Bike season starts with tune-up

| Friday, May 2, 2008

Josh Ellis is the manager of the Trek Shadyside store, and he's noticed a trend.

A lot of people are bringing in old bikes for tune-ups, bikes that probably spent the past few years collecting dust in basements, garages and sheds.

"I think a lot of people are starting to ride more again than they have in the past," Ellis said. "I think people are pulling their bikes out for the first time in a while. A lot more people are starting to see it as a viable way of transportation."

Anyone who's been to a gas pump lately can figure out one big reason why.

"There are people I've helped who said they're starting to feel the impact of driving to work every day," said Jessie Amend, marketing director for Trek Shadyside. "A lot of people are coming in and breaking out their old bikes and starting to ride places."

Whether you're dusting off an old bike or just letting it see the light of day for the first time since last fall, it's important to tune it up either yourself or in a shop.

There are several easy adjustments and fixes that most anyone can do at home, beginning with checking tire pressure.

If your bike has been sitting for a while, it will need air.

Check the side of the tire to learn the recommended PSI level, Amend said, then monitor the pressure on an ongoing basis to keep your grip and ride comfort at optimal levels.

Also, clean and lubricate your chain. Wipe off any gunk or debris, then coat it with a thin layer of bike-specific lubricant, such as White Lightning. Amend recommends staying away from the WD-40 in the garage because it will collect dirt and debris as you ride, which could in turn damage the drive train.

Finally, give it a quick spin and listen for any grinding or ticking, and pay attention to any changes in performance, such as sloppy shifting or slipping brakes. Getting the bike into the shop at the first sign of a possible problem could save money down the road.

"Maintenance is good, because even though you may not want to pay for a tune-up, in the long run it will keep you bike functioning longer," Amend said. "It's the same thing as a car, but on a much, much simpler scale."

A basic tune-up in most shops includes adjusting the brakes and shifting, inflating the tires, chain cleaning and lubrication and a visual safety inspection, and it runs about $30.

Additional tune-up services include new brake pads, truing the wheels and inspecting the bearings. If a bike is older, Ellis will check to see if the tires are dry rotted, if the brakes squeal, if the chain or cables are rusty and if the bottom bracket is loose, among other things.

Both Amend and Ellis said not to be afraid to ask questions of the bike mechanic during the tune-up. You may learn a thing or two that will help keep the bike out of the shop the next time.

"A bike is a really simple mechanism, but I think people are scared of their bikes a little bit," Amend said. "They don't want to touch anything for fear that they're going to break it. Which is understandable, but just getting to know your bike better will make you more comfortable."

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