National Bike Month: Shake off those winter blues & hit the trail

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Some folks haven’t been on a bicycle since their preteen years. That’s okay. There is a lot of truth to the adage “…just like riding a bike.” It’s hard to forget how to do it.

That said, a bicycle is a vehicle, and just like a car or four-wheeler, it does require some maintenance to make sure it’s road-ready. After pulling your bike out of the shed or garage, the first thing you want to do is look at your tires. Especially in dry, northern winters, dry rot is a threat. Make sure your tires don’t have any obvious cracks – and if they do, they will need to be replaced.

After that, check your tire pressure. A good bike tire pump is easy to find at your local bike shop or sporting goods store (and will likely be used over the course of your riding months). Remember, when you buy local, you also get the support of that local bike expert, so it’s always a good idea to make those connections.

Next, be sure your gear chain is greased. This is a part of the “motor” of your bicycle – the thing that makes it (and you) move. You want it to be able to move smoothly.

Brakes are important for making you stop, so check those next. If it’s a road or mountain bike, test to see how tight your brake lines are. If it’s a cruiser, make sure your back-pedal motion catches the chain. And always check the brake pads that touch the tires!

Using a set of Allen wrenches or the properly shaped screwdriver, next check your seat height. When seated on the bike, your leg should be almost straight on the lower pedal. You’ll also want to check that the angle of the handlebars is right for you, so you’re not overextending or too bunched up.

Finally, while this isn’t strictly necessary, for safety’s sake, you may want to consider purchasing front and rear lights. There are some great rechargeable models available today that would put some car headlights to shame.

Your local bike shop is owned and operated by someone with a deep well of bicycle knowledge – much more so than the part-time sales associate at the big box store. Pop by and talk with them. Learn about group rides and the best trails nearby to challenge yourself or spend an easy afternoon with the family.

And remember that bikes are great alternatives for cars when it comes to quick, light trips. An almost criminal amount of automobile trips are less than two miles! If you add a basket or a rack to your bike, you can use that to make a quick trip to the store for milk or bread while not adding to your carbon footprint and you’ll burn some calories in the process. It’s a win-win!

And the last thing to remember for Bike Month is that on a bike, you are a vehicle – and so you bike with traffic, not against it.

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