Thursday, October 15, 2015

BWL Column: Follow these simple steps before you get back on your bike

 BikeWalkLee Column in News-Press "Go Coastal" section, Oct. 15, 2015.
The weather outside is getting a little cooler, which may inspire some of you to get back on your bikes. Or, perhaps, you’re one of our winter residents, recently returned from more northern climes and ready to climb back in the saddle once more.

Either way, if your bike has been taking it easy this summer, there are a few things you need to do before you hit the trail. (If you’ve been taking it easy as well, there are some things YOU should do as well… but we’ll leave that between you and your medical or fitness professional.)

First and foremost, check your tires. At the least, pump them back up to their recommended pressure. Not only will they roll easier, but soft tires are one of the quickest ways to a flat tire. Consider investing in a new floor pump with a built-in pressure gauge — easy to ensure you’re getting it right. While you’re pumping, check those tires out for worn tread or cracks — and, if you find any, spring for some new tires and tubes. Unless tire weight is an issue, consider going that extra mile and putting on some Kevlar-infused tires and thorn-proof tubes. And unless you really like changing flats, the sturdy insurance offered by these more substantial options is money well spent.

Second, check out all the things that make your bike go, including the chain and gears. You can check to see whether your chain is too loose or worn, which is not only bad for the chain but can tear up your cogs and derailleur (expensive). And if the chain looks dirty (or even if it doesn’t), give it a good cleaning (you’ll find an array of cleaners) and regular lubrication (meaning a certain interval of miles or every few rides).

Third, work on the things that make your bike stop, such as brake pads and cables. Look for wear, bad adjustment, or damage to your wheel rims — and replace sooner rather than later. You may want to go faster on your bike, but you definitely will want to stop quicker whatever the circumstances.
Finally, give everything else the once-over. Look at the frame for scratches and damage, tighten bolts and connections. See if it’s time for a new seat or pedals, etc. Then, job done, reward yourself with a nice ride.

If you don’t have the time or mechanical inclination to tackle some or all of this yourself, head over to your local bike store and have one of their pros do it for you. Just remember: A lot of other people are getting ready to get back to riding as well, so it may take longer to get your bike up to speed if there’s already a line at the work station.

Don’t have a regular bike shop? Find one, if you intend to be a regular rider even if you have the skills and the tools to do most things yourself. They have the parts you need, and possibly the expertise if you get in over your head. Plus it’s a great way to connect with other cyclists — as are bicycle clubs, for the more fervent. Don’t worry if you didn’t buy your current bike from that store, they still want your business. Besides, maybe you’ll get to know them well and buy your NEXT bike from them.

BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at

Ready to ride or run?
Run: October race season is in full stride, with a 10K on Sanibel (for FISH) and a 10-miler in Naples at the North Collier Park. Not enough? Try a 15K the following weekend at Race the Roof out east. Details online at or
Ride: Head north to Tour de North Port, with 15-, 35- and 65-mile rides to choose from on Sunday, Oct. 25 ( And don’t forget the monthly SW Florida Critical Mass ride on Friday, Nov. 6.
Both: Your choices are all out of town, either an international or sprint tri (or duathlon with run/bike/run) this Sunday on Longboat Key or at Challenge Venice on Sunday, Nov. 8, offering an Olympic tri and half Ironman (with a kid’s tri the day before). Online at or

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