Spring Bike Tune-Up: A Pro Tells You Everything You Need to Know

As I awake to snowflakes on the first weekend of spring, it’s hard to imagine there will ever be leaves on the trees and snow-free streets. Whether you’ve been riding through snowy winters, live in temperate climates or are just bringing the bike up from the basement, now is the right time to give your bike some TLC.

To find out what the pros suggest, we stopped by one of our favorite neighborhood bike shops, Hub Bicycle Co., and asked owner Emily Thibodeau what she recommends for sprucing up your bike.

The Weekly Basics

All bikes need a few basics regularly — air in the tires, lube on the chain and a good wipe down. Emily notes that tires will lose about 10 percent of their air/week just sitting there, so don’t be surprised to find flat tires if your bike’s been hibernating inside all winter. If you ride everyday, your tires need air at least once per week and if you’re an occasional rider, just fill ‘em up each time you ride.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of air in the tires and lubricant on the chain.” – Emily Thibodeau, owner, Hub Bicycle Co.

She also stressed the importance of chain lube. “Make sure you choose a lubricant designed for bikes.” We like Pedro’s Lubes, a local favorite from here in Boston. While she recommends a heavier syn lube in harsher winter months, this time of year a lighter weight lubricant works just fine.

What’s the best way to lubricate the chain?

“Coat the rollers by dripping the lubricant along the center for the whole length of chain, this ensures you get in between all the plates where the friction happens. Let the lube sit on the chain for at least 5 minutes. Then, wipe off the excess lube with a rag” (easiest to do by holding a rag around the chain while back pedaling).

Follow these simple steps on a weekly basis and your bike will ride well all year round.

After A Long Winter…

Bikes ridden all year — or rescued from snow banks in the Northeast — will need a lot of work after this winter. Heavy salt and sand on roads cause faster corrosion on parts that experience normal wear-and-tear anyway (for proof, see Hub’s box of post-apocalyptic bike parts below).

Items that will likely need to be replaced are brake pads, chains and cassettes. Cable replacement, too, is often overlooked but a good idea as “cables are inexpensive to replace and will make a bike feel like new.”

The BiAnnual Tune-up

Early spring is a good time to take your bike in for an annual tune-up (if you ride all year long, Emily suggests two tune-ups – at the beginning and end of winter).

A basic tune-up should include going over all systems on the bike and cleaning, lubricating & adjusting existing parts. This will include cleaning the frame and wheels, truing the wheels, adjusting the shift and brake components and lubricating the cables and chains. For bikes roughed up this winter, a full tune-up also includes the labor to install parts that need to be replaced.

Emily advises that any good bike shop should tell you if your bike doesn’t actually need a tune-up. If you don’t ride frequently and follow the air, lube & wipe-down routine, you may be fine.

So, check your tires, add lubricant to your chain and pop into your local bike shop to ensure your bike is in top form heading into spring.

Thanks Emily and Happy Riding!

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