Spring has sprung, which means cyclists from around the world are slowly thawing out and emerging from their pain cave to once again brave the sunny days and open roads.
No matter if you're a cyclist who hasn't touched your bike since last fall or you've been begrudgingly spinning away on an indoor trainer all offseason, it's always a good idea to be a bit precautionary before heading out for your first epic ride of the season.
What does this mean? While you should start to slowly build up your fitness base before dropping the hammer (for a simple cycling training plan, click here), this article is less about fitness more about how to double check your bike and make sure all your gear is ready to go.
From charging your devices to cleaning your ride, here are nine things to keep in mind before you swing your leg over the saddle this spring.
Check Your Helmet
We put this one first for a reason--protecting the ol' noggin is your most important responsibility as a cyclist. It's no longer "cool" to ride without a helmet, and thankfully they've been widely accepted at social group rides and throughout the professional ranks as well. This spring, do a once-over of your helmet, making sure the straps aren't frayed, the buckle isn't cracked, the pads are in place and the shell isn't damaged. If anything is in question, or you've had the helmet for more than five-or-so years, replace it.
Freshen up the Stash
It's amazing how fast a stockpile of tubes and CO2 cartridges can disappear. Spring is the perfect time to replenish your supplies of not just spare tubes, patch kits, CO2 cartridges and your nutrition (gels, mixes, etc.), but it's also time to replace a pair of threadbare bib shorts or two. Don't wait until the night before your first ride this spring to realize you're missing the essentials.
Think of this like your spring cleaning, but just for your collection of bikes rather than for your house. Regular cleaning helps reduce the wear and tear on a bike, increasing its longevity for miles and miles of squeak-free pedaling. Wiping down your frame is the easy part, but many cyclists are afraid to touch the drivetrain. Worry not: Check out our step-by-step instructions for how to clean your drivetrain.
Lube, Lube, Lube
Once you've cleaned your bike from top to bottom, the next step is to lube the chain. Head to your local bike shop, purchase bike-specific lube (don't use WD40) and liberally apply to your chain. This should reduce all of your squeaks and creaks, so if you're hearing anything else, your local bike shop (LBS) might need to take a look at your bottom bracket or derailleur. Remember, this isn't an only-do-once step right before the new season--make sure you clean and lube your chain every few rides.
Brake Check 1-2-3
We all like going fast, but we all like the ability to stop after going fast even more. Brake pads can wear down quickly, so before your spring campaign begins, double check and make sure your brake pads aren't too worn, that they're seated in the middle of the rim and that the braking motion is smooth. Even if all looks and feels good, we recommend you still double check and make sure all the bolts are snug (if you're unsure how to do this, head to your LBS).
Keep on Rollin'
If we're sounding like a broken record at this point, it's a good thing--many of these items on the list are preventative measures to make sure nothing goes wrong when you're miles from home. This also includes doing a once-over on the front and rear tires. Make sure there aren't any bald spots or cracks in the rubber -- if all is correct, pump up your tires to the recommended air pressure and leave them overnight to make sure they're still holding air. Similarly, make sure there aren't any spokes that are too loose or too tight, and that the rim is stiff and true.
This one is simple--charge units like your cycling computer or GoPro, and replace batteries on units like your headlight/taillight or power meter that might have died over the long winter. Similarly, now's the time to install any new software updates, reconnect to new sensors or upload new maps and routes.
Inspect the Shifters and Drivetrain
This one takes a bit more technical know-how than many cyclists are comfortable with, but it's important to inspect both the front and rear derailleur, as well as left and right shifters. Don't worry about making adjustments, just shift through the gears and make sure it's snappy and doesn't jump around. If it's not quite right, take your bike to your LBS to have them adjusted.
Get a Bike Fit
If you're an avid cyclist and have never gotten a bike fit, stop what you're doing and make an appointment (see why we left this at the end of the article?). A bike fit is the easiest way to not only feel more comfortable on the bike, but dramatically improve body mechanics and efficiency. A proper "fit" session with a professional can last several hours--they'll check everything from your cleat position to leg length discrepancies--and we can't recommend getting one enough before you start training more seriously this spring.
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