Get your bike ready for the upcoming season

Now that the snow is melting and the temperatures are warming, it is time to take your bike out of the garage or storage room and get it ready for the upcoming season. A properly-maintained bike will increase the number of years it can be used, prevent breakdowns, and make for a more enjoyable ride.

Like all machines, bikes can wear out or go out of adjustment, while other parts are vulnerable to damage. Any bikes with these problems are unsafe to ride, so here are some tips to keep in mind before you take your first ride.

Check the handlebars by twisting them up and down. If they move, they should be securely tightened. You can also twist the hand grips to see how secure they are, and check for loose tape and worn grips.

Ensure that the stem is tight - that's the small pipe which connects the handlebars to the frame. Grip the front wheel between our legs and twist the handlebars from side to side. They should not move.

Located just below the stem is the steering assembly. You can determine if it is tight by holding the front brake tight and pushing the bike back and forth. Rattles or looseness in the headset must be fixed.

Don't overlook the brakes! When you apply the brake levers, they must stop the wheels from turning before the levers touch the handlebars, and the brake pads must only contact the rims. Check that the brake levers do not rotate on the handlebars and that there position in secure. Also check to ensure there are no frayed cables.

The wheels should be tights at the hubs. You can check this by shaking the wheels to see if the axle bearings are loose. Ensure that the axle bolts or quick-releases are tight. As well, check the spokes, replace any missing ones, and make sure the rest are tight.

Tires must be in good condition and should be checked for baldness, severe cuts or bulges. Most will probably be low in air pressure due to the winter layover. Fill the tire to the recommended air pressure written on the side of the tire. Most tires can be refilled with free air at your local service station. Use the air hose in short three-to-five second bursts to prevent overfilling the tires.

Check the seat by twisting it up and down and trying to spin it sideways - it shouldn't move!

The chain should be oiled, and not squeak or be rusty. During the season, the chain should be lubricated regularly, according to frequency of use and whether or not it has been wet. Oil the chain once a week if the bike is used everyday. Sprays like WD-40 work well as do bicycle chain oil, car motor oil and 3-in-1 oil. There should also be a slight sag in one-speed chains and no sag in deraileur-geared chains.

Ensure the fenders, carriers and other attachments are tight. Shake all bicycle attachments to be sure the bolts are not coming loose. Ensure there are no serious bends or cracks in the frame and attachments.

On a final note, check that your white front light and red rear reflector lights work, and that your bell or horn still makes sounds.