It doesn’t matter that the sun is shining and the birds are singing. Don’t take your bike out until you get it ready to roll. When you head out ready for the wind on your face, only to be forced to push your bike many miles back to your home or your car, it ruins your whole day.
So before taking your bike out the door, pay attention to some expert advice.
“If your bike has been sitting for a while, the first thing to do is check to see if the tire pressure is down. Tires will slowly leak over time, so you have to replace that lost air. If tire pressure is too low on a road bike, there’s more tire surface on the ground, so your efficiency goes down, and you have to work harder to pedal,” says Nicholas Clark, a bike tech at Sports Den, a shop just outside Salt Lake City, Utah..
Clark adds, “If you don’t have an accurate tire measuring device, you should take it into a shop to have the tires filled. Too much air is also bad, you can blow a tire up if you have too much pressure in it.”
Hint: never, ever attempt to fill up a bike tire with a gas station air pump. (Can you say Ka-Boom!)
Mountain bike tires are more forgiving when it comes to air pressure, but you still need to get the air supply right. Too much tire pressure on a mountain bike causes a loss of traction. Instead of making it all the way up a hill, you’ll skid, then have to hop off and push. Lower the air pressure in mountain bike tires gives a lot more traction, but if the pressure is too low, you run the risk of having the bead come off the rim.
The next most important thing is to check your chain. If you’ve had it on the bike for a few years, the chain may be worn out or stretched, and ready to snap. You won’t be able to check that without the proper tool. Clark’s advice: “If you don’t have any equipment or experience, the best thing is to take it to a shop and have the chain checked out, and get your bike tuned. Most shops will provide a basic tune for $25 to $35. For that, they will clean the chain, check to see if the gears need to be adjusted, and put the proper tire air pressure in. They can do it a lot faster and easier than you can, unless you’re a bike geek.”
“If you don’t take it to a shop, you should at least clean and lube your chain. Most of the spray stuff for bike chains will both clean and lube it at the same time,” he says.
Clark says one of the best things you can do is to take your bike out for a “feel” ride before any planned excursion. “Take a small ride around your neighborhood, shift all the gears to see that they are shifting well. Check that the brakes are okay. I would definitely not take a bike out after it’s been sitting in the basement or garage and just start riding hills or trails, because if something breaks down, you’re not going to be happy,” he advises.
When you finally take that first real ride, carry a supply of biking survival stuff: a patch kit, a spare inner tube, a pump, even a small repair set with allen wrenches and tire levers. You will need the tire levers to get the tire bead off the rim to replace or patch the tube, if necessary. Always bring a patch kit when going out for a ride. Important: check the glue in the patch kit to see that it hasn’t dried up. That’s one lesson you really don’t want to learn from experience.
Once you’re ready to roll, there’s one good thing to keep in mind; in fact, something that’s one of Clark’s most important pieces of advice. He says, “It is biking. Some trips are going to go bad because some parts will go bad. But don’t let that discourage you. Keep on riding.”

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