A fresh new cycling season is upon us and many are planning their first ride. Let’s go over everything you need to know to have a safe and enjoyable start. The first thing we will look at is your bicycle and other essential equipment.
Let’s start with the bare minimum you should do before your first ride. Actually, this is a good idea to do before pretty much every ride. Here are ‘the big three’.
A is for air – Having properly inflated tyres makes for a smoother ride and helps prevent flats. Recommended tyre pressures will be indicated on the sidewall of your tyres. While you’re looking at your wheels, you might want to briefly check if your quick-release levers and thru-axles are properly tightened as well.
B is for brakes – If you have rim brakes, you are probably aware that brake pads eventually wear down. Spin your wheels and squeeze your front and rear brake levers to make sure that the brakes engage properly and smoothly. Get new pads if needed. If you have disc brakes, the maintenance is a bit more involved and you should leave this to your local bike shop, unless you know how to do it yourself.
C is for chain – Look at your chain and run it through all the gears. All should be smooth and clean and your chain shouldn’t be sagging. Make sure things are well lubricated.
Unless you did the yearly clean at the end of last season, it’s a very good idea to plan for it before your first ride this year. Use hot soapy water and a sponge for the frame and most parts unless the dirt is too resilient. Invest in some cleaning spray for that caked-on grime. For the chain, cassette, and crankset, you should also consider using a specialist degreaser. After you’re done, you can spray your bike with aerosol to prevent mud from sticking, just keep in mind to avoid breaking surfaces with it.
Another thing that’s worth doing at least once a year is to check tyres for wear and tear. You should always wipe them down before you start. Then look for anything that embedded itself in the tyre as that’s a high risk for getting a flat. If the tyres have more than 2,000 kilometres in them, consider replacing them even if they still seem OK to you.
When dealing with tyres, it could be a good idea to also check your wheels. Give each wheel a spin and make sure it’s not wobbling from side to side or up and down. If there’s a concerning wobble in either direction, take them to your local bike shop, they might be able to fix it by adjusting the spokes.
Now that your bike is ready to head out for the first ride, it’s time to look at your other gear. There are three items that are most likely to experience some wear as they are your contact points with the bike.
1) Check that the cleats on your bike shoes aren’t too worn out.
2) Take a look at whether your cycling gloves might be close to having holes.
3) Confirm that your bike shorts are in a good condition.
There is an endless number of other pieces of gear you might consider replacing or upgrading. Why not make your first ride even more exciting by replacing the handlebar tape, getting a new jersey, or cycling socks?
Last but not least, you should check the permanent contents of your tool bag. Do you have spare tubes, tyre irons, and Allen wrenches? If you forgot to replace any used materials or took some critical tools out, this is the time to restock.
Your gear is ready to face another season. In the next article, we will make sure you still remember all of the important things that keep a cyclist safe on the roads and off them.