You’re ready to ride. Is your bike?

So you may not have done the most thorough job servicing your beloved bicycle at the end of last season. OK, maybe you didn’t do anything.

Jim Wood knows the deal: “You get a good ride in. You’re beat. You throw your bike in the shed or garage and forget about it.”

Any memory of the squeaks, grinds or shifting problems you were having melts away like late spring snowflakes on blacktop. Wood, a mountain biker who works at Earl’s Cyclery & Fitness in South Burlington and other experts agree—spring is the time to make it up to your bike.

Tuning your bike before you get on the road or trail is important. A tune pays ensures your safety and prevents costly repairs. Riding a properly maintained bike is more fun too.

If you aren’t sure what a properly adjusted brake looks like, you could be in trouble when the rider in front of you suddenly stops. Proper maintenance can also save you money in the long run. Neglecting a worn chain may mean you wind up replacing a whole lot more than just the chain, says David Porter, owner of Winooski Bicycle Shop in Winooski.

“Especially now with up to 10 and 11 speeds on bikes, people have a really hard time with how fast their chains wear out. I have a fair amount of customers who don’t get more than 2,000 to 2,500 miles out of a chain,” Porter says. “If you take a chain past the red zone of its limits, it starts to wear out the cogs in the back and the chain rings.”

DIY tuning is possible with the right tools, a bike stand and a place to work. If you don’t have your own shop, it might be best to leave it to the mechanics who do this for a living. Matt Lyon, assistant service manager at Earl’s says if your bike hasn’t been tuned in a while, even if you think it’s running smoothly, a tune is a good investment.

“People are amazed at what they’ve been lacking in terms of performance once they get it tuned,” Lyon said. How much work a bike needs is a function of how many miles it’s ridden and when it was last maintained.

A basic tune should include:

  • frame cleaned
  • drive train cleaned and lubed
  • all the major parts of the bike checked for wear including the brakes, tires, hubs, headset and bottom bracket
  • wheels checked to see that they are true—that is without wobbles
  • gears adjusted
  • tires inflated

Here are some tips for keeping your bike in good shape throughout the season.

  • Clean your bike often. Cleaning can be the best preventative maintenance because you may see problems, like a frayed shifting cable, before they become breakdowns, says Porter.
  • Use bike specific lubricants. Don’t use motor oil, chain saw oil or WD-40 to lube your chain. If you do, “you won’t be pedaling for long. You won’t be shifting for long either,” says Lyon who has seen all of the above on chains.
  • Don’t over-lube your chain. “I see more over lubrication of chains than under lubrication. People think lubricant is holy water,” Porter says. “If you lubricate your chain every time you ride it’s just a mess. You get all that lubricant and all the dust it attracts all over your components.”
  • Keep your tires properly aired up. “Ninety percent of the flat tires I see are due to under inflation,” Porter says. Invest in a floor pump.

Taking care of your bike is worth it. Starting the season off with a tune up is a great way to get rolling.