Buds bursting, bulbs sprouting, down coats shed. As the city awakens to spring, our bikes beckon. Whether you pedaled through the cold or are just getting back to it, let’s pause to appreciate that we all made it through another winter. Now it’s time for the wind-in-your-hair Wee! of warm-weather days and nights outdoors.
Your bike may need a trip to the shop, your gear a once-over. Those are the mechanics of it, and they are the first step. But beyond that lies the promise of a new season, the pleasures that cycling brings to our daily lives, and this year, maybe some brand-new adventures. That’s worthy of attention, too.
Where to start? This spring cycling checklist will help get you in gear:
Lube it or leave it: Review your ABCs before getting out on the road. A for air. Pump those tires to the recommended PSI imprinted on the sidewalls of your tires. B is for brakes. Give them a squeeze and to make sure they engage with the rims for stopping power. C is for chain. Clean it and apply some lube. Lift your bike and give it a gentle bounce. Anything that moves or rattles needs to be tightened. When you turn the pedals, listen for noises. Here’s what your bike may be telling you. My personal vote is to get your bike checked out by a mechanic at your local bike shop at the start of a new season.
Inspect your accessories: Safety is job one, so make sure that whatever equipment helps keep you seen and heard on the road is in good condition and working order. Missing front or back lights? Buy replacements. Load fresh batteries or juice up rechargeables. Does your bell still emit the solid ding that signals your approach? If it’s tired, buy a new one. Can you locate your bike lock key? Does your U-lock need lubrication to unstick it? If you ride with clipless pedals, check your cleats for wear and make sure no screws are loose or missing. Adjust your helmet straps; if you’ve been wearing a thick winter cap underneath during the winter your lid may be wobbly.
Lay out your cycling clothes out on the floor: Pull them out of the closet, the drawer, the storage bin. Unearth the bits and pieces – the stray cycling sock, the single glove stuck by its Velcro tab to some random piece of clothing, the cycling cap that got mixed in with your hats and scarves. It’s hard to see what’s missing if you don’t know what you’ve got. Likewise, you’ll discover what’s worn out and either needs fixing or the Marie Kondo heave-ho. Wash, mend and store winter cycling clothes and accessories, so you’ll be good to go next fall.
Check your bags: Tip out the contents of your saddle pack, your panniers, your messenger bag. Dispose of any random crap: energy bar wrappers, inner tube caps, spare change, receipts. Then give the interior and exterior a wipe. Even if you’re a relative neatnik, spring cleaning just feels good. Also check straps, zippers and rack hooks to make sure you can properly secure your cargo and essentials on your ride.
Stock up: Inspect your inventory of consumables. Buying in quantity saves you money over purchasing one tube, one energy gel, one CO2 cartridge at a time. And, consider the tools you rely on. Is your tire lever set intact? Do you need a fresh tire patch kit? A new container of chain lube? Fresh water bottles?
Treat yourself: Everybody likes to shop for something new for spring. It may be as big as a shiny new bike or as small as a handlebar tape in a cool color. Maybe an upgrade, like a city-chic helmet. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but fresh feels right – and motivating.
Join a group or start your own: Whether you’re looking for a more social cycling experience, a fitness boost or a competitive edge, there’s a group out there for you. One awesome trend: More women-only rides, events and series. A couple to check out: Sun and Air, Bicycle Habitat, Rapha Cycle Club, We Bike NYC, Black Girls Do Bike: NYC and Get Women Cycling. Not finding what you’re looking for? Then start your own group!
Feed your passion: If you love riding bikes, then step outside the same old, same old. Maybe you’re ready to try pace line riding or racing. Or, you’ve always wondered exactly how a folding bike or an e-bike works. Or you’ve been wanting to get your partner to ride to work with you (hello Citi Bike membership). Or weekend gravel grinding or mountain biking outside the city are calling to you. Who knows how far your passion might ripple, so don’t be afraid to broaden your horizons. In recent years, I’ve tried cyclocross (not for me, I’m too klutzy) and fat biking at the beach (yes please!)
Sign up for an event: New events join the local ride calendar every year, meaning there’s something for everybody. The benefits of organized rides are plentiful: they can help motivate you to boost your fitness, they can be your vehicle to raise money for a cause you care about, they’re social and fun, especially if you enter with friends. A couple of examples: CycloFemme on Mother’s Day weekend celebrates women’s empowerment with grassroots rides ranging from casual brunch outings to longer road rides. The NYC Century offers routes of varying lengths on city streets. You can race the Gran Fondo New York to Bear Mountain or just ride it for fun. Check the abundant ride and event offerings of the New York Cycle Club and the Five Borough Bicycle Club, too.
Help change the world: Tap into your impulse toward action and connect with like-minded others. If you believe in the power of bicycles to improve the quality of life in cities, if you want more protected bike lanes, if you enjoy eating your lunch on a sunny public plaza, then make your voice heard.
The key is to get rolling now, let your imagination and spirit of adventure lead you toward new paths and enjoy riding as much as possible. See you on the road!
Photo: Alisa Anton