Tune-Up Tips from the Bicycle Learning Center

WE STOPPED BY THE Bicycle Learning Center to talk with Humboldt State Environmental Science major and Center president Devin Trainor about the basics of bicycle maintenance and repair. So pull that old set of wheels out of the garage, dust off the cobwebs and get your ride into shape.


Devin Trainor shows students at the Bicycle Learning Center how to true a wheel.

FOR YOUR BIKE TO ride smoothly, it all starts with the wheels. First, Trainor says, replace any tires that are cracked or bald. Make sure tires are properly inflated.

Next, spin the wheels. If there is noticeable wobble, your wheel likely needs truing, the cycling term for straightening a wheel. This repair is best left to the pros at your local bike shop and won’t cost much.

Replacing worn brake pads is essential, Trainor says. This cheap and simple fix can even be performed by the mechanically challenged. Simply disconnect the old pads with an Allen wrench, position the new pads and tighten them down.

Drive Train

LUBRICATING THE CHAIN CAN breathe new life into a squeaky drive train. Apply lubricant directly to the chain while rotating and wipe off any excess with a rag.

Is your bike shifting improperly? Where the cable attaches to the derailleur is an adjustment barrel that can be turned to center the derailleur. “Experiment a little but don’t go too crazy,” Trainor says. “Like most things on a bike, slight adjustments can make a big difference.”

Odds and Ends

CRUISE AROUND THE BLOCK and test your bike’s shifting and brake levers. Are they sluggish or sticky? New cables and housings will only cost about $25 and your bike will stop quicker and shift smoothly.

Feel a knocking in the handlebars when stopping with your front brake? Your headset, which attaches the front fork to the bike’s frame, might need replacing. Your local bike shop is the best choice for this.

Oldies are Goodies

THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH old bikes,” Trainor says. “They knew how to make good bikes 10 or 20 years ago. Unless there’s excessive rust or a bent frame, there’s no need for a new bike.”

Once your bike is ready to roll, the many benefits of cycling are yours to enjoy. “When you’re on a bike as opposed to in the car you can see people and wave hello to them,” Trainor says. “You see more of the world; you can see, smell and hear things you can’t in the car. It s also a great way to work up a sweat and hang out with friends.”

Some Essentials
  • A HEADLAMP and rear blinker for riding at night
  • A HELMET to protect your brain in the event of a fall
  • Front and rear FENDERS to keep you dry and clean during rain riding
  • A heavy-duty U-LOCK