The perfect start to the bike season

Road cyclist on road

The perfect start to the bike season

At the latest when temperatures rise in spring, many dust off their bikes and jump back onto the saddle. A road-worthiness check is worthwhile to make sure the start to the biking season is an all-round success: is the tire pressure correct, the chain oiled, are the lights and brakes working?
Whether mountain bike, racing bike or e-bike, they all need a minimum of maintenance. In general, the following is true: good maintenance reduces wear and saves you money. Before your first ride, two checks are absolutely mandatory for your bike: tires and brakes.

This is how to get your bike fit for spring

  • Good tires guarantee a safe ride. The profile depth should be clearly visible. If not, you should buy new tires. What about the air pressure? The recommended air pressure depends on the type of bike. The minimum and maximum are usually noted on the tire. In general, the less air, the more grip the tire has, for example, on unsurfaced paths, and the greater the comfort. The reverse is also true: more air lowers the rolling resistance and risk of flat tires.
  • Squeaking sounds indicate that there is something wrong with the brakes. Check whether the brake blocks still have enough material. Checking disk brakes is best done with a flashlight by shining between the disk and brake lining. The easiest way to test their functionality is to pick up the bike, spin the wheel vigorously and apply the brake hard. The wheel should come to a rapid, quiet standstill. Caution during maintenance: No oil at all may end up on the brake disks, since this impairs braking, which is dangerous.

The following checks and precautions go beyond the absolute minimum:

  • Lighting: Are the plugs on the dynamo and lamp tight? If not, the light will not work, making riding dangerous. 
  • Screws: Are all the screws on the handle bars, seat, crank and pedals fastened tightly? Especially important: Anyone who has attached baskets to their bike should also check the screws on the mudguards and underneath the basket.       
  • Chain: The following applies in general to the centerpiece of the bike: a bright, metallically shiny chain is a good one. Before the first spring excursion, it should definitely be cleaned and oiled. The best way to clean it is with a rag and some chain cleaner. Brown spots or rust on the chain call for a visit to the workshop.
  • Cleaning: Bicycle cleaning agents or diluted dish-washing liquid are especially suitable. However, you should take care with water. Neither high-pressure cleaners nor the garden hose are suitable for bike cleaning. There are places you should never clean with water, such as the brakes, chain or the crank shaft.

Get on and ride away: Fit in the saddle

Your first bike tour after a winter break can be very tiring. Daniel Schefer, founder of the Swiss Bike School, knows what counts: start training cautiously and don't overdo it. Careful planning is key: Get started with easy day trips and constantly increase the distance to build up your basic fitness. A 20 km bike excursion twice a week is ideal. Wearing warm clothes and gloves is advisable in spring to avoid joint problems! You should always have some rain gear with you to be ideally equipped for every weather. Don't forget to stretch your core and back before and after riding. Once you've got your basic fitness, you can polish up your riding technique, for example, with balance and skill training. A bike technique or riding safety course at the Swiss Bike School makes sense for more safety and fun.

Regular maintenance pays off

The tires and chain require regular maintenance. Re-pumping the tires is advisable at least once a month. So-called "flat-less" tires are suitable for everyone who rides a lot. Thanks to a special tire lining, sharp objects cannot damage the tire tube – very practical! The chain should be thoroughly cleaned with a chain brush and moderately oiled. The more strain put on it, the more it stretches. If it is not replaced in good time, it can damage the rear sprocket – which is a lot more expensive than a new chain. Consequently, ambitious riders should check it regularly.

The top tips

Daniel Schefer
Daniel Schefer, founder of the Swiss Bike School, www.bikeschool.ch
"I recommend having the bike checked by a specialist dealer at least once a year for technical defects. The service costs are moderate. Intact brakes, an oiled chain and functioning light are well worth the effort, since safety comes first. This way you can set off on your first spring ride with an easy mind – whether on your mountain bike, racing bike or e-bike. And don't forget: you should also check your helmet from time to time – the specialist dealer can help here too."

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