by Nick Di Cristofaro
The long range weather forecast is looking good. You’re itching to get back to riding outdoors. Avoid the temptation to just hop on your ride without thinking of the state in which your bike was left before the winter hibernation began. Below are three common springtime maintenance scenarios and tips for tackling them.
Scenario 1: Your bike was on the indoor trainer all winter
This is probably the most common scenario for most riders unless you have the luxury of owning multiple bikes or have a dedicated trainer machine. Most cyclists commonly overlook and underestimate the wear that occurs on the drivetrain after a winter of Zwifting. You’d be surprised how much wear happens indoors as your workouts feature constant pedalling. I always recommend a thorough cleaning, tune-up and inspection. Replace your rear trainer tire with your road one.
Sweat can be very corrosive and destroy metal parts over time. I have actually seen aluminum handlebars completely disintegrated under bar tape from excessive sweating during an indoor riding season. Give the bike a good wipe down and/or wash and inspect everything. Remove the bar tape and inspect the bars and shifters. Clean any white salt residue and start your outdoor season with fresh tape.
Inspect brakes and cables and make sure they operate smoothly. Replace cables and housing if they are sticky. Brake cables will sometimes seize up from not being used and from moisture working its way in over the winter. If you have hydraulic brakes, inspect the operation and bleed/flush if the lever feel is spongy. Inspect your chain and replace it if it’s worn.
Give the handlebars a wiggle and inspect the steering. It is a good idea to disassemble the headset, inspect, clean and grease. Sweat usually finds its way into this area of the bike first and can ruin bearings. The steering usually doesn’t move all winter, which doesn’t help either.
Scenario 2: Your bike was left dirty in the garage
Poor bike. Shame on you! Please clean your bike before putting it away. If you are guilty of this practice, possible damage might have already been done, such as stains to paint and metal surfaces. Obviously, dirt that is left to harden and freeze on the surfaces of your bike over time is not a good thing. I strongly recommend not trying to rub large clumps of dry dirt off the surfaces of a glossy paint finish.
Use a hose and running water first to loosen up the dirt before scrubbing. Use a soft sponge and/or microfibre cloth and dish soap or bicycle-specific cleaning products. Once the bike is clean, start a thorough inspection and tune-up. Replace any worn parts from the previous season. Make sure braking surfaces are decontaminated from the left-on crud to ensure safe and reliable stopping. Use alcohol and a clean rag on rotor surfaces. I suggest enlisting the services of a qualified shop/technician to perform a spring tune-up.
Scenario 3: Your bike was hung up in a fairly clean, well-kept state
Good job. Your bike was mostly happy when you put it to sleep for the winter. I still recommend you give it that spring tune-up and replace any worn parts from the previous season. If your bike was hung upside down or even vertical, and is equipped with hydraulic brakes, make sure to check operation. Sometimes, you will need to bleed/flush the system to restore function after a winter. Check the tires for cracking on the sidewalls. which is sometimes referred to as “dry rot” and can occur when tires are left to deflate. This rot seems more common on bikes stored in unheated garages or sheds.
Whatever condition you bike is in, don’t wait until the first rideable day to start tuning it up. Do your maintenance early so you can hit the road as soon as you’re ready.