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ABCs of Bicycle Love

Peace, Love, and Bicycles: The ABCs of Bike Care

Bicycle Program Coordinator, Jeffrey Bruchez, shares the ABCs of bicycle care and ensuring it will be road-ready and safe to ride!


Summer is around the corner, a time when we’re all seeing new opportunities to bring bicycles into our lives. Maybe you ride regularly, or you are rediscovering bicycling as a newfound (or rekindled) means to recreation. Perhaps cycling is just  transportation for you? No matter your reason for getting in the saddle, your bicycle always needs love and there are three simple fundamentals to keeping your bicycle happy and ensuring a better experience with bicycling. It all starts with A-B-C.

A is for Air

Air is the principal system of your bicycling comfort. You should reinflate your tires at least twice a month, as innertubes are thin and naturally lose air. Check the side of the tire for recommended pressures (indicated on your tire with PSI) and use a floor pump if possible. Most shops will kindly loan you a pump or you can use any public pumps available. If the tire is totally flat, you may need to patch or replace your innertube.

Did you know? Pneumatic innertubes were brought to bicycling byway of JB Dunlap's innovation in 1887 for his son’s harsh riding tricycle. It's a pretty simple concept that is still deployed on most bicycles. A thinly extruded innertube retains air which supports the outer casing of your tire, offering your bicycle a teeny bit of suspension. You float over varied surfaces on little clouds of air. A tire without air? Well, you’ll feel every bump and are more likely to damage your wheels (which can lead to costly repairs $$$$).
B is for Brakes

Brakes are important. They are the things that make you stop, help you slow down (you probably already know that). Before every ride, check for pad wear on the brakes themselves and replace your pads when they are worn thin. To check your brakes, pull the levers and make certain they are set up correctly. Are they hitting the rim? The levers should pull the brake tight to the rim of your wheel before the lever bottoms out against the handlebar. Be certain the brakes DO NOT contact the tire, that will cause a blowout and can very dangerously cause a loss of control. Simple adjustments are generally possible without tools or with a 5mm allen wrench, but when needed have your brakes adjusted by a professional bicycle mechanic.

Did you know? There are many different methods to slowing down your bicycle’s momentum. Over the last few decades many new technologies have been adopted, but almost all braking methods involve both leverage and friction to slow your bicycle’s motion. The typical hand brake is tied to a brake caliper or levers, the caliper or levers have some mechanical leverage against the rim (or disc) which they apply brake pads against (friction). These systems degrade from use and need maintenance. They are vital to keeping your bicycling safe.
C is for Checks

Check the mechanical parts of your bicycles prior to a ride:

  • Check that your chain is lubed. It should have a thin layer of oil on the inner bushings which keep the chain clean, quiet, and free of rust. Chain lubricant should be applied at least once a month, more if you leave your bicycle outside or ride a lot.
  • Check that your chain tension is tight. The chain should be taught on the top of the gears to support efficient transfer of energy from your cranks to your rear wheel. 
  • Check all the quick releases or axle fixing bolts. Are they tight and nothing will fall off while you ride? Give the bike a quick bounce and check that nothing is loose. 

Take a moment before setting off to pedal a couple strokes and listen for anything out of normal. If needed, have your bicycle evaluated by a professional bicycle mechanic prior to riding.

By following the ABCs; Air, Brakes, and Check(ing your bicycle’s mechanical parts), you’ve done a lot to keep you and your bicycle happily riding wherever your riding may bring you.

More detail soon: We’re working on videos to showcase these topics. There’s no better time to get out and jump on a bicycle, get on out and enjoy summer time and revel in all the glory that is riding your bike!

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