Spend enough time in bike shops and there are a few things that you’ll hear regularly from the staff. Sometimes, these things seems like a ploy to earn more business and sell more gear, but the advice actually comes from a wealth of experience. The following list highlights a few things that are often met with skepticism from consumers, but are actually all valuable advice that will improve your ride and increase your safety.
You need a new helmet.
A little known fact is that your helmet needs to be replaced every three to five years. The reason for this is based on the foam that makes up the helmet. This foam is specifically designed to absorb impacts and protect your brain in the process. As it ages, the foam becomes more brittle and breakable, meaning that rather than absorb an impact, it is much more likely to shatter and provide you with little to no protection. So while it might seem that that perfectly intact Giro Prolight from 1985 might still do the job, it is well past time to replace it.
The chain on your bike needs to be replaced sometimes.
The chain on your bike is a wear item that needs replacement every so often. The reason for this is that the chain stretches over time, eventually wearing into the other drive train components on your bike like the cassette and chainrings. This process is accelerated if the chain is consistently dirty or unlubed. The consequence of ignoring the need for a new chain are the complete wearing of the entire drivetrain. Replacing a drivetrain is far more expensive than replacing a chain every thousand miles or so (less if riding off road), so when your shop recommends a new one, it is legitimately in your best interest to take the advice.
Your chain needs lube.
Seriously, lubing your chain every other ride or once a week is basic maintenance and an absolute necessity for shifting performance and a longer lifespan of the chain. There is no such thing as a chain that doesn’t need to be lubed and lube is a relatively inexpensive investment in the health of your bike. Dribble some on the chain while turning the pedals, wipe off the excess with a rag and enjoy the smooth running silence of a properly lubed chain. Additionally, WD-40 is not a lubricant, nor is motor oil, so pick up the right stuff for the job from you local shop.
It is possible to get a flat, even if you just changed the tube.
It’s a rough world out there and there are innumberable amounts of desbris littering the road that can puncture a tube. Unfortunately, this desbris can sometimes be encountered within days or even hours of your most recent flat fix. This is simply a sign of bad luck and not of a disreputable shop trying to sell you multiple tubes. The best remedy for this is to ride prepared with a spare tube, pump and knowledge of how to fix a flat. Your shop will almost certainly give you a primer on flat fixing and it is a vital skill for any cyclist.
Your bike will run much better if you tune it up every year.
Really. For anyone that rides a bike, an annual tune up is the best way to get the most out of your riding experience. Smooth shifting, functional brakes and straight wheels are all necessities for a smooth ride and an annual inspection of the adjustments and components of your bike should not be overlooked. Typically, some parts might need to be replaced to bring the bike to its full potential. This is just part of the game and shows that your shop’s service department is looking at every detail to make sure that your bike is running at its full capacity. It’s always best to get in before the busy season, but even during peak riding months, a tune up will go a long way to improving your ride.
While there are many more items that could work their way onto this list, these are a few of the most commonly overlooked necessities in cycling. When visiting your local shop, trust in the years of experience they bring to the table and know that their passion for cycling is in your best interest. Speaking from experience, shops just want you to get the most out of each and every ride because they care about cycling as much as you do. Sometimes this means delivering bad news or suggesting that you spend a little more money than you had planned. Trust in their motives and appreciate the experience that informs the advice and you will have a more enjoyable, safer ride the next time you head out.