Whether your bicycle has been in use throughout the harsh winter, or whether it has been collecting dust in the back of the shed, this is the perfect time of year to clean and service your bike to make sure it is ready and willing to start clocking up some miles.
Steve Edgell, director of cycle to work scheme provider cyclesolutions.co.uk, shares his top tips:
1. Clean your bike
A clean bike is a fast bike. Regular cleaning will keep your bicycle performing better as well as looking nicer. Ensuring your chainset and moving components are correctly degreased, cleaned and lubricated will increase the lifespan of your bike by stopping winter grit from grinding away at the expensive parts.
Even if your bicycle has not been used over winter, it’s still a good idea to give your bike a good clean, as it give you the opportunity to inspect the bike fully.
Do some homework to make sure you use the correct products on the right parts. Using a good chain degreaser on your drivetrain to remove all dirt and grease before you re-lubricate is important, and only use disc specific cleaners on disc brakes. Otherwise, in general, some hot soapy water, a sponge and a rag will generally do the trick.
2. Inspect and grease
Now your bike is clean you can check those important bearings which help your bike parts move and rotate. Winter grit and road spray can infiltrate your headset and bottom bracket bearings during wet and cold rides.
If you can feel any play in your headset you will want to remove the bearings and inspect further. The headset and bearings may just need to be cleaned and greased, solving the issue, but if there is any roughness to the bearing motion, or reduced movement at the handlebars, they may need replacing.
Next, check the bottom bracket, which connects the crankset to the bicycle and allows the crankset to rotate freely. It contains a spindle that the crankset attaches to, and the bearings that allow the spindle and cranks to rotate. It should rotate smoothly and freely with no lateral movement.
Again you should inspect, clean and replace any grease that has been washed away to seal the bearings from future water ingress. However, if the bearings are rough and not moving freely, it is generally easier to replace your bottom bracket. There are many different bottom bracket standards, so unless you have the right tools and are confident, this job may be best undertaken by your local bike shop.
3. Checking for wear
Regularly checking for wear will keep you safe, reduce the chances of a mechanical breakdown when out on your bike, and save you money by limiting the effect worn components have on other parts of the bike.
Brake pads should be inspected to make sure no small sharp objects have become lodged and can damage your rims. Once rim brake pads go past their wear limit, braking function will be reduced and so pads should be replaced. Equally check your rims are running straight and true, are structurally sound and, on rim brakes, inspect the braking surface of the wheel for foreign objects and general wear.
Old chains stretch causing damage to your rear cassette and chainset over time. Use a chain wear indicator tool to see if it needs to be replaced. Equally a worn cassette can ruin a new chain. It’s cheaper to replace a stretched chain and worn cassette before they damage your more expensive chainset.
4. Tighten and silence
Over time, grease can dry up and bolts may loosen. When completing your spring service it’s a good idea to do a thorough check of all your major bolts. By checking bolts are correctly greased and tightened to the manufacture’s recommended tension with a torque wrench, you can be sure your bike is running optimally and will reduce the chance of those annoying creaks bikes tend to gain over time.
Using a torque wrench to the manufacturer’s recommended guidelines will reduce the chance of over tightening and breaking expensive components and stripping bolts. Never over torque a bolt, especially on carbon parts.
5. Gears and cables
Indexing your gears is more simple than you might think, there are plenty of video tutorials and websites that can direct you whatever your setup. The key is small adjustments. Over time, gear cables can stretch and wear. If your gear cables are worn you will not be able to shift gears easily so a fresh set of cables may need to be installed.
Whilst you are changing cables you should also look at your brake function, if using a cable actuated braking system, check your brakes are working smoothly and you can modulate the power. If the cables are frayed or rough they should be replaced. If you are using a hydraulic system, you should bleed your brakes at least once a year depending on use. This requires special equipment and, if you are not confident, this might be another job for your local bike shop.
6. Lubricate and repost
Every few months it’s a wise idea to remove, clean and grease your seat post. Leaving a seat post unchecked can lead to it becoming seized and unable to be removed. Depending on your seat post and frame material you will need a specific type of grease or retaining compound. Follow your manufacturer’s guidelines.
At this point on a clean, dry and working bike it’s a good opportunity to lightly lubricate all those exposed moving parts – the chain, jockey wheels, pedal springs and exposed cables for starters. Make sure you remove any excess before you go out for a ride.
Almost there. After checking your tyres for any cuts and making sure you still have some tread (most bike tyres do have wear indicator marks), inflate your tyres to the correct pressure for your riding.
Desired tyre pressure will be different depending on your load, weather conditions and the terrain you will be riding on. This is important because it can affect speed, comfort and grip. Checking your tyres regularly and running the correct pressure will reduce your chance of puncturing.
Changing from hardier winter tyres to more supple summer ones may reduce rotating weight and improve performance in the summer months when punctures are less likely.
8. Make it look pretty
Put new bar tape on! It looks nice and always makes your bike feel like new. Enjoy your ride!