April 11, 2022 • Mountain Living
Bike Around Town: Spring is in the air and it’s time to break out the bike!
By Kate Barker with Jeremy White and Jen Tweddell of Community Cruisers
Canmore and Banff are biking towns. With dedicated bike lanes, multi-use trails, fix-it bike stations, and a bike trail connecting the two communities, there’s no reason to battle with tourist traffic! Biking can often be a quicker way to commute, and it’s a great way to take in the mountain air and sunshine. If your bike has sat all winter, it’s time to give it a check-up before hitting the trails. We talked with Community Cruiser’s Chair Jen Tweddell and volunteer mechanic Jeremy White about how to get your bike ready for the spring!
Check the Tires
“The first thing I do when I look at a bike is squeeze the tires,” says White, “Over winter, they lose pressure. You don’t necessarily have two flats, but there’s a good chance the air has seeped out through the tubes or through the tire casing.” Pump the tires up to see if they hold air, and then see if they’re comfortable for you. Tires come in different shapes and sizes, and they’re designed to react to different surfaces when you ride. The numbers written on the side of the tire indicate the max pressure, not necessarily the pressure you need. You’ll want to pump until they’re comfortable and they’re not bottoming out on the rims, but most of the time you want a certain level of squish when you ride.
It’s important to continue checking tire pressure throughout the season. For road bikes with tiny tires, White recommends checking the pressure every time you take it out. For a city bike or a mountain bike, he suggests checking your tires every week or two to make sure they aren’t losing air. It’s normal to have to top up the tires during the season.
Pump the Brakes
Once the tires are ready to go, it’s time to check the brakes. “Next, I grab the brake handles,” says White, “Can I squish them to the grips? That’s no good. I want to have a limit on how much I can pull the lever handles.” There’s nothing worse than trying to slow down or needing to stop and your brakes just aren’t there. If the brakes are pulling all the way to the handle, it’s time to check both the cables and the brake pads. Check the pads for thickness or metal showing through – this means it’s time to replace them! Some pads have wear indicators that let you know when they need to be changed. Otherwise, tighten the brake cable so you’re engaging the brakes before it’s too late. This should be comfortable for your grip, and you shouldn’t have to squeeze to the max.
If you’re adjusting your cables or pads, it can be helpful to turn the bike upside down and spin the tire to make sure they’re not rubbing. Peddling against your brakes is no fun, and it’ll just wear them down quickly. Check your cables for any rust, wear, or fraying as you adjust them, as this can lead to safety issues down the road.
Lubricate your Chain
One of the most important parts of maintaining your bike is to lubricate the chain. “If I can get my customers at the bike shop to just lubricate their chains, that would make me so happy!” says White, “Lubrication is a critical step. Without it, you have two metal surfaces sliding against each other. The metal on metal will wear down and ruin the chain.” This doesn’t need to be a complicated step. You don’t need to overdo it and lubricate the entire drive train, or soak everything until it’s dripping, but a light oil inside the links will improve performance and ensure it lasts. Use a bike chain oil, or substitutes like sewing machine oil or chainsaw oil. Don’t use something like vegetable oils from the kitchen, which are far too heavy, or WD-40, which is more of a solvent for cleaning than an oil. Any of the bike shops in Canmore or Banff will have bike oil, and it’s an affordable investment that will keep your bike on the road for years to come.
Wipe it Down
If your bike is filthy, give it a good cleaning before hitting the roads again this spring. A rubdown with a damp towel will do the trick. There’s no need to hose the bike or take it to the carwash. In fact, this type of excessive cleaning can push dirt and water into the bearings and cause damage. If the bike is really dirty, White recommends a brush to clean off the worst of the caked-on mud, and then the damp towel to finish cleaning the frame.
“Once you’ve inflated the tires, have brakes that work, and you’ve lubricated the drive train, you’ve pretty much covered what needs to be done to get your bike on the road,” says White. There are other tweaks that can be made, but for the most part, this is the basic maintenance that bikes need each season.
Find the Right Help
There are plenty of ways to get help if you’re looking to tune up your bike, but don’t totally want to DIY the process. Community Cruisers has workshops with drop-in hours in both Canmore and Banff where volunteer mechanics can walk you through the process and help you develop the feel. Drop-ins are required to pay a $10 membership that gives them access to the workshops, advice, community, and so much more. There are also many bike shops in both Canmore and Banff that offer tune up services for a reasonable fee, and you can rest assured that your bike is professionally checked and ready to hit the road!
Community Cruisers is a non-profit society founded in 2007 designed to get people of the Bow Valley comfortable choosing cycling as their preferred method of transportation. They promote biking as a means to improve health, sustainability, and equity in the Bow Valley. They host programs throughout the year, including information sessions, used bike sales, special event bike parking, Bike All Winter, and more. They have Hubs in both Canmore and Banff where members can access tools and equipment to work on their bikes and access skilled volunteers to help with their knowledge. To find out more about Community Cruisers and to become a member, visit them online at communitycruisers.ca or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.