It's an annual spring rite — move the boxes and shovels out of the way, pull the bike out of the pile, and take it for a ride. Whether your bike spent the winter in a heated garage or at the back of a dusty bike cage, you should give it a bit of attention before you head out on the road.
The League of American Bicyclists recommends an "ABC Quick" check at the beginning of every ride, but it's especially important at the beginning of the season:
- A - check the Air in the tires;
- B - check the Brakes to make sure that they're working;
- C - check the Cranks, Chain and Cassette;
- Quick - make sure your bike's quick release is tightened if it has one.
While there are plenty of shops in the area that can do this for you, it's worth noting that this kind of work is within anyone's reach and requires only the simplest of tools. Between a bucket of water, some degreaser, a bit of chain lube and your favorite multi-tool, you can handle the vast majority of maintenance on your own bike.
To learn more about how to do your own maintenance, you might want to head to Arlington's library to pick up one of the many books on bicycle maintenance they've got (my favorites are the Lennard Zinn books). The more visual learners among us might be amazed at the treasure trove of instructional videos you can find on YouTube.
Those who prefer a more personalized approach to learning about bike maintance should consider the classes offered through Arlington Adult Education.
Of course, many Arlington residents find the above to be more work than they really want to do themselves and take their bikes in for service. In a local bike shop like Clarendon’s , you can spend anywhere from $30 for a quick adjustment of your derailleurs to more than $200 for a comprehensive overhaul of your bike.
The shops in the area get inundated with tune-up jobs every spring, resulting in long waits for the work to get done. This can be avoided by scheduling the tune-up now. Most shops, including Revolution Cycles, will give you a free estimate on the spot.
Whether you get your bike in shape with a bit of your own elbow grease or a few of your dollars, there's just no reason not to enjoy the pleasure of riding a well-kept bike this spring.
Speaking of doing it yourself — Bike Arlington's new "Two Wheel Tuesdays" program kicked off in Westover this week. I'll be writing more about it in the future, but wanted to let readers know that this effort to make cycling more accessible to the public is up and running. More information about it here.
Mark Blacknell is chair of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, president of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and a League Cycling Instructor.