Stick to the basics when prepping your bike for summer, experts say

The author's children use the Muc-Off cleaning kit to brush their bikes off for the season.

Key bike maintenance to do this spring as you bring out your bike again

BOULDER — Winter dust, cottonwood debris and dead leaves flew away in the spring breeze as I worked over my bike with a brush. Of course, the first step of prepping your bike for the season is just to pull it out into the sunshine for a dusting and assessment.

I still squeak around town on a rusted, sturdy, decades-old Diamondback hardtail mountain bike. I’m almost ready to get rid of it, but not quite yet, so I had flipped it over for some lovin’.

I switched to a smaller brush for the spokes, chain and derailleur. I use my bike mostly for commuting to school with my daughters these days, so I don’t have much need for speed nor style. But my pedals had been coming loose and I was pretty sure I needed a new crankshaft. Not having the tools nor parts for the job, I coasted to Community Cycles at its new Boulder location on Spruce and 26th streets. There, I figured, I could consult with some fellow bike nerds, both about my repair and what else I could do to prep for the changing seasons.

Community Cycles shop director Dax Burgos met me at the open garage of their new facility. They were still moving in after being in their old building for a dozen years. Even though, as Burgos said, they were still figuring out where everything was in the new place, the business was humming: people were working on bikes at a row of repair stands, while a mechanic and volunteers walked around to lend a hand. Others were outside, dropping off donations or rummaging through all the used bike and safety gear.

I filled my tires, signed up for a repair stand, worked on my bike for a bit (with a great deal of help from Paul, the mechanic on duty, thank you!), then asked Burgos what else I should do to be ready for summer riding. He answered with “the ABCs of bike maintenance”: Air pressure, Brakes and Chain. “And Q,” he added, “for your quick release.”

I’d already cleaned and checked those areas, so I was good to go. When I got home, still curious about what other spring cleaning advice I could find, I reached out to more experts for their personal takes on the ABCs. Here’s what they said:

  • Daniel Summerhill, professional cyclist with USA Cycling and Denver native: “Not unlike spring cleaning around the house, getting your bicycle dialed for spring and summer adventures is a must. Depending on the last time you rode your bike, pumping the tires up is a great place to start. Try throwing a little grease or lubrication on the chain to keep the squeaky noises to a minimum. Double-check your wheels are fastened on tight. Last and most important, make sure your helmet fits properly and remember to buckle it — even if it’s just around Wash Park.”
  • Loren Siekman, founder of Pure Adventures (bike touring, hiking and multisport packages): “Consider the unique challenges of this transitional season, with lots of sand on the road from winter as early spring brings growth-dropping debris, including thorns, to the road. So prep your bike with tough, heavy-duty treaded, wider tires. Gator skins or other heavy training tires can help prevent flats and keep you rolling this spring.”
  • Von Collins, author, triathlete: “Always spend the last mile of your ride listening to your bike. When you are in the middle of a tough ride, you sometimes tune out the sounds, squeaks or grinding that might be developing in your bike. Especially in those first few rides of the season, spend the final mile or so really listening. Your bike will tell you what is off, and what needs a little more adjustment or cleaning.”
  • Ryan “My Bike is My Freedom Machine” Van Duzer, TV host and bicycle evangelist: “My advice is to be proactive and get it tuned in the winter. Bike shops are dead at that time of year and you won’t have a long wait like you will in the spring. Then, when you pull the bike out of the garage in the spring, all you gotta do is add a bit of air to the tires and you’re ready to roll!”
  • Terence Mills, volunteer at Suwanee Creek Bicycles in Suwanee, Ga.: “Make sure the bike still fits! It’s quite easy for children, adolescents and young adults to outgrow their bikes, and an improper bike fitting can lead to neck, back and knee pain. And don’t forget to inspect helmets for size and cracks.”
  • Shelley Hartman, Liv Cycling Ambassador: “Invest in a floor pump to make sure your tubes have the right amount of air, (the PSI number is posted on the side of the tire), so you can get out the door and where you want to go in a timely manner. Spinning the wheels and squeezing each brake lever to make sure they hold firmly, yet don’t rub the rim, when turning is pertinent for a safe, enjoyable ride. Check cables attached to the brakes and brake levers at the same time, to make sure they’re firmly attached and not frayed. Also, check the chain. Does it rotate smoothly, without rust, debris caught during the winter months? Is it lubed up for easy riding out on the path, trail and neighborhood with friends and family? It’s always a great idea to take your bike into a local bike shop for them to do a maintenance check and make sure that your bike is in perfect riding condition.”

BIKE CLEANING GEAR: This “ 8 in 1 Muc-Off Bicycle Care Kit” ($62.99) has everything for spring cleaning and basic maintenance—from scrubs, rags, and brushes to cleaning products and lubes; they have smaller kits too and sell individual products.


Community Cycling Centers

In Boulder: Community Cycles: 2601 Spruce St., Boulder, enter in the back. Open 12-6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, and Tuesday. communitycycles.org

In Denver: Bikes Together has two locations in Denver: Park Hill Bikes Together (2825 Fairfax St., 303-393-1963) and Mariposa Bikes Together (1060 Osage St., 720-403-8757). (bikestogether.org)

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