From families biking down the Boulevard to commuters on the 606, the Logan Square biker community all shares a common need: their local bike shops.
During Chicago’s stay-at-home order, a surge of bike sales sparked a new wave of recreational cyclists across the city and demand for bike services. Along with that, the reopening of Chicago trails with their ‘Keep it Moving’ initiative has allowed more riders to explore their city or neighborhood on wheels.
However, with increased riding comes increased upkeep. We spoke to Kevin Womac, owner of Boulevard Bikes for some basic at-home maintenance tips to help keep your ride in top shape!
“We like to tell our customers that there are only two things for them to worry about. We’ll take care of the rest: air and oil,” Womac said.
“Like balloons leftover from a birthday party, tubes loose air.” Womac said.
“Riders tend to fill their tires to the maximum pressure,” he said. “Paying heed to the minimum pressure is more important. A hybrid (city bike) will feel better at 50-55 psi than at 70-75 psi. Letting it slip below that is bad, hence, the importance of regularly filling tires.
“Every bike shop in Chicago ought to have a pump for customers to use. For regular riders, keeping a pump at home is a great idea.” Womac notes. Scroll down for an explanation on “Why?” city riding will do better with minimum pressure.
High pressure, low volume tires loose a more significant amount. Low pressure, high volume tires less so. “This means skinny racing tires need to get topped off weekly. Hybrid tires every two weeks. And mountain bike tires once a month.” said Womac.
Womac emphasized how low air pressure can lead to flat tires, and bent rims.If a rider hits a construction plate or cut-out or pothole or hops a curb, and the tires are low, the tire will compress against the rim, and the tube inside gets pinched.
“In a severe incident, the rim can get bent inwards as well. Too much air is also not good, but for other reasons,” he said. “Tires should be compliant.” They need to hold the road (or dirt trail, etc).to keep the bike from sliding out, he said. When a tire is a bit soft, it conforms to the road surface and holds better. “It also provides more shock absorption, which makes for a smoother ride,” he said.
“Chains work hard. They transfer all of your pedaling energy into spinning the wheel to move you forward. Too often we see chains that are dry or dirty or rusty,” he said.
The typical bike chain is made up of 100 little pivots, or bushings. Those bushings need a lubricant to pivot smoothly over the cogs front and rear. Metal on metal is no good. Dirty metal on dirty metal is no good. Rusty metal on rusty metal is no good, the shop owner said.
“Starting the season with a clean, well lubed chain is helpful. maintaining its cleanliness is not too hard for the average cyclist,” he said. “By leaning the bike against a wall or fence or washing machine, the pedals can be spun backwards, allowing chain oil to be applied. I like to drip oil on each bushing, one by one, until I’ve cycled through the whole chain,” he said. “Others like to douse the chain in a steady stream of oil until it’s slick.” Womac said that this is much messier and not ideal for living room application.
H said if this is repeated several times the chain will soon be a mess. It’s important to wipe the excess oil from the chain after oiling it. The excess will dissolve/loosen any dirt that has accumulated, and by pulling the chain through a rag (old sock or T-shirt will do) the dirt will be removed.
“For very dirty chains, I often wipe the chain once before any oiling, and then oil/rag-dry, re-oil/rag-dry two or three times until the rag shows clean oil on it (not black gook),” he said. In order to put oil on the countless other pivot points on the bike, “sometimes it’s helpful to flip a bike upside down to drip oil into the cables,” he noted. Look for openings, where the cable enters and exits the housing.
Unlike the chain, these don’t need lube as often. Once or twice a season is usually enough. “If you bike a lot in the rain, or on dusty trails, more often is helpful,” Womac said. He also recommends using TriFlow which comes with a helpful little straw for application.
In dry weather, every two weeks is sufficient for the chain. If you have a high-performance bike that goes out on long rides every Saturday, lubing the chain beforehand is a good idea. In wet, autumn, winter or spring weather, weekly chain oil is a good idea. Wet spray off the front tire goes directly into the chain, Womac explained. For the other pivot points on the bike, once or twice a season good.
These options are great for home maintenance, however, if you have any other bike issues an experienced repair is highly recommended. Boulevard Bikes (2769 N Milwaukee Ave.) is a great local shop with plentiful service offerings.