Pump it up at Halifax Bike Week

The Mountain Equipment Co-op's Brendan Sutcliffe chats about common bike problems.

click to enlarge Gearhead Brendan Sutcliffe is off-the-chain. - DYLAN CHEW
Gearhead Brendan Sutcliffe is off-the-chain.

Taking consistent care of your bicycle can save you from disasters down the road.

For Bike Week, Mountain Equipment Co-op is setting up a slew of “mobile bicycle maintenance stations,” doing safety checks and offering advice on basic bike fixes.

In the meantime, Brendan Sutcliffe—bike mechanic at MEC—gives a few tips for keeping your ride in top shape.

First of all, “a clean bike is a happy bike,” he says. So, clean the damn thing. There are special products for this, but diluted dish soap and water will do the job in a pinch. Cleaning the frame, wheels, chains and sprockets keeps things going smoothly. It can also help the cyclist spot any potential problems.

“Sometimes when you’re down there really close to it and you’re cleaning it, you’re paying a little more attention,” says Sutcliffe.

Keeping air pressure in the tires is one of the most basic, but most important things a cyclist can do. It may seem obvious, but Sutcliffe says it’s something people tend to neglect. When tires don’t have good air pressure, the bike takes a lot more energy to pedal. On top of that, hitting a bump in the road can cause damage to the rims or a puncture in the tire.

The MEC offers free safety checks at the shop outside of Bike Week, and Sutcliffe’s done his fair share. He’s noticed “nobody’s brakes work very well.”

Thanks to Halifax’s “salty environment,” the cables that operate the brakes get corroded more easily. They also tend to stretch over time.

“Gears and brakes—they need to be tuned on a regular basis. It’s just a given.”

Sometimes nuts and bolts get loose, causing the handle bars to turn independent of the wheel. To check for trouble, pinch the wheel between your knees and pry on the bars. They shouldn’t move.

“If they actually slip and turn, that’s a good one to catch,” says Sutcliffe.

The Bike Week festivities roll on from June 2 to 11.

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