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Keeping with the spirit of the changing seasons and the idea that “summer is around the corner,” the team at Portland Pedal Power would like to speak with you a little bit about bicycle performance maintenance.  Emerging from our rainy, damp, and dreary winter season can be rough on a bicycle.  Your bicycle may be feeling worn down and sluggish.  Maybe it’s a little squeaky in the breaks and even perhaps during the ride.  Well here are some easy tips on ways to get your bike ready for the good weather, and keep it running nice and smooth all summer long.

Bicycle Performance : Chain Maintenance

Chain maintenance is fairly simple.  As we come into spring and summer it’s time to check your chain for dirt, grease, grime, and rust.  For regular chain maintenance, an on-bike cleaning and lubrication will suffice.  For excess dirt and grime build-up and as a general rule of maintenance every few months or so, you will want to:

–  Take your chain off your bike, and properly soak your chain in a chain cleaning solvent until most of the dirt has been freed from the links and the bushings.

–  You will then want to dry the chain using a clean rag until the solvent has entirely evaporated.

–  Re-lubricate the chain, and put the chain back on your bike.

Regular on-bike bi-weekly chain maintenance is fairly straightforward.  If you don’t have a chain cleaner, simply:

–  Take a clean cloth and wipe the dirt off your chain.

–  After you have wiped away excess dirt, begin to pedal the wheel and apply lubricant generously to the chain by dripping it on.  Pedaling the bike while lubricating allows the lubricant to get inside the chain links.  (The type of lubricant you use is up to you.)

–   Wipe away any excess lubricant from your chain since lubricant also has a tendency to attract more dirt.

For proper lubricant, discuss is best for your riding conditions with your local bicycle specialist.  WD-40 (granted widely used) is not recommended for proper bicycle performance.  There are wet lubricants for wet environments (most highly recommended for Portland) and dry lubricants for dry environments (If only).

Bicycle Performance:  Brakes

Check your brake pads, brake cables, brake levers and bike rims.  These are the primary factors in your brake performance and will be a deterrent in squeaky brake syndrome.

–  First and foremost, check to make sure the tires and the rims are all clean and dirt free.

–  Check to see that the pads are clean and dirt free as well.

–   If you have scraping you may need to replace your brake pads or sand down the metal on your current pads.

–   Check to see if your brakes are “toeing-in” meaning that the front of the brake pad is slightly closer to the rim of the wheel than the back.

–  See that the brake cables are taught, clean, and lubricated.

Bicycle Performance : Check your tire pressure

If your tires are low, your speed will be to.  You will have to exert twice the amount of energy to go the same distance.  Bicycle tires will lose air naturally over time whether it is ridden or not, so it is good to check your tire pressure before every ride.

–  Be sure to know whether your tires are using a Presta or a Schrader valve.  A Schrader is your typical tire valves you’ll find on a car or a motorcycle.  Many road bikes actually use Presta valves, which are a smaller version of the valve and use a different style of pump.

– Check the tire pressure using a gauge pump (recommended) or a pressure checker.  The recommended tire pressure should be on the side of the tire.  If it is not on the side of your tire, then you can also look up your recommended tire pressure online.

– As you inflate your tires check for any cracks or wear and tear.  Should you find any, you may want to consider purchasing new tires before the ones currently on your bicycles explode mid ride (or they may just go flat).

Bicycle Performance : Clean your cables

For the cables running to your brakes and derailleurs:

–  Take off the outer cover of the cable and check the inner cable for any signs of rust.  If you find rust, you may want to replace your inner cable setting.

–  Run over the cable with a clean rag soaked in degreaser to clean off any built up dirt and grime.

–  Run over the cable using a new rag with grease on it in order to evenly apply grease to the cable and lube it up properly.

Also check your cable housing units and be sure they are adjusted to proper the proper tension.

Bicycle Performance : Wipe down your bike

After every ride give you bike a good wipe down using a clean cloth, a little bit of soap and water, and some degreaser.  Wipe down your frame, your forks, your seat, your crank, all of it.  Getting off excess dirt, grime, and water can prevent rusting and weathering and will prolong the life of your bicycle drastically.

If your bike is really dirty and muddy, consider including a scrub brush with a bucket of water and special soap, and using a toothbrush for those really small finite areas that need special detail.

For more in-depth bicycle maintenance tips, tricks, and repairs check out these sites:


– League of American Bicyclists


Membership Based:

Bicycle Tutor

We hope this was a good reminder to get you to take good care of your bicycles this season and properly prepare them for a beautiful summer!  For more friendly reminders, cool bicycle information, and great eats stay tuned to the Portland Pedal Power blog!