|Taking Care of Your Two-Wheeled Friend|
Your bicycle – it is a marvellous machine which multiplies your land speed by a factor of three to ten. Fun, healthy and useful, you can use it for transporting yourself and your cargo, for a scenic pleasure ride, for training and racing, for riding down the side of a mountain...the list has no end. No matter how you ride, here are a few simple universal tips to help you get the most out of your bicycle.
1. Tires. Before you ride your bicycle, ask yourself when you last inflated your tires. Rubber is porous and allows air to escape slowly, even if your tubes are not punctured. By inflating your tires every week or two to the maximum pressure printed on the sidewalls, your tires will hold their shape better, causing lower rolling resistance and making them less likely to puncture. A large hand pump with a pressure gauge comes in very handy at home.
2. Oil. When you think air, think oil. A bicycle's chain is usually the first part to wear out, and it needs to be lubricated regularly to keep it from wearing out prematurely. Oil is available for five dollars a litre at the gas station: for most bikes, automatic transmission fluid will do fine. Plenty of shops use it. Put the oil in a plastic squeeze bottle like one for mustard, crouch beside your bike and let it lean against you. Let the oil fall in one place on the chain, then turn the pedals backwards half a dozen times so that the chain spins all the way around under a trickle of oil. When accustomed to this process, it should take about ten seconds.
3. Gears. Your bicycle probably has more gears than you need, but it is important that you use them. Bicycles and cars are similar in this way: they both work better if you start in first gear. Your right shifter controls the gears at the back – as you come to a stop, shift into the easiest gear. As you accelerate, shift up to the harder gears. You will accelerate faster, and your chain will not be put under as much stress and thus last longer.
4. Storage. Bicycles have the same tolerances to the elements as the human body. If your bicycle is subjected to the hot summer sun and the cold winter wind, the rubber dries out prematurely and the tires will crack. If your bicycle is outside whenever it rains, the lubricants will wash off the chain and out of the wheels, also contributing to premature wear. Winter is the worst, rusting your chain solid and causing parts to corrode and get stuck on your frame. The best place to keep your bicycle from spring to fall is in your garage or even inside your house or apartment. There, it will never get wet, too hot, too cold, or stolen. In the winter, it needs to be inside somewhere heated and not humid, probably your basement or garage.
Show your bicycle some love and it will love you back. It will need repairs now and then, but you will not be spending any money unnecessarily. So just remember: keep your tires inflated, your chain oiled, start in the easy gears, and store your bicycle in a safe place. Have a safe ride!