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Tune up your bike for summer

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It’s finally time to get back on your bike after winter’s long freeze. Before you do, there are a few simple tasks that will make your ride road ready. We asked several local bike shops which maintenance you can preform at home and when to take it to an expert.

Start with a clean slate

Keeping your bike clean and well-oiled is vital. Not only will it perform better, but the act of cleaning helps you stay aware of minor maintenance issues, extend the life of your bike, and save you money.

“Nothing runs faster or smoother than a clean bike,” says Kyle Wheaton, manager of Bike Works in Saint John, N.B., a shop that served the local community for more than 23 years.

To clean your bike, you’ll need: plenty of rags, brushes for getting into nooks and crannies, bike wash, degreaser, and chain lubricant. You can buy all three at your local bike shop, or use diluted dish soap in place of bike wash.

Clean the frame, chain, rims, sprockets, and derailers (the part your chain travels through to switch gears). Next, lube the chain, brake arms, brake and derailleur levers (on your handlebars) and the spots where any cables connect to other parts.

Check for wear, make minor adjustments

Turn your focus to individual components. “If you are storing your bike over the winter, you have to check your tires because they will probably be flat. And if it was stored outside, the freeze and thaw can affect it too,” says Erin Knowles, of Bike Again, a volunteer-run, DIY bike shop in Halifax. The 20-year-old shop lends tools and bike repair guidance for a small fee and sells parts at cost.

Other than checking your tires for air, you’ll want to look for cracks in the sidewall (the side of the tire). Ensure your bike seat is steady and comfortable, the brakes have enough meat on the pads to stop your bike, and that there are no dead links in the chain that will keep the gears from switching smoothly.

“Just give it a look over,” says Knowles. “And, of course, you can always come here.”

Tag in professionals for significant repairs

If you come across necessary repairs or adjustments during cleaning or the parts you can do many of them yourself. While most folks feel confident to adjust a seat or change a tire, more complicated jobs are often a different story.

“Some people might adjust their brakes, install their chain, or set up their derailers,” says Jenna Molenaar, co-owner of Halifax Cycle and Guitars. But, when it comes to reinstalling a bottom bracket or overhauling a hub, they visit the shop for the expertise of Molenaar and her business partner Roger Nelson.

Many bike shops offer learning sessions where you can learn to preform simple repairs, like adjusting brakes and gears and fixing flats at home.

It’s time to reap the benefits of your hard work by zipping down the street or exploring back roads. The best way to keep your bike road-ready is keeping it clean and well-maintained all year long.

Buying a new (or new to you) bicycle

The most important consideration when buying a bike are use and fit. There’s a big difference between riding the streets of hilly Halifax and taking backwoods adventures in Atholville, N.B.

“We see lots of people on bikes that are way too small and others on bikes that are way too big,” says Bike Work’s, Wheaton. “The proper fit is very important. If you’re going to invest in a bike, you want to make sure it’s comfortable to ride, whether for an hour a month or an hour a day.”

To calculate the right height for you, measure the inseam of your pants. For a city bike, multiply your inseam in centimetres by x 0.685, for a mountain bike multiply by 0.66, and for a road bike multiply by 0.70. Convert your total to inches and you have your frame size.

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