Outside with Charlie: Nov. 9, 2010

By From page B3 | November 9, 2010

Autumn tuneup

This is a great time to ride your road bike or mountain bike. The air is cooler and the colors are beautiful. It’s also time to tune up your trusty steed. Mountain bikes really need to be cleaned. Road bikes usually don’t get quite as mucked up. Making sure everything is in good shape for fall riding doesn’t take too much time but is important.

Right now mountain bike trails are about as dusty as they will get. For a short  the dust is settled by light autumn rains, but soon heavy rains will turn the trails into to mud bogs and roads into asphalt versions of a slip and slide. It’s maintenance time.

Here’s what to do:

Wash your bike with a garden hose. High pressure sprayers can force water into into places it shouldn’t be, causing damage you won’t discover until it’s too late.

Visually inspect your bike for cracks in the frame or seat tube. This is a must if you rode your mountain bike in the forest, jumping or bumping over obstacles or spent time on bumpy downhill runs. Cracked frames or seat tubes can lead to catastrophic failure and a rude face plant when you’re catapulted to the ground. Road bikes generally aren’t as susceptible to this kind of damage, but it can still happen with a few hard hits into potholes. If there is a crack in the frame, head to a bike shop for expert advice.

Pull the seat tube out of the frame, clean, lubricate and re-seat it to keep rust from welding your seat tube to the tube it fits in. Being able to adjust your seat height is important. Check your tires for cracks, tread wear and imbedded objects. Replace a cracked, worn or damaged tire. Blown tubes are generally fixable but a blown tire can result in a long walk home. .

Make sure the brakes work well. If you have to put too much pressure on your break levers to stop, adjust them. Running into the nearest tree is not the best alternative.

Lube your chain with an actual chain lubricant formulated to keep everything working nicely. Put some on your gears too — squeaking noises are annoying and an indication that parts are rubbing which can lead to failure. It’s Murphy’s Law that the failure will happen at the furthest point from where you started.

Be sure your handlebars are tight and in the right position. Pedals need to be securely bolted onto the pedal arms. Change the batteries in your lights — important now that the days are shorter.

All of this takes time but it’s worth it. Maintaining your bike is cheaper than buying a new one. Bicycles keep getting more and more expensive. Not only is it less expensive to take care of your ride, you’ll be safer. Crashes always hurt.

If you don’t want to do this yourself, head to a bike shop where technicians will tune up your ride and let you know if something needs fixing or replaced.

When you’re done — get outside and enjoy the autumn season.

Charlie Ferris

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