Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How to keep your ride rolling down the road

BWL Column
The News-Press, 6/22/2017
by Ken Gooderham

People who like bikes like to ride. Makes sense.

Well, if you like to ride, you ought to like preparing your bike for that ride. That makes your ride smooth and increases the chances you’ll make it home in one piece and on both wheels.

Maintaining your bike is pretty simple, with one big qualifier: Be realistic about your mechanical skills going in. If your skills are basic, keep your maintenance efforts equally rudimentary. If your skills (and tool kit) are more extensive, you can consider tackling some of the more complicated maintenance items (which we’re not covering here… go online and you’ll find way more information than you’ll ever need).

So, the basics:

Before every ride:
  • Check your tire pressure. If you don’t know it, check the sidewall… but low pressure is the quickest path to a flat tire. Invest in a pump with a gauge built in and you’ll never regret it.
  • Check your tires for debris (to avoid a flat) and tread (to be able to stop and go as necessary).
  • Check your brakes… squeeze the levers and make sure the pads are engaging. If not, make the necessary adjustments (if you know how) or get to your bike shop (if you don’t).
  • Lube your bike chain… OK, not every time, but every other? Invest in chain-specific lubricant (not WD-40) geared to how or where you ride.
  • Check your gear and your toolkit… make sure both are in working order. If you don’t carry tools, carry a cell phone to call for help should a breakdown occur.

After every ride:
  • If you got wet, dry off your bike and components, and lubricate any moving parts (chain, brakes, gears, derailleur, etc.) with the appropriate lubricant.
  • If you had any problems, fix them (or get them fixed for you) NOW. There’s nothing more frustrating than heading out on your next bike ride only to discover that wobbly seat or squeaky pedal did not heal itself.
  • If you used anything from your tool kit, replace it… for the reason just mentioned above.

Regularly (interval based on your mileage)
  • Clean and lube your chain and gears, and look for degreasers and tools that are bike-specific and make it an easier chore.
  • Lube your brakes and check the pads for wear.
  • Clean your frame and check for cracks
  • Check your tires more thoroughly, and replace them if worn or brittle. If you’ve been having more than your share of flats, this is also a good time to upgrade your tubes and tires to more impervious materials that can stand up to the debris found on our roadways. There are number of choices and, if you’re willing to take on a little weight on your bike (not an issue for most of us) they can keep you rolling for a long time.
  • Unless you’re a serious wrencher, take your ride into the bike shop for a thorough review by one of their mechanics. That’s also a good excuse to wander through the store and see what’s new in gear and gadgets.

If you don’t know how already, the one skill you may want to develop is learning how to change a flat – particular if you don’t have the Kevlar-backed tires and thorn-proof tubes mentioned above. Most local bike shops are happy to show you how, and may even offer regular clinics on the skill. Learning how to change a flat and having the right tools on hand to undertake that mid-ride can save many a bicycling day… and it’s easier than you think.

Lighting the way

While you’re roaming the aisles at your local bike shop, check on the bike light options. If you don’t have some, consider making a purchase… and if you already have some, perhaps get some upgrades.

We’re seeing more bicyclists sporting lights night AND day, even front AND back. Typically, it’s a solid white light in front, blinking reds in the back… and while it’s not required (except at night), it can be a good way to be a little more visible to other riders and motor vehicles. That’s especially important if you ride in traffic or in the early morning/evening when visibility is at a premium.

The cost for bike lights is reasonable, and the safety they offer can be invaluable. Worth a look.

Ready to ride or run?

Run? Start planning your July 4th run, with three 5Ks to choose from: the Freedom 5K, Cape Coral Parkway/Bridge (; the USA Independence Day 5K, Germain Arena, Estero (; and Moe’s Firecracker 5K, Fleischmann Park, Naples (

Ride? Critical Mass rides ahead? The Saturday Slow Roll is June 24 at 9 a.m.; the Cape Coral night ride is Friday, June 30, at 7:30 p.m.; the downtown night ride is Friday, July 7, at 7:30 p.m.; and the Sanibel night ride is Saturday, July 8, at 7:30 p.m. For night rides, lights are required; helmets recommend for all riders, and required for those age 16 or under. Details at

Both? The American Sprint triathlon/duathlon comes to Naples July 2 (, followed by the Englewood YMCA Sprint Tri in Englewood July 8 ( Also, registration is open for the Galloway Captiva Tri Sept. 9-10… spaces are limited and the kid’s races usually fill up first, so don’t miss out.
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Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, 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

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