The Cycle Sense column with Tony Booth – preparing your bike for action after the winter months

It is well worth investing in a decent bike repair stand which will make maintenance easier.
It is well worth investing in a decent bike repair stand which will make maintenance easier.

After a cold, damp winter in a garage or shed, your faithful bike is likely to need a little TLC to get it (and you) back up to speed! If you’ve invested in a decent bicycle, making sure it is in tip top condition will not only prolong it’s life by preventing more serious problems from developing, but will also give you the best performance from it as well as improving safety for the rider.

Don’t forget to make sure all your safety accessories and ‘on board’ essentials are in good working order.

Seasonal service

Given the wear and tear on all moving parts, now would be a good time to treat your bike to its annual service.

If you’re handy and know a bit about bikes, you might be able to do this yourself, but for most of us, a trained mechanic is the preferred option – having a thorough check at least once a year might even save you money by spotting potential problems early.

For a professional service, go to a reputable bike shop you trust. Most services will include: checking the gear indexing; adjusting or replacing brakes; checking the headset and frame; inspecting the wheels and tyres; changing cables; and degreasing and re-lubing moving parts. You’ll be able to feel the difference when you take it out for a spin and will benefit from a more energy-efficient ride.

Keeping your bike clean

With your bike having been given a proper once-over by an expert, minimum care and maintenance from you will ensure it stays in good working order. It may sound a little laborious, but cleaning your back after every ride is vital.

Investing in a decent bike repair stand can make it a lot easier to get to those hard to reach places as well as enabling you to easily turn the wheels.

Paying particular attention to the chain should be a key part of the weekly routine as a clean chain will help the gears to shift easily while a dirty chain will wear down the expensive drive chain. First, you will need to clean the chain – with your bike in its lowest gear, turn the pedal backwards, running the chain through a cloth dampened with a specific chain cleaner or degreaser (this is where the bike stand comes into its own!). Use a brush to get in between each chain link (cleaning kits with a range of brushes and tools are available in any good bike shop).

Then hold a clean rag against the chain to remove any traces of degreaser. Also make sure you scrub the rear sprockets with a brush and degreaser, again using a dry cloth to get rid of any degreaser.

You need to be disciplined about giving your back a wipe down after every-ride - wipe the tyres and rims, check for flints, and inspect the brake blocks. Having removed the dirt, you will then need to apply lube to all of the moving parts.

Starting with the chain, use a chain lubricant sparingly on each link by spinning the wheel. Do the same with the jockey wheels, and the rear and front mechanisms.

While cleaning your bike might sound like a chore, once you get into the routine, you could actually find it strangely satisfying, and you’ll definitely benefit whenever you’re on the bike!

Even if you only have ten minutes after a ride, do the essentials.

Having not been in the saddle for a few months, take it slowly – it might even be time to buy a new pair of padded cycle tights to ease yourself back into the saddle! Take it gradually, building up the length of rides and you, and your bike, will be in peak condition for another glorious summer (we hope!).

For more information and advice, visit www.allterraincycles.co.uk