TRAVERSE CITY -- It's officially spring. Time to take out the bike.
But before the first ride, let's talk tuneup. Local cycling enthusiasts advise taking several steps to make sure bikes are in tip-top, safe shape.
"You just want to make sure everything is tweaked and ready to go," said Julie Baesch, of City Bike Shop in Traverse City.
John McClorey, of Boyne City's Bikefix Cycling Center, teaches the ABC's of bike upkeep:
-- "A" is for air. Check the tires for bald spots or threads and add air.
-- "B" is for brakes. Spin the wheel and make sure the brakes hit in the right spots and inspect the cables for fraying.
-- "C" is for chain. "A bike sitting over winter is going to have a chain that needs lubrication," McClorey said.
Bang a bike against the floor. If it rattles, that's a problem. Bikes should be tuned up once a year and overhauled every two to four years, he said.
At City Bike Shop, springtime means lots of tuneups. Bikers may put bikes away in the fall without completing repairs. The shop recommends letting out about half the air in the tires each fall and storing it off the ground. Don't ride on low tires. Parents should adjust the seat to accommodate children who have grown over the winter, but don't overextend the seat.
Winter riders who slog through ice, snow and slush can take off studded tires and quick-release fenders to prepare for spring riding. But avid cyclists usually have two bikes to get through various weather conditions, Baesch said. McClorey rides a fixed-gear bike in the winter. He recommends cleaning winter bikes before storing them.
"If you ride your bike in the winter, it needs overhauling every year because of all the corrosive chemicals that are used to keep the streets (clean)," he said. "All that salt and everything will just corrode things."
Katy Bean-Larson, of Fixed Gear Gallery at Grand Traverse Commons, said winter biking is not as difficult as it appears, as long as the rider is warmly dressed. Her son Carl said fixed-gear bikes are good in winter because the "direct connection."
"When you are on a bicycle, you just feel so free ... , and you feel personally powerful in a way that you do not when you are in a car," Katy said.
Bike trails become a major thoroughfare by spring. Missy Luyk, trail program specialist for TART Trails, said as soon as the snow melts the bike paths get busy. She spotted children and mothers with jogging strollers on the trail as soon as the first warmer days occurred.
"Everybody was out. Everybody was dusting off the bike," she said.
The trails also need a dusting. Volunteers can pick up sticks, sand, leaves and debris along the trails on April 25. To volunteer, call the TART office at 941-4300.