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Bicycles in Bloom

Posted In: Events and Programs, Collections, Recommendations
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by Brian Manning

a bike in Baltimore city by a flower fence

Well, it’s spring time, and for many people it’s time to dust off the old bicycle and hit the road for some jovial jaunts and freewheeling flings. But before you hop on your bicycle and start peddling away, it’s a good idea to do some basic maintenance checks. Here is a list of what to look for, from your friendly librarian/bicycle mechanic:

  • Inspect the frame: (This is especially important if you were in any wrecks.) Are there any cracks or dents? If so, you may want to have it looked over by a mechanic, just to make sure there are no safety issues.
  • Inflate the tires: This will make your ride that much smoother and more pleasurable. Also, how do the tires look? Are there any cracks?
  • Do a “safety check:
    • Are your wheels secure to the frame?
    • Do your brakes work? Do they feel too tight or spongy?
    • Bounce your bike and listen for any rattles—do you hear any? If so, where is it coming from? Does anything need to be tightened?
    • Are the handlebars straight and snug?
    • Do the wheels spin freely, without obstruction?
    • How does the bike fit? Do you need to adjust the seat post?
  • Inspect the chain: Does it need a wiping-off due to last year’s grime? If so, clean it off using a clean rag. Is it bone dry and does it need some lube? If so, apply some bicycle chain lube—NOT WD40, because it’s actually a degreaser—and use a clean rag to wipe off the excess.

Essential Bicycle Maintenance book - click to see bike maintenance booksNow, if you’re interested in further maintenance suggestions and guides, check out our bicycle maintenance manual collection, or register to come to one of the upcoming Bike Friendly Workshops being offered at different Pratt Library locations throughout May. Also, you might want to see what the local nonprofit Velocipede Bike Project has to offer to you, and vice versa. Of course, you can always take your bike to a local bike shop for an inspection, or tune-up.

Here are some of my personal tips for riding; as with any suggestions, you may take 'em or leave 'em as you please...

  • Get familiar and comfortable with being able to change your bicycle’s inner tubes, and carry the necessary tools for fixing a flat when on a long ride.
  • If riding at dusk or at night, use a front and rear light, and make sure the batteries are strong.
  • I know of many cyclists who saved their noggins by wearing a helmet...
  • No matter how fast you’re going, you’re not on the road alone—isn’t it better to be aware of what’s going on around you? If you answer in the affirmative, rethink wearing those earbuds while cycling.
  • Ride for yourself, however, don’t be self-obsessed. And seek out ways to ride with your friends, such as a group ride, like the upcoming Tour Dem Parks, Hon ride.
  • Any day you can get on your bike is a good day, or at least better than average.

You may also want to checkout Grant Petersen’s Tips for Happy Riding over at Rivendell Bikes.

Again, here are some other books in the Library’s collection that you may enjoy, or find inspiring to get you in the saddle again:

Just Ride by Grant Petersen  The Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne  The Enlightened Cyclist  The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and his Mysterious Disappearance

Thanks, and happy & safe riding!


Great post! I just rode my bike for the first time last weekend and wish I had this list at the time to double check everything! Also thanks for the books recommendations, I've requested "The Lost Cyclist" from my library and can't wait to read it!
Posted by: Sara at 4/4/2013 9:50 a.m.


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