Beginning of Season Bike Maintenance Checklist
If you’re like many of us who live in the frozen north, your bike has been sitting around for weeks waiting patiently for you. While you still have a few weeks of quiet time on your hands, there are a few things you should check out on the bike before embarking on the new season. Get started on bike maintenance now while you have the time.
- Wax and clean the frame. You can use the same wax you’d use on your car. Clean and de-dust the frame first. Apply the wax and then buff it off with a soft, lint-free cloth. Don’t use a paper towel — it can scratch the finish. Make sure you get into all the little nooks and crannies around the braze-on bits. Keep the bike looking good by periodically spiffing it up with Lemon Pledge. (Note: if you have a carbon fiber frame/fork, check with your bike shop to make sure you don’t use any cleaning or waxing products that could damage the finish. Plain old water always works!)
- Check the tires for wear. Wipe the tire down with a damp sponge and then look for little shards of grit and glass that embed themselves in the tire, just waiting for a chance to cause a flat. Using a knife with a fine blade, you can pry these out (wear eye protection). Inflate the tires to the recommended pressure, which is stamped on the side of the tire. If the tires have more than 1500 miles on them, consider replacing them. You get what you pay for with tires, so get the best. They are your only contact points with the road!
- Brake pads eventually wear out, so check them to make sure they are still within the manufacturer’s recommended range. Really old pads may have a lot of material on them, but they dry a bit with age and don’t stop as well as new pads.
- Give each wheel a spin and make sure it’s true (not wobbling from side to side) and round (no hops or dips when viewed from the side). If they need a tweak, take them into your local bike shop.
- Lubricate your chain. It’s a dirty job, but when it gets too worn out, the shifting degrades. A wax product like White Lightning is clean, easy to apply and, if used enough, will clean your chain and keep it clean.
- Check your chain for wear. It’s best to replace the chain before it get so worn that it wears out the cassette cogs. It’s much cheaper to replace just a chain than a chain and a cassette. This video will show you how to check chain wear with a ruler.
- Use a light oil to lubricate the pivot points on the front and rear derailleurs. Apply the oil and then shift gears a few times which will move the derailleurs and distribute the oil.
- Run the bike through all the gears to make sure it’s shifting properly. If you put it away for the winter with a shifting problem, it won’t have self-healed! If there’s a problem, get it squared away now.
- Spin the wheels and squeeze the brake levers to make sure your brakes are operating properly.
- Change the handlebar tape. If the bike looks clean and new, you’ll ride faster.
- Check the contents of your tool bag. Spare tubes? Tire irons? Allen wrenches? If you took something mission-critical out after your last ride, make sure you put it back!
- Keep a journal — especially if you’re maintaining multiple bikes. Make a note of the date, the bike’s mileage and what you did. This really helps when you can’t remember if you lubed the chain recently or checked the tire pressure.
Enjoy the new riding season!
(This blog is also posted on Women’sCycling.ca.)
A small bicycle for a small rider
One of the joys of my business is when I can help a rider find unique solutions to her problems so she can achieve her cycling goals.
Ride the Seattle to Portland Classic. 200 miles in two days including training seriously for the ride in the months prior to the event.
The rider is a petite woman in – 4′ 11″ with a barefoot inseam of 26″ – in need of a small bicycle. She has arthritis which affects her right thumb in particular. She prefers a flat handlebar. She’s having surgery to repair the thumb, which will only leave her about four months to train for the ride. Her current bike just wasn’t cutting it in terms of comfort or performance.
A bike that won’t aggravate her hand situation, will fit her small stature perfectly and will get her to Portland and back with a smile on her face! Just finishing isn’t enough — I want her to finish and consider it one of the coolest rides she’s done. And the first of many more “bucket” rides to come!
A Coto Doñana Tour, with custom sizing and a very careful choice of components to accommodate her hands. And, oh yes, a custom color as well.
How It Was Accomplished:
The first step was to scale down the smallest Coto Doñana Tour in order to give the rider clearance over the top tube. This was done partly by lowering the top tube where it meets the seat tube and by shortening the fork blades, which lowered the front end of the bike. The customer didn’t need the ability to run fenders on wide tires (which is a feature of the Coto Doñana Tour), so this was an option. With these changes, the stand over height was reduced by about an inch.
The handlebars on her current bike were 5″ above the saddle. This, in combination with a 22.8″ “rider compartment” (the distance from the center of the saddle to the handlebars) was still giving her some issues with too much pressure on her hands. This custom Coto Doñana Tour has a rider compartment of 21.4.” The handlebars are about an inch above the saddle.
I specced Grip Shift® shifters to relieve the stress on her hands. Since we knew the diameter of the shifters, she was able to verify that the dimension was manageable and comfortable.
The Happy Ending:
A successful STP adventure!
It was my privilege to see the bike and its owner in action on the Terry Sojourn bike tour this September. Like I said, my job is always fun!
Advertising to Female Cyclists
The May 15 issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News had an article by Megan Tompkins about advertising to female cyclists and how the industry can do a better job of appealing to them.
The gist of the article was that the industry markets to men. Advertising is peppered with rain, dirt, agony, sweat and misery. Just the kind of stuff that makes men want to buy! And typically the kind of imagery that turns women off.
Elysa Walk from Giant Bicycle noted ,”The visual cues that trigger emotional response in men and women are different. We market to men.”
I flipped through some magazines and picked out a few ads that speak to this issue.
Apparently the only part of this rider not ripped to shreds is his crotch, thanks to his saddle.
Who doesn’t like Spartacus? But will this really attract the newbie rider who thought cycling was going to be about enjoying a jaunt with friends?
Even the sunglass companies have jumped on the pain bandwagon…and the gram bandwagon.
Here are some ads from companies who seem to “get it”. If the bicycle industry is indeed leaving $2 billion on the table by failing to appeal to women, as the article states, then these companies see the payoff.
Norco is a Canadian company. Two women, one man. How daring.
This is one page of a two page ad by Felt. Woman and men feature equally — just enjoying a good ride through some beautiful country.
SRAM’s ad shows their recognition of the fairer sex. Every woman can relate to this cyclist.
Will the bicycle industry ever figure this out? Maybe they fear losing their male audience if they produce ads that appeal to women. I think they can have their cake and eat it, too. It’s just a matter of willpower. Something that seems to be in short supply.
How Important is the Bicycle Standover Height?
The bicycle standover height is really important! If you can’t stand over the top tube without touching it, you run the risk of hurting yourself when you stop quickly.
If the top tube is higher than you are, i.e. you have “negative” clearance, you’re an accident waiting to happen. Landing hard on a piece of steel, aluminum or carbon fiber tubing isn’t going to be a pleasant experience. You won’t “get used to it.”
Even if you just graze the top tube when you stand over the bike, you may still run into problems. The road surface isn’t always smooth. If you stop and put your foot into a divot in the road, you’ll be that much lower and you’ll run into the top tube. I know, you can always “lean the bike over”, but if you’re stopping unexpectedly, will you always remember to do that?
It’s too bad so many manufacturers neglect the petite rider. After all, she’s serious about her sport too and deserves the same good equipment as everyone else. Occasionally, a customer comes to me who is still an inch or so shy of fitting my smallest stock design. Ah, the beauty of a custom bike. Since I build to order, tweaking the geometry to fit that rider isn’t a problem, nor does it cost any more. You can’t put a price on your health and safety, so if you’re in the petite fit boat, consider a custom bike.
Dressing for Cold Weather Cycling
Dressing for cold weather cycling is a challenge. Warm weather outfitting is comparatively easy. Shorts, for sure, leaving only the top — will it be a tank or a sleeveless or short sleeved jersey?
But when the temperatures dip, choosing the right garb is much trickier. It’s no longer just a matter of knowing the temperature. Is it a sunny day, a cloudy day; is it calm or windy? And the Big Unknown: will you start out in one set of conditions only to find the weather changes during your ride?
There’s an old adage that says you should start out feeling a little under-dressed because once you warm up, you’ll be fine. I say it’s better to err on the conservative side. Start warm and peel things off if you get too warm. When the weather’s cold, you can always get colder; you can’t necessarily get warmer. If you ride fast to stay warm, you may create your own freezing wind chill in the process. Oh — pay attention to the wind direction. On a cold day, I prefer to ride out against the wind and come back with the wind.
The engineer in me likes to see concepts reduced to nice tidy equations, charts and diagrams. So, for my benefit (and hopefully for yours), here are some guidelines for dressing in a variety of conditions. This image represents wind and sky conditions at four different temperatures. The letters in the image correspond to my suggestions of what to wear.
Condition A (50 degrees, full sun, no wind)
Lightweight tights, short sleeve jersey, long sleeve base layer, short-fingered gloves.
Condition B (50 degrees, overcast, 20 mph wind)
Lightweight tights, short sleeve jersey, long sleeve base layer, windbreaker, short-fingered gloves.
Condition C (40 degrees, full sun, no wind)
Heavyweight tights, lightweight long sleeve jersey, short sleeve base layer, windbreaker, long-fingered windblock gloves, wool socks.
Condition D (40 degrees, overcast, 20 mph wind)
Heavyweight tights, lightweight long sleeve jersey, long sleeve base layer, thermal windbreaker, long-fingered windblock gloves, wool socks.
Condition E (30 degrees, full sun, no wind)
Heavyweight tights, thermal long sleeve jersey, long sleeve base layer, thermal windbreaker, long-fingered thermal gloves, wool socks, shoe booties.
Condition F (30 degrees, overcast, 20 mph wind)
Heavyweight windblock tights, thermal long sleeve jersey, long sleeve base layer, thermal windbreaker, helmet beanie, long-fingered thermal gloves, wool socks, shoe booties.
Condition G (20 degrees, full sun, no wind)
Heavyweight windblock tights, thermal long sleeve jersey, long sleeve base layer, thermal vest, thermal windbreaker, helmet beanie, long-fingered thermal gloves, wool socks, shoe booties.
Condition H (20 degrees, overcast, 20 mph wind)
Heavyweight windblock tights, thermal long sleeve jersey, long sleeve base layer, thermal vest, thermal windbreaker, balaclava, long-fingered thermal gloves, wool socks, shoe booties. (Better yet, stay inside and curl up with a good book!)
What I’m Reading: Just Ride by Grant Petersen
Cyclists are bombarded with information: advertising, in-ride chats, blogs, tweets. Sometimes we spend so much time making sure our kit looks good, our bikes look good and our pre-ride stretching was done that we forget we’re here to Just Ride the bike! Sure, there is a certain amount of fun toting up the miles on the mileage chart, planning the details of what variety of Gu® is going in the jersey pockets, making sure we look like “real” cyclists and not getting dropped on the first hill. But the bike is such a darn simple machine. Quiet, unassuming, but always ready to take us on an adventure.
Grant Petersen, founder of Rivendell Bicycle Works and former U.S. marketing director for Bridgestone Bikes, turns off the marketing blather, gives us a shake of the shoulders, looks us in the eye and says, “Let it go. Get back to basics.”
If just one image comes to mind after reading his book, this is it:
Grant’s book is a collection of short essays. Flip it open to any one of them and start reading. You’ll agree (although sometimes begrudgingly) or disagree with just about everything he says. What do I mean? Here’s a selection of chapters:
The weight ruse
Racing ruins the breed
Bags, not armloads or sweaty backs
Pumps, not greenhouse gas
Drink when you’re thirsty, not before
Surprise: fabric doesn’t breathe
I had a ball reading this book. Grant is so … down to earth. He takes us back to a kinder, gentler world of bicycling — one that’s pretty much been lost in today’s whirlwind of faster, lighter, stiffer. Every cyclist will relate to this book — love it or hate it, but you won’t be able to put it down.
Just Ride by Grant Petersen