First, you’ll want to give your bike a good cleaning. To do this, use a damp cloth to wipe away any grimy winter dust from the bike’s frame, rims, brakes, handlebars, and forks. For stubborn grease and dirt, soak the rag with a product like Simple Green to add some muscle. You can also use an old toothbrush for any gunk on the chain and chain rings. Don’t forget to re-lube the chain and gears once you’re done, though.
It’s also smart to check to see if your brake pads are worn out. If they’re not in good shape, you’ll hear a scraping sound when you brake. Also, look to see if the grooves in your pads have nearly disappeared, or if there’s stickiness when you brake. You can take your bike to any shop for replacements, or complete the job yourself with a hex wrench and screwdriver.
Make sure that all of your drivetrain components—chain, chain ring, derailleur, and rear wheel cassette—are functioning well. Chains are usually the first to need replacing, and should be replaced every 2,000 to 3,000 miles. To check the gears, try cycling through them. If the shift isn’t smooth, you probably need to tune a derailleur.
Check your cables for any damage or wear and tear. If you notice any fraying and rusting, get them replaced. If you bike year-round, consider replacing your brake and gear cables annually.
Loose bolts can mean unexpected failures during a ride, so you’ll want to tighten everything down before hitting the trail. Use a wrench to secure nuts, and an Allen wrench to tighten down socket-head screws. Don’t over-tighten, though; you don’t want to strip anything.
Deflate your tires and examine them closely for deep splits, cracks, and tears. Then, give them some air, even if you think you don’t need it. If you live in warmer regions, be sure to leave a little room for them to expand in the heat.
Finally, make sure you’re stocked up on the necessary safety and maintenance gear. A helmet, quality gloves, a water bottle or hydration pack, and a compact tool set are musts. Your tool set should include a spare tire tube, tire levers, a compact tool set to make adjustments on the go, a tire patch kit, and a compact pump that you can attach to your frame. You can find tool kits that attach to your bike’s frame, too.
Keep these tips in mind before Spring sets in and you’ll be well on your way to an enjoyable season of riding the trails. I plan to head out this weekend, myself, to get my bike tuned for the warm weather! Maybe I’ll see some of you out there!