Beware the Rides of March

Thinking Ahead: Practicalities

If it's been several weeks or longer since you last rode, and you've got the spring fever to hammer down some single-track, take a few minutes to check your bike over. Better yet, take it in and let your favorite wrench give it a spring tune-up. But if you don't have the time, at least do the following:

* Check to make sure the tires are in good shape. There shouldn't be any cracks or overly worn spots on the sidewalls.

* Make sure each tire has enough pressure in it. Just because it was fine a month ago, doesn't mean it is now. Top it off and avoid getting a "pinch flat."

* Clean the chain with soap and water. Dry it thoroughly with a cloth and apply some good chain lube.

* Check cables for wear. Put the bike on a rack (if you have it) and change the gears while pedaling. If you don't have a rack, take a short test ride and run through all the gears.

* Before the test ride (or any ride), squeeze the brake levers and observe where the pads hit the tire rim. No part of the pads should be off the rim. The front and back of the pads should be the same distance away from the tire, that is, parallel to the travel of the rim. Also, check to make sure the pads haven't worn too thin.

* Check bottle cage screws; tighten if necessary.

* Check frame for cracks and any obvious damage. A good way to do this is by washing your bike.

* Check spokes for breaks and looseness. Adjust or replace as necessary.

* Make sure the saddle height is still set correctly.

* After the bike's been checked out, give the body a test ride or two before heading out for a longer ride. Riding a mountain bike uses many muscle groups that aren't normally used any other way. Rebuild your strength—gradually.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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