Inspect, Inflate And Go!

Ok, it’s now approaching the end of April, in fact, it’s the last full week, and the weather is just now beginning to corporate in as such I can begin thinking of getting my bike out and hitting the roads and trails around where I live. Here in the northeast, we have been seeing more white than green and the temperatures have been hovering closer to 30 than 50 degrees.

Sure, we’ve had a couple of teasers as far as warm weather goes, but those days, were far and few and when they did make an appearance, well like most of us, we tried to make use of that time to try and get our yards cleaned up from what Mother Nature deposited on our lawns throughout the long, cold winter.

But, I think that is all behind us and even if the temperatures do drop down to a chilly state, we can handle it, especially if we know in advance and dress a little warmer, than we would normally like. That being said, there are a few needed steps you need to go through in order to make sure your bike is ready to take you where and as far as you want to go.

1. Dig Out Your Bike! Get your bike out of the garage, down from the loft storage or any place that its been stored since your last excursion. Hopefully where you’ve had it stored up off of its tires this past winter to a place where you have room to check it out.

2. Give those pedals and tires a couple of turns: Make sure everything glides properly, without any rubbing or snagging. Make sure the chain moves smoothly, without any skips or stiff spots, and listen for any clicking, popping, or grinding noises, which can indicate drivetrain issues, and make sure you check your bike’s gears by shifting through all the possible gear combinations. It’s a little too late if you run into trouble out on a secluded road or path and your bike fails to shift gears properly!

3. Pump up your tires to your preferred tire pressure; 24 hours later, check the pressure again. If a tube goes flat immediately, it needs to be replaced. If it loses more than 75 percent of its air overnight, it’s probably time to replace the tubes.
If you have tubeless tires, make sure that the sealant inside is still liquid. If not, clean them out and fill them up again.

4. Tighten Things Up! Check all of the nuts and bolts to make sure they haven’t loosened. You’ll want to use a torque wrench to make sure you’re tightening them to the correct spec. While you’re doing that, watch out for bolts that have seized. Nothing can be more frustrating than snapping a bolt or nut, just because you think tighter is better. It's not, this is why you need to periodically go over your fasteners to make sure none are becoming too loose.
Keep in mind, all of the above you should be able to take care of all by yourself. If you find one of these problems and you’re not comfortable doing work on your own, take your bike to a reputable bike shop. While tune-up costs can vary widely between shops, most will run you between $45 and $75, and you’ll have the peace of mind knowing your bike is safe and ready to ride for the rest of the season.

Even if you decide that your bike is in good working order, it still doesn’t hurt to take it to a reliable bike-shop and get a safety check done. A mechanic will go over the bike and confirm everything is in tip-top shape, a process that usually only takes a few minutes and dollars to do. Think of it this way, most states have yearly car inspections, it makes sense to treat the integrity of your bike's mechanical parts the same way.  Then you have the peace of mind of having a dependable bike under you, and you should be ready to get out there and enjoy your ride.

Now, that we covered the Basic-Spring-Bike-Checkup, we can concentrate on the whole purpose of why you’re getting your bike ready for the road. To get out and peddle! Going for a couple of miles bike ride is very enjoyable, but if you are one of the biker elites, you may venture out to go on some very long rides, perhaps even participate in a hundred or a few hundred-mile bike-endurance run.

These runs are nothing to take lightly and are only for the more experienced biker. You have to be in proper physical condition, and of course, your bike is of the kind that can handle any kind of rough or smooth terrain. Making sure your staying on the proper course is very important too! Over the years personal GPS devices have become more popular and there are a lot of companies out there that provide them, from bike computers that are mounted to your bikes, frame, ones that easily detach and if you want can be used in other forms of transportation like motorcycles and autos. But for reliability and accurate course plots, nothing beats a GPS computer tailored for a bike! Now it took me a bit of time to convert from downloading a preset course from the web and carrying it with me as I took part in these long-distance runs. And this is fine if you consider yourself a purist at heart.  But finding a good reliable terrain map is not always an easy option, especially if you happen to run across a complicated bike run challenge.

Cycling has always been about adventure and enjoying the fact that I was seeing new areas and vistas, for me, sometimes a wrong turn can lead you somewhere beautiful. And truthfully, relying on others for partial route knowledge on long rides has been a great way to meet people and make new friends.

But, having the ability to use an onboard GPS navigation unit is definitely a plus when your biking on trails that you were never on before. Participating in these types of rides are all but impossible without route directions guiding your way.  Turn-by-turn navigation is necessary if you plan on competing in these runs at an individual level against a clock. After all, if your competing, the longer it takes you to bring out your smartphone or unfold a course map to make sure you're on the right path, the longer your overall time will be when you cross that finish line.

After making up my mind and doing a lot of online research and looking at reviews, I decided on the Garmin Edge-520  It's compact and rugged, which was a big factor for me and it's 15+ hour battery life make the Edge 520 perfect for off-road trails and competitive biking. It’s also compatible with GPS/GLONASS satellites, so you benefit from more signal options, wherever your ride takes you, and never have to wonder just where you are in relation to your checkpoints on the course.

Uploading and enabling the "MapMyGPS" route was straightforward, and starting out on my journey, the device would beep 300 feet before upcoming turns, giving me both the street name and turn directions. This provided me with plenty of time to be aware of what and when I needed to do something. I could keep the course displayed on its screen in order to view upcoming course features or rely solely on those notifications while looking at other ride stats like my power average or speed.

I found that if I did happen to make a wrong turn, which was, of course, my fault in NOT paying attention, the Edge 520 brought me back on course by letting out a booming "Off Course” alert, with the aid of which I was able to correct my mistake instantly! Now having something with you like the Garmin Edge-520 provides you with a bit of a safety net. There is nothing like having a reliable device that can pinpoint your location with the aid of those GLONASS satellites overhead. Since my goal this year is bike through at least 3 national parks this year, having the Garmin Edge with me can give me accurate course adjustments if I want to get off the normal bike trails and take in the scenic beauty that each park has to offer.

So there you have it, give your bike a good once over and if need be, take it to your local bike shop for in-depth checks and when all is checked, get out there and enjoy the clean fresh air via your bike-seat and see where that open road or mountain path leads you. And if you take along that the Garmin Edge-520 , you can be sure your going to arrive at your specific destination, safely and best of all with its smartphone connectivity, your friends and family will know where you are, when you are. Happy Biking!

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