It looks like spring is here and we're seeing lots of folks out bikes, including families and children. If you want to get out on your bike this spring, here are a few tips for doing that.
A quick reminder that in the spring, some of our local mountain bike trails will be closed to spring riding in order avoid damage to the trails. Check with the Mountain Bike Club at https://waldenxc.ca or Kivi Park https://kivipark.com before you head out.
Prep your bike
You're going to want to prepare your bike before riding. While a spring tuneup at a local bike shop is the best bet for many people, there are a few things you can do that will get you out there quickly. Bear in mind that our local bike shops are very busy in the spring, so you may not get in right away for a tuneup.
- Wash your bike - give your bike a good wash with soapy water. Use some degreaser to clean off the chain, chainrings, jockey wheels on the rear derailleur and any gunk that has built up on the cassette. Then use a wet rag to wipe off the braking surfaces on your rims and any grit that’s accumulated on your frame, especially in the nooks and crannies around the brakes, cables and bottom bracket.
- Lubricate your chain - after you've degreased your chain, apply bike lube. Here's a good video on how to do that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zztm9Ei3E4I
- Check the chain for wear - there are lots of videos and how-tos on how to check your chain. A quick way to check is to shift gears so your chain is in the big ring and the smallest gear on the cassette. Pull the chain at the front of the chainring. If the chain starts to lift off the top and/or the bottom of where it sits on the chainring teeth, this means that the chain is starting to wear or is worn. See this article: https://cyclingtips.com/2019/08/bicycle-chain-wear-and-checking-for-it/ If you ride a lot with a worn chain, you’ll quickly start wearing out other drivetrain components, so avoid that.
- Check your brakes - make sure that your brakes are working properly. Pull down on the brake levers to make sure the pads are engaging properly on the braking surface of the rim and make sure the brake pads aren’t rubbing. Disk brakes are a little more complicated to check - you need to remove the wheel and pull the brake pad out of the calliper to be able to see how worn they are. In either case, if the brakes don't seem to be working properly, take action right away if you're good with fixing your own bike, or visit a bike shop.
- Check your shifting - make sure that all of your gears work properly. If you're handy, you can adjust them and if not, visit your friendly bike mechanic.
- Pump up your tires - pump your tires to the recommended PSI that's shown on the sidewall of the tire.
Tips for riding on the road in the spring
Take It Slow
Wet leaves and sand can be dangerous if you hit them at high speed. Take wider, slower turns, and brake before you get to slippery spots on the road. Consider riding a little farther away from the curb where there is high buildup of sand. In Ontario, you're legally allowed to move further into the car travel lane to avoid debris or sand on the side of the road. Just make sure you do a shoulder check to check for outcoming traffic, signal that you're moving out, check again, and then make your move.
Be especially careful when you see water on the road. It may hide a large pothole that could be dangerous.
Consider Changing Your Route
Until local sweeping and maintenance is done, some roads may be problematic for people on bikes. Trails may be muddy and have residual snow. You may want to look at options to your regular summer route. Remember that salt is used on our major roads, and that is extremely damaging to bicycle parts.
Keep Your Bike Clean
Salt accelerates rust on your bicycle, and while the City of Greater Sudbury uses sand on local roads, it has a small amount of salt in in too. All of our main arteries are salted. Clean your bike regularly and if you can, rinse it off every day.
Layer Up and Bring Clothing Options
This time of year it can go from frosty in the morning to sunny and warm in the afternoon to rainy in the evening. Your clothing should reflect these different conditions. It’s important to be comfortable no matter the weather. A big parka that you'd normally wear for a walk will make you overheat once you start pedaling. So, consider wearing multiple layers of light clothing. Wear a sweater or long sleeve shirt underneath your jacket and consider a sweat absorbing layer against your skin.
Have a waterproof jacket and pants handy for forecasted rain. Light gloves and earmuffs work well on warmer days. You can also buy cycling-specific liners and hats to wear underneath your helmet for the colder days.
When you're cycling, you're in constant wind, and some days, the wind may be really cold. Windchill will make you feel much colder than it actually is. Your waterproof jacket and pants are good for these days and your layers will help make you comfortable in all conditions.
When it’s dark out being seen is the most important thing you can do. Without lights you’ll appear as nothing more than a silhouette. You'll be invisible. Having proper lighting is important and it is the law. In Ontario, you’re required to have a white or amber light facing forwards and a red light or reflector facing backwards between half an hour before sunset and half an hour after sunrise.
In dim conditions, use your lights regardless of the time of day, especially if it's foggy, rainy, or overcast. Remember to keep them charged or have a spare set of batteries so they don't fail before you get home. And in dim conditions and an earlier dusk, you're less likely to see potholes, wet leaves, ice, and snow. Using lights will help with this.
Be Extra Aware
Just because you can see a driver doesn’t mean they can see you. Dashboards, phones and all other types of bright lights can distract people from seeing you. This is especially true when you’re being approached from the side. It’s tempting to just keep pedaling when you have the right of way, but a driver approaching on your side may not be able to see your front or rear light. Use extra caution at intersections and everywhere else you might encounter other people or traffic.