5 ways to get your bike tuned up for spring

When the spring weather hits and you pull your bike out of the basement, it may not feel as smooth as you remember. There are a few simple things that you can do to make it like new.

Pump up your tires and oil your chain, say bike mechanics

Don't start the season with a flat — less air means you'll have to pedal harder. (Jesara Sinclair/CBC)

When the spring weather hits and you pull your bike out of the basement, it may not feel as smooth as you remember.

There are a few simple things that you can do to make it like new.

1. Pump up your tires

The first thing to check is your tire pressure.

"Your tire can lose up to 50 per cent of its volume over the winter because of leakage and also just because of the fluctuation of air temperature," explained Brett Doyle, owner of Outer Limit Sports.

Brett Doyle changes a cable on a bike at Outer Limit Sports. Doyle says cables stretch out over time with use, and should be replaced when they're not working as well as they used to. (Jesara Sinclair/CBC)

A flat tire will be less efficient, making it harder for you to pedal.

Doyle says to check the recommended range of pressure, which will be stamped right on the tire.

2. Look for cracks

You'll also want to make sure your tires aren't cracked, said Ben Instone, bike department manager at Sporting Intentions.

"Sometimes if the tire's left deflated it can cause cracks where it's been left lying on the ground," he said.

3. Oil your chain

You'll also want to clean and oil your chain at the start of the season.

"When your bike sits, the oil on your chain can get gummed up," explained Patrick Cheverie, warranty manager at Sporting Intentions.

Patrick Cheverie of Sporting Intentions says the oil on your chain can get gummed up as your bike sits over the winter. (Jesara Sinclair/CBC)

"Checking your chain for wear, lubricating it, cleaning it — those are all things that are going to make the bike work much better and make it funner for you to ride on," agreed Doyle.

This is especially important if your bike has spent the winter outside.

"If it's been left outside, it's definitely going to need some oil. The rain and salt doesn't do it much good," said Instone.

3. Check your brakes and gears

You'll also want to make sure your brakes and gears are working properly.

"You'd want to usually check your brakes pretty frequently, because if you find out you don't have them and you're going down a big hill, you're going to have a bad time," said Cheverie.

Check your tires for cracks and make sure you have a well-oiled chain, says Ben Instone. (Jesara Sinclair/CBC)

Doyle explained that most shifting and braking is done by steel cables, which stretch out over time and with use.

"Every time we shift or we brake we're pulling on those cables," he said. "The main things that repetitively wear out — even if you're not using your bike a lot, they still sorta stretch out — are cables."

4. Tune up yourself

Most cyclists will know the sore feeling that comes after the first ride of the year.

"The biggest thing is to ease into it, I would say, not overdo it — remember that this is your first day or your first week out and you don't have to win the marathon on the first day, so taking it in baby steps," suggested Doyle.

He also recommends making sure your seat is set to the right height. 

"That makes it a lot more efficient to pedal that bike," he said.

Don't forget to take it easy when you start cycling for the season. (Jesara Sinclair/CBC)

5. Know when to call in a pro

While you can do basic tune-ups on your bike, if you don't feel comfortable or if things still aren't working quite right, you can take it in to the shop to get another opinion.

Most shops offer spring tune-up packages specifically to get bikes ready to ride at this time of the year.

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Jesara Sinclair


Jesara Sinclair is a journalist with CBC P.E.I. Prior to Charlottetown, she worked with CBC in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto. E-mail: