- Don’t wait for the really warm weather to pull your bike out of the basement/garage/deck. If you ready your ride now, you can hit the road when the next beautiful day arrives.
2. DIY tune-up, or a visit to your friendly local bike shop?
- If you’re comfortable getting your hands dirty, and want to get to know how it all works, anyone can learn to maintain a bike. A quick google search will provide all the instruction you need – this is a good resource http://bicycletutor.com/
- My ride has internal everything, so I’m more inclined to visit my trusty bike mechanic as issues arise throughout the year. Good way to catch up on bike news too!
3. Time for Spring cleaning & lubing!
- If you’ve been riding through the winter, Spring is a great time to give your bike a good wash. Road salt and grit are terrible for your chain and moving parts, so treat your ride to a bubble bath and a little scrub.
- A local DIY car wash is the perfect place for this – bring coins, a rag or two, and tools for getting into the nooks and crannies. More info here http://www.bikeradar.com/gear/article/workshop-how-to-clean-and-lube-your-bike-18259/
- Show your chain a little love after the wash – apply some lube to the moving parts.
4. Two priorities – brakes and lights!
- Being able to slow and stop your bike is super important to your safety. Brakes must work in wet and dry conditions, so be sure to replace brake pads and tighten up cables as needed.
- Being visible is not only a great way to avoid collisions (yes please!) with other bikes/cars, it’s also a legal requirement for all riders. Lots of excellent and inexpensive bike light options out there these days, some are even rechargeable via usb!
5. Bike Fit matters: Have you checked your seat & handlebar height?
- You can save yourself pain and discomfort by making sure your seat is at the optimal height for your body. Test this by sitting on your bike, and extending one leg to the bottom of the peddle stroke with a flat foot. You should only have a slight bend in your knee in this position – adjust your seat height accordingly.
- By raising and adjusting your handlebars, you can ride in a slightly more upright position. You may find this more comfortable. Doing this made a big difference in how much I now enjoy my road bike.
6. Got Carrying Capacity on your ride?
- Plastic bags on your handlebars are unsafe, and sweaty backpacks can be kind of gross. Both can be avoided by adding a back rack to your trusty steed.
- Inexpensive and sturdy racks can be added to most bikes – this is the skeleton onto which baskets, and pannier bags can be attached.
- A front basket is also a fantastic place to put your purse, or that tasty little baguette you just picked up on your way home
7. Is your helmet still roadworthy?
- If you usually wear a helmet, when was the last time you replaced yours?
- Helmets become less effective over time when they’ve been dropped and bashed around – take a look at yours and consider if this might be the year to splash out on a new one in your favorite colour.
- If you’re not sure whether it needs replacing, ask someone at your local bike shop to take a look.
8. Want to de-stress & enjoy a safer ride?
- Brushing up on your road skills is a great way to gain confidence and increase your safety when riding on busy city streets.
- Consider the following an essential list of bike behaviour that you should try to make a habit of. There are many other things to consider, but this is a great place to start.
- Stopping at or behind the white line at red lights
- Riding predictably and holding your line of travel
- Shoulder checking, and signalling turns and shifts in lane position
- Making eye contact and being communicative with other road users
- Giving right of way to pedestrians and other vehicles as appropriate at intersections/stop signs/lights
- Riding a meter away from the curb and parked cars
- Taking the full lane as needed
- Using side streets if busy main streets can be avoided (map it out at http://www.ridethecity.com/toronto)
- Crossing streetcar tracks on an angle, and slowing down to do so in wet conditions
- Saying ‘on your left’, or dinging your bell before you pass another cyclist, or pedestrians on shared paths
- Using lights after dusk and before dawn
- Doing these things helps everyone around you ‘read’ you better in traffic – this is a very useful thing, and will help to keep you safe.
- Remember, it’s not a race – everyone is trying to get somewhere important, just like you
9. Gears are your knees’ best friends – find happiness in shifting.
- Shifting gears on your bike is as important to your knees, body, happiness, comfort on a bike, and ability to ride efficiently, as shifting gears is to the transmission/functionality of a car.
- Get to know your gears and how to use them effectively – this is a good resource http://www.wikihow.com/Change-Gears-on-Bicycle-With-10-or-more-Gears
10. Love your ride? Lock it right or risk losing it!
- Take a good look at your current lock. Is it up to the task of keeping your bike safe?
- Consider investing in a second lock that is different from your current one. For example, if you have a u-lock, consider buying a chain and using both. Do you know the best way to lock you bike?
- Check out this post for more info about securing your bike.
11. Rain is not the enemy!
- Rain happens, especially in Spring, but it need not be a barrier to you using your bike to get around.
- Mudguards/fenders on your wheels will keep most of the road splash off.
- A pair of rain pants and a rain coat are all you need to stay dry and happy. I tend to just leave these at the ready in my pannier during spring/early summer, and then bring them as needed based on the daily forecast the rest of the year.
- A pair of glasses, or light coloured sun-glasses can keep rain out of your eyes and help you see where you’re going.
12. Bikey things that are worth the investment!
- A good bike pump will regularly come in handy. Keeping your tire pressure at an optimal level will keep you rolling with ease.
- Waterproof panniers are the best purchase I’ve made. There is tremendous peace of mind that comes from knowing your laptop, backpack, paperwork, phone, purse, etc… are not getting damaged while riding home in that unexpected downpour.
- Having a tire patch kit & tools can be a life-saver, and can be stashed in your pannier, or in a little pouch under your seat.
- A good lock!
13. Bonus: Learn to fix a flat
- Or, you can find out where all the bike shops are in the parts of town you spend the most time in and pay one of them a visit if you’d rather someone else do the dirty work.
If you’re just getting back on your bike, welcome back!
If you’re a winter warrior like me, we made it, and the worst is over!!