Whilst many riders grit their teeth and face everything a UK winter can throw at them, there’s also many who would rather not—choosing to wait for the days to get longer and warmer again before heading out on two wheels.
But what exactly happens to a bike whilst it sits patiently waiting for a leg to be thrown over it again?
Jules, Cytech trainer and assessor for ATG Training, is here to help with a couple of things to check for if you’ve left your bike for a few months between rides.
If it was raining the last time you went for a ride and/or if the bike was put away without a good drying off, chances are you’ll have more than one seized component. Water finds its way into these parts, if left to sit, and then works its seizing magic.
Check the headset bearings by turning the handlebars from side to side. If you feel that they’re initially locked into position and free with a loud ‘crack’, then the headset has suffered from water ingress. Re-greasing the headset will help but in worst case scenarios it will need to be replaced.
Next spin the cranks to check that the bottom bracket bearings, rear derailleur jockey wheels and pedals all turn easily and without much force. Also check that the brakes operate smoothly by squeezing the lever—they shouldn’t feel stiff and unresponsive or ‘lock on’.
If you have a work stand you can check the gears in the same way—the levers shouldn’t feel overly stiff or sticky. If they do, water has corroded the cabling or the pivots of the derailleurs, or both! A spray with lubricant may free them up, but you’re looking at replacement cables and components if this doesn’t work. Check the chain for signs of corrosion and stiff links too—again a squirt of lubricant may help but you’re looking at a new chain if not.
Tyre pressures and condition
Inner tubes are not 100% impermeable, meaning that if left unchecked your tyre will deflate even if it doesn’t have a puncture. This can take a couple of months to be noticeable (unless you have lightweight latex tubes in which case it’s a couple of days!)
With the tyre flat and the weight of the bike pushing down on it, tiny fault lines can develop around the sidewall of the tyre. If the bike is left where the sun can get to the tyres then the UV light from the sun will cause the resin in the tyre to perish and become hard and brittle. This will accelerate the fault lines into cracks and can render a tyre unusable. If this happens it needs replacing, unfortunately.
This goes to show that with a little care, forethought, and a regular good clean (a clean bike is a happy bike!) your bicycle will be ready to go when you are! It’s also always worth taking your bike to your nearest Cytech accredited shop to get a professional check-up and to make sure you’ve not missed anything.
Article by Jules (Cytech master technician)
Since writing this article Jules has left his role at Activate Cycle Academy (formerly ATG Training).