Getting your bike ready to start riding again does not take a lot of time or effort as long as your bike is not in need of major repair, so we’ve created the dirt bike survival guide for you for the coming season. The inspection items below are all easy to do yourself and will ensure your bike is both safe and in good working order. If you find your bike needs major repairs or adjustments, you have several options:
- You can do them yourself. There are lots of on-line resources to help you. Here is one that offers videos, http://bicycletutor.com/. Another one that has just about everything is http://sheldonbrown.com/.
- You can get some advise or help through community bike shops. For more information on the community bike shops in Winnipeg visit the WRENCH.
- You can take you bike in for service at your local bike shop.
Check out the items below and learn a little more about your bike and make it even more fun to ride.
Make Sure It Fits
Did you just get a new bike or maybe like many others you have never really considered how your bike fits your body. Here are a couple of things you can check to make sure that you get the most out of your peddling.
- When you stand over your bike, there should be at least 1 to 2 inches of clearance between you and the top tube.
- When you are seated on your bike with one leg extended to bottom of the peddle stroke and your foot flat, there should be only a slight bend in your knee. This will ensure that you get the most benefit with each peddle stroke.
- When you are seated and your feet are in the 3/9 o’clock position (pedals parallel to the floor), when you look straight down from the front of your forward knee, it should not be out over the front of your toes. It should be approximately over the centre of your peddles or slightly behind.
- Handle bars can be set at any height that feels comfortable, however generally they are approximately level with the seat.
Remember that if a bike is too big or too small for you it may not be safe for you to ride.
Make Sure It Is Safe
The brakes are the most important safety item on your bike and need to provide the best possible stopping power.
- Pull the brake levers tightly towards the handle bars. If you cannot place at least one finger width between the lever and the handle bars you need to adjust the brakes. The lever should never pull all the way back to the handle bars.
- Now check the brake pads. Are the grooves that indicate wear still visible? If they are getting thin, it is time to change them.
- Squeeze the brake lever and check to see that the pads contact the rim evenly and squarely. If they are either contacting the tire (which could cause a blow out) or fall below the rim slightly, they need to be adjusted.
- Try the brakes several times and observe whether the brakes spring back from the rim evenly on both sides when the brake lever is released. If they do not this may cause the wheel to rub on the brake as you are riding, making it harder to peddle your bike.
- If the brakes do not spring back or release very slowly when the lever is released, it is likely that you need some servicing or replacement of the brake cables. This again is something best left to someone with experience.
Now take the bike for short ride and try the brakes, Are they providing enough braking power? If not you may need to get some help. Your brakes are important, so make sure they are working their best.
The headset of your bike are the components between your handle bars and your forks that allow you to steer your bike. If they are loose or worn they can make it more difficult to steer your bike safely around obstacles.
Lift the front wheel off the ground and turn the handlebars. Does the headset turn smoothly and easily? Now, while fully engaging the front brake, rock the bike back and forth. Is the headset tight or is there some movement. A lose headset is unsafe and will also cause unnecessary wear that will eventually be very expensive to repair.
Make Sure It Rides Smoothly
There are a number of things that either contribute or detract from how smoothly your bike rides. Primarily we are talking about the wheels/tires and the drive train (chain, gears, etc.)
If your bike has been sitting for a while, the tires will be softer than when you left it last. You can check them by pressing down on the top if the tire with your thumb, but if you have a tire gauge, it is even better.
- Check the side wall of your tire and find the recommended pressure for your specific tires. If you are riding primarily on paved streets, you might as well take advantage of decreased rolling resistance and pump your tires up the maximum allowable pressure.
- Check you tires for wear, cracks in the sidewalls, and embedded glass etc. If you tire have seen better days, you might as well start off the year with new ones.
- Give each wheel a spin to make sure that it rolls straight and true. If the rim is out of alignment it may rub on the brakes and make your riding harder. Check the spokes to make sure they are all tight and than none of them are broken. If the wheel is out of true or has broken spokes, it is best to get some help with fixing it or take it to you local bike shop.
The drive train of a bike is all those components that “drive” it forward. These components are often the most overlooked and misunderstood part of a bike. A poorly maintained drive train can significantly increase wear on some of the more expensive components.
The chain needs to be kept clean and lubricated. This is not just an item for the spring clean up, but needs to be done regularly throughout the riding season, especially after a rain.
There are lots of chain cleaning products and tools out there, but at the very least you should employ the use of a rag to remove some of the dirt and debris from your chain. Remember that solvents are not good cleaning products for your chain or any other drive component of your bike.
Once you have cleaned your chain (and let it dry if your used a cleaning product), you need to lubricate it with an appropriate product. WD-40 is not a lubricant and motor oil from your car will only attract more dirt and debris, so get a lubricant that is made for the task. For recommendations on the right lubricant for your type of riding, talk to your bike shop.
When you lubricate, don’t just pore it all over the chain. This too will only attract more dirt. The only area that needs lubrication is the pins or points along the chain where it can pivot. Simply place a single drop on each bushing or pivot points, let it sit for 5 minutes (at least) and then wipe any excess away with a rag.
If you ride your bike everyday in the summer, you may want to as well check the chain for elongation. A stretched chain will cause unnecessary wear to the teeth of both the rear cogs and front chain rings which will in turn can cause a costly repair bill. You can get your local bike shop to check this for you or you can simply measure 12 full links of the chain using a ruler. The 12 full links should measure exactly 12” when the chain is new and if you measure more than 12 1/8”, you need to replace the chain.
Chain Rings and Cogs
If you are cleaning the chain, you might as well clean up the chain rings and rear cogs as well. You’ll likely need a stiff brush and some cleaning solution to undertake this task. Bike shops sell specific tools for this job, however a thin stiff brush will do just as good a job and cost a lot less. You can also use an old toothbrush to get those hard to reach spots. It is best to remove the rear wheel when cleaning the cogs. You can brush these components clean and then using a hose spray the excess cleaning solution off them. You can also take a rag and clean in between each cog on the rear wheel. Be careful not to spray the water directly at the side of the wheel hub as you may drive some water into the hub and reduce the lubrication inside the wheel.
Cleaning your derailleurs will help to ensure that your bike keeps shifting gears smoothly. A little cleaning solution and a tooth brush is all that is needed to get them sparking clean.
If you want you rear derailleur to run really smooth, it is a good idea to clean the jockey wheels. Dirty jockey wheels will not turn smoothly and can often cause an annoying squealing sound as you ride along the road. These two small wheels are easy to remove and clean. Unless you have a really expensive bike, there are no small bearing to contend with, just a couple of side dust covers and a metal/ceramic bushing. Simply remove them, clean them thoroughly, and reinstall them. No more squeaking!