The Bike Whisperer Speaks

The Bike Whisperer Speaks

Everyone says it right now.  It’s that time of year.  Let’s be honest, it’s always that time of year.  For most cyclists it’s time to get excited about riding.  We start to get these stretches of warm weather and the pasty legs come out and we start thinking about where they’ll take us this year.  For us bike mechanics it means bike tune-up season. We see two kinds of bikes this time of year.  We see the bikes that have been hidden since last fall and no one knows what their condition is or was when it got stowed away.  We also see the bikes that have been pretty battered all winter long.  They all need work and I want to share some stuff to think about when you get your spring bike service.

First of all, I hope you trust and love the place you take your bike.  Your actual life depends on who works on your bike and you should simply never settle for a “good enough” bike tune.  Find some place, someone who you know is looking out for you and your riding experience.  Great products can be bought just about anywhere but amazing bike service and care may require a longer drive but it will be worth it.  So here’s some stuff to think about or ask about when you take it in.

  • Cleaning.  Just make sure they clean the whole bike.  Some “tunes” don’t involve a bike cleaning and unless your bike is already pristine, it needs cleaning.  Besides a good cleaning is how good mechanics take a closer look at your bike.
  • Chain wear.  Chains wear when you ride.  If you replace the chain at appropriate intervals it will save you more money in drive train parts.  No, you don’t need to replace the cassette every time you replace the chain.  If you replace the chain at the right time then it will save the cassette and chain rings.
  • Tires.  You see the tires are what contact the ground.  Pay attention to tread wear and your mechanic’s advice.  You are not supposed to wear them down to the cords; that’s when you’ve already been riding a dangerous tire.  Tires are not an area to ask “what can I get away with?”
  • Brake pads and cables.  You need to stop reliably and safely.  Don’t risk it on brake pads.  Also did you know that brake cables fray apart and break at the lever?  They do, so if your cables are old, take the advice of replacing them.  These are not the things to replace only when they break.
  • Contact points.  This is where you, the rider, contact the bike.  If your saddle is old and sunken, then it’s not as comfortable as it could be.  Your pedals should be easy to get in to and easy to get out of.  Your cleats should not be worn out.  If your mechanic asks about bar tape it’s because he wants you to be comfortable.  Fresh tape is softer and isn’t full of your old sweat.  Old bar tape is like grabbing your bar with a pair of dirty socks.
  • Bearings.  Oh bearings.  The last thing you usually think about and something lots of shops avoid. Clean, smooth, and lubricated bearings will make your bike ride smoother and sometimes faster.  The thing about bearings is they need to be taken apart to be inspected so yes, it’ll cost a little more in labor but they’re the things that keep you “rollin’ along” so once a year get them looked at.
  • If you love your mechanic, chances are they take pride in their work.  Please don’t ask them for substandard work because it was a little more than you thought you wanted to pay. Pay them appropriately to do amazing work and you will reap the rewards in miles of smiles (yeah, I used miles of smiles).

Bottom line, protect your investment, spend appropriately to ensure you’ll always be comfortable and your bike rolling great so you can have fun.

Jason Gardner is owner and lead whisperer at Jinji Cycles.  Check in with Jason and the boys at their shop in the Lower Highlands of Denver. TE members get 10-15% off parts and labor and special bike deals throughout the year. Advice and a smile are always free. 

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