Five Ways to Help Your Bike Feel Like New Again This Spring
A clean bike is a happy bike, and a happy bike means a happy rider. And what better way to make sure you're having a good time outside than making sure your bike feels like new as we get into the riding season.
Making sure your bike feels like new, outside of bringing it by for a seasonal tune-up, can feel daunting. Where do you start? What does my bike need? We have you covered with our five ways to help your bike feel like new again this riding season.
Some of these are closer to preventative maintenance, but many of these will ensure a happy and refreshed bike, ready to tackle your commute, local trails, or favorite road rides where ever you are.
1. Give Your Bike the Cleaning It Deserves
Your bike may look better clean, but after a thorough cleaning it will definitely feel better. Even just removing surface dirt, mud, and grime helps in making your bike feel ready for action. That means a bike-friendly cleaner, decent set of brushes, a bit of water, and a clean, dry cloth.
Avoid using a high-pressure wash when possible. Further, avoid directly spraying places where bearings or pivot points might be as water can wash away grease that allows moving parts to run smoothly.
Bike-specific cleaning products make cleaning your bike just a bit easier. Bike-specific brushes like the Park Tool BCB-4.2 works great to get into hard-to-reach locations. Bike-specific cleaners like the Muc-Off Nano Tech Bike cleaner makes a difference in getting that special grime while being safe on carbon fiber, anodized metals, brake pads, and more. Further, the Muc-Off Detailer helps keep the grime off down the line. Highly recommended.
If you can, taking off your wheels allows you to get extra precise in cleaning out the hard-to-reach parts of your frame. Whatever you do, wipe off whatever water is on the bike with a clean, dry rag.
2. Check Your Tires
Maintaining proper tire pressure is critical for two reasons: keeping flats at bay and ensuring your bike rides comfortably. Too low a tire pressure - especially if you're using tubes inside of your tires - and you're liable for pinch flats or thorn punctures. Too high a tire pressure and you might rattle your fillings out, or lose grip on the trail when you need it most. A few other points to consider:
After a winter of not riding your bike, you're likely to not remember that you've worn down your tires. Check your tires for cracking, splitting, or deformations while at your correct tire pressure.
If you're running your bike tubeless (as most newer bikes are set up) it is important to check your sealant. If you're bike has been stationary for most of the winter, adding 2-4 ounces per tire will help keep punctures at bay for much of the riding season.
3. Keep Your Touch Points Fresh
Your touchpoints are where you're interacting with the most, from your handlebars, to your saddle, to your pedals. If you have a comfortable saddle or pedals, then even a new set of grips or handlebar tape for your bike will work wonders in making the bike feel like new.
Even if you are comfortable with your current saddle, saddles wear over time as their foam loses their firmness and support. Perhaps looking for the closest replacement is the way to go, but some of our favorite saddle brands like PRO and Fizik offer 30-day and 60-day guarantees, allowing you to exchange or return the saddle until you find your perfect match.
Pedals are the same story. Your pedals or cleats might need a cleaning themselves, or even a replacement if they're worn down. Even with flat pedals they could use a bit of love for their bearings or pins.
4. Check for Wear
We talked about checking tires and cleats for wear, but checking for chain wear can do wonders for your pedaling experience. An old chain, when its pins are worn in, can make your shifting feel slow and imprecise. A new chain then, gives your drivetrain a tighter, more accurate feel when shifting through the gears.
When checking for chain wear, it is likely beneficial to check for wear throughout the drivetrain. Shark-finned chainrings and worn-down cassettes can make your replaced chain worthless. Replacing your chain early and often can extend the life of your chainrings and cassette on top of making your shifting feel fresh.
While moving forward is important as anything on the bike, none of it matters if you can't stop. Check your brake pads for wear, specifically looking for uneven wear, squealing, or lack of braking power. If that's the case, they might be improperly adjusted or contaminated.
5. Adjust Your Shifting and Braking
Nobody likes a noisy drivetrain, and even with a clean bike, gears, and chain, your bike will still be noisy if the shifting isn't adjusted. Adjusting your shifting until its about perfect means quiet, crisp, and reliable shifts, but it also means smoothness in pedaling around and a fair bit of quiet.
If you're using cable shifting and it feels inconsistent regardless of how well-adjusted it is, then you might need a new set of cables and housing. Electronic drivetrains don't really have this issue, but should there be inconsistencies in the shifting then making sure your derailleur hanger is perfectly parallel will make a difference.
Some of this adjustment doesn't require much more than a set of opposable thumbs, a set of hex keys, or a Phillips screw driver. The latter two options can be found relatively easily in a set of multi tools, but a tool set will make your life easier.
Alongside that is making sure that your chain and everything metal-on-metal has some form of lubrication. A lubricated chain and brakes feel better, brake stronger, and shift gears with greater precision. You can't really go wrong with what we have in store, but Dumonde Tech Original Lube and SCC Slick Lubricant are some of our favorites.
If you need guidance, tool, or cleaners, we are here to help. Stop by the shop, give us a call, or send us an email any time to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can help.
Words by Alvin Holbrook.