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Maintenance preview

Read’s expert guide to getting your bike ready for the Cancer Research UK’s Cycle for Life

So you’ve got your eye on taking part in Cancer Research UK’s Cycle for Life. But there’s a problem – your bike’s been lurking in the shed over the winter. Will it be up to the task? With a bit of TLC, almost certainly yes. Here’s a run-down of what to check and which bits to fettle…

Start with a good clean
There’s a distinct possibility that your bike’s a bit grubby. Even if it was clean when you put it away, a couple of months’ accumulation of cobwebs, dust and potting compost will have grubbied it up a treat. So get out the bucket and brush and treat it to a proper clean.

Flat tyres?

If we were betting types, we’d place a small wager on your bike having at least one flat tyre. Maybe two. With any luck they’ll just have gone down gradually and will just pump up again, but you might find you’ve got a puncture. Don’t worry, though, they’re easy to fix.

Tyre checks

While you’re looking for punctures, take a good look at the tyres themselves. Check for wear in the tread or splits in the casing. If they’re looking a bit, erm, tired then replace them – worn tyres are more likely to puncture.

Rusty chain?
You’ll be expending enough energy on a long ride as it is, without wasting lots of it with a sticky, dirty transmission. If your all-over bike clean didn’t get the chain clean enough, then lubricate it all properly.

Enable you cables

The other area that may need more detailed cleaning is the gear and brake cables. Any signs of sticking or gritchiness will hinder the function of those all important changing gear and slowing down activities, so give them a clean and relube too.

Check your gears

With a clean, lubed transmission and smooth-running cables, your gears should be working a treat. They’re not? Don’t worry, setting up your front and rear shifting is pretty straightforward.

Then check your brakes

That’s got going sorted – how about stopping? Check your brake pads for wear, make sure there’s no grit lodged in them and that they’re striking the rim squarely rather than rubbing on the tyre or dropping into the spokes. If things are a bit awry then give them a tweak

Then the steering

Looseness in the steering department is always bad news. Check that the handlebars turn freely and that there aren’t any worrying wobbles or knocks from the front end. If there are, the headset probably needs attention. If all is well, make sure that the handlebar stem is in line with the front wheel and that all the stem bolts are done up properly.

Are you sitting comfortably?

If you’re going to be sat on your bike for a fairly long time, you want to have a sound perch. Make sure that the saddle’s at the right height – you should be just sat on the saddle with your leg straight and your heel on the pedal at the bottom of its stroke. Also ensure that it’s straight, level (or possibly slightly nose-down if you find that more comfortable) and that all the bolts are done up tightly.

The engine, that’s you that is

The bike’s in good shape, all that remains now is to get the engine tuned and ready for the big ride. So get on your bike and pedal!

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