Tune-up time: Getting your bike ready for spring

Is your bike hibernating in the garage or on the porch, dreaming of warm weather and great rides along the lakes and rivers? Now is the time to take your bike to a warm place to get it spruced up for spring. No, not the spa — I’m talking about your local bike shop. This is a great time for bike tune-ups because the shops are not as busy and if parts need to be ordered, you won’t lose any of those fantastic early spring days that entice you out for a ride. Once your bike is ready for riding, you won’t have to wonder if it will work when you need it. Your bike will be calling you the first warm day.

Is the shifting getting unpredictable? Does the chain jump unexpectedly? Is the tread worn off the tires? The moving parts of a bike wear out just like brakes and tires on a car. Bike chains, pedals, tires, brake pads, wheels and bearings all need to be checked and maintained for safe operation. A good tune-up will include cleaning the drive train, checking the condition of the frame, cables, housing, brakes, tires, wheels (including true), handlebars and saddle. Good shops will do a checkup of the bike and should provide a recommendation on parts and work needed and an estimate of the cost. If your bike is going to need significant work, look at the new bikes in the shop. Often, a new bike with all new components is not that much more than fixing your old bike; plus, the new bike has all the advantages of improved technology. Good quality bikes are available for as little as $500.

Some things to consider when you have your bike tuned up include upgrading some of your bike’s components. New cable systems with coated cables and housing make shifting smooth, fast and dependable. Tires with Kevlar belts under the tread are much more resistant to punctures and pinch flats. Clipless pedals and bike shoes improve your efficiency.

How old is your bike helmet? If it’s more than four years old, seriously consider a new helmet. The protective materials in a bike helmet lose their effectiveness over time and replacing a helmet every three to five years is advisable. Again, technology and improved design have made helmets more comfortable. How about new grips or replacing that grungy bar tape? Is your saddle showing signs of wear? Was it uncomfortable riding last year? Do your bike gloves look like road kill? This is a good time to think about all your riding gear.

How about using your bike for more than just recreation? Maybe you can commute to work or school. Shopping is more fun when you include a bike ride. A bike rack, bike bags, panniers or even a trailer will help turn your bike into an everyday vehicle. Check out all the options when you bring your bike to the shop. This is a perfect time to go to your favorite bike shop and see what’s new and get your bike — and yourself — ready for those early spring rides. You may even want to get an indoor trainer so you’re tuned up and ready to ride.

Dan Breva is the manager of the Freewheel Midtown Bike Center at the Midtown Exchange. He has bike commuted for more than 10 years.