It only takes half an hour of your time to make your winter-battered bike look and feel like new again. Follow these steps to get your pride and joy freshened up and ready to munch up the miles.
Bye-bye winter (bike)
The weather has improved drastically in the last few weeks, most of us have had our first ride in shorts and some of us are back on our ‘best bike’ again. That usually means the ‘winter bike’ is placed back in the shed not to see the light of day until the autumn.
By then you’ve forgotten about all the things that were annoying you or needed sorted on it and it’s a grind to sort things out again before the wet cold rides kick in. So take some time now to service, tweak and replace things while the nuances are fresh in your mind and you’ll probably use the bike again before the autumn.
And if you only have one bike that you ride all year round (good on yer) then you can follow these steps to get your pride and joy freshened up and feeling a bit more like new again.
Strip down and clean
The best thing to do is to strip it all down if you can. But the least you can do is give it a very thorough clean and spend time checking components.
Look for the obvious such as tyres, wheels and drivetrain and then give the frame and forks a good inspection for any damage. Replace anything worn or looks on its last legs now and you’ll have a bike you can use more than you thought.
If your bike looks tired then new tyres and handlebar tape will transform it instantly – as long as you’ve cleaned it as well!
My poor old bike
My training bike has taken a bit of battering this winter, more in bad weather and low maintenance than high miles, but it hasn’t let me down once. So I’m treating it to a strip down and rebuild with new parts.
As it’s got mudguard and rack eyelets – and I’m getting to that age – I’m also going to do a weekend or two away on it with a few mates so thought I’d sort it all now in one go and have a bike I can use all year round.
Here’s what to look out for if you are stripping the bike down for a proper service.
New handlebar tape will transform the look and feel of your bike. So once new cables have been sorted (if needed) it’ll be new wrap on here.
Check the stem for cracks and check if the bolts are dry or rusty. A little light greasing on the bolts may be needed (DON’T use any grease if your stem is a fancy carbon one). And whilst the stem’s off inspect the top of the fork steerer at the same time for rust build-up or cracks.
Check for play in the hubs. If your hubs have cup and cone bearings, get your cone spanners out and sort them out. Re-grease if needed. If your hubs have cartridge bearings and there’s play in them then that’s a job for a bike shop. My rear hub is knackered so will be replaced with a shiny new Campagnolo wheel.
Brake blocks take a battering in the winter and can wear out quicker than you think. Keep them clean and check for any imbedded objects as these can destroy rims. Clean the callipers while you’re at it.
My chain is a disgrace I know, sorry. A few minutes with a cleaner though and this bad boy will hopefully be gold again. If not then it’s a new one.
Another shocker, sorry! Give it a scrub-a-dub. Check for wear and tear and missing teeth. If replacing a heavily worn chain then it’s usually a good idea to replace the cassette at the same time.
I’m a big fan of Crudguards as they give good protection, weigh nothing and are less cumbersome than fixed guards. On this bike they mean I can also fit a rack if needed as there’s only one set of eyelets at the rear hub. But now that winter is over it’s time to remove the guards and cross my fingers.
Not compulsory if your brakes and gears are still feeling okay. But you may wish to treat your bike to new cables both inner and outer. You won’t regret it. And if you are replacing your bar tape – which you most definitely should – then you have no excuse as the most cumbersome job will be done anyway!
I take the mechs off the bike and clean them thoroughly. They’re loads easier to clean properly once they’re off the bike.
The most basic thing you can do is check and replace tyres. These ones are well past their prime but they haven’t punctured once all winter (this now means my summer tyres will punctures many times in the first few rides since I’ve said this!)
Check for buckles and loose spokes. It’s also worth checking over for cracking or corroding nipples. Inspect the braking surface for any deep gouges or cracks. Take this opportunity to give them a hard scrubbing with a scouring pad or similar, which will really help improve braking feel (as well as looking better).
Check for play in the bottom bracket. Replace if necessary. If it’s not too much bother, remove the chainset and give it a good clean. Like mechs, chainsets are much easier to clean if they’re removed from the bike. You’ll be surprised how well it comes up. Check teeth for wear and any bent ones. Give the bottom bracket axle ends a bit of clean-off – tiny bits of dirt on the axle interface can make annoying clicky noises during pedalling.
Check pedals are straight and spinning freely. A lot of pedals are surprisingly easy to disassemble, clean out, re-grease and nip back up.
DON’T DO THIS IF YOU HAVE A CARBON POST OR A CARBON FRAME. Grease destroys carbon. Anyway, if dealing with metal stuff, remove the seatpost, mark the saddle height if possible, clean the old gunk off (also clean out a bit of the gunk in the frame seat tube too), lightly re-grease before inserting back into the frame.
You’ll either be left with a winter bike that you can safely put away into storage or you’ll have a totally refreshed and new-feeling bicycle that will see you through spring, summer and autumn.
Yes, this spring clean will actually probably take more than 30 minutes if you’re doing the whole thing and doing it diligently. It’ll be worth it though!