, there’s a great parking lot at the start of the trail.