This article was originally published in November 2010.
There is nothing worse than getting a random beautiful day at the end of the winter that feels like spring, but your bike is in too rough of shape to ride. At that moment you realize you should have taken some time to show it some TLC. Instead, you end up kicking yourself as you clean your bike while all your buddies go out for a spin.
Keep in mind that the winter is the slow season at a bike shop. If your bike needs an overhaul, now is the perfect time to bring it in. If you’re riding full suspension and your shock or fork needs work, most shops will have to send them back to the manufacturer for cleaning and to install new seals in order to maintain your warranty. During the spring, that wait can be upwards of a couple months, but in the winter, your bike should be ready in a few weeks.
If you prefer to do the maintenance yourself, now is a good time to pull the bike apart for a solid scrub down. Pull off your chain and cassette and give them a good soak. Remember, replace your chain on a regular basis to extend the life of your cassette. Check your brake pads for wear because running them down to the nubs could damage your rims or your rotors. Pull off your cranks and bottom bracket and give them a thorough inspection. If you’re noticing wear, now is a good time to reorder the part you really want, not the one you settle for because it’s in stock. Pull out all of your cables and housing. Check for any corrosion on the cables. If you see any, replace them now before they start to get sticky. When you reinstall, make sure everything is dry. Even a bit of moisture could cause rust to form within the housing, making the entire bike feel gummed up. Put a drop of lube on the cable right where it enters the housing. As you engage the brakes and gears, the lube will work its way through the housing and coat the cables for a bit of added protection against moisture.
Finally, give the whole bike a nice wipe down and polish. It’s a good opportunity to check for cracks in the frame. If you find any, winter is the best time to shop for a bike since the stores are fairly quiet and the new inventory is coming in for the spring season. If not, now your bike is beautiful and shiny and ready for you to sit and look at on those cold winter days. Plus, now it’s waiting for a clear day that’s perfect for a ride. Just check your air pressure and go.