Spring is always in the air when you live in Santa Barbara. There is a touch of green on Figueroa Mountain after some long-awaited rain, birds are singing, and daylight saving time is here! If you live in Santa Barbara, there is absolutely no reason to put your bike away for the winter. But if you did or you just didn’t find time to do the usual routine maintenance when days are short and mornings and evenings chilly, I’ve got some spring-cleaning tune-up tips. While I clean, I like to put on some music to scrub by and spend a few minutes pondering the kind of inexplicable questions I start to think about before falling asleep — and never answer.
There can be a great sense of satisfaction from maintaining your own bike. A basic tune-up at bike shops can cost between $50-$75, a good value if you do not like getting your fingers dirty. If you’re intimidated but want to learn, check out the Learn Your Bike classes offered by The Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition.
Let’s start with cleaning. If your bike is dirty, greasy, or covered in sand — take a few minutes and give it a through suds and scrub. Here’s how from the column “Washing Your Bike” that I wrote last year. Your clean bike will sparkle when you ride in the Bike Moves May 1 Prom Ride and also extend the life of your components.
Cleaning your bike gives you a chance to inspect under the hood and look for cracks or other signs of wear that could cause future breakdowns. Here’s my tip of the day: At least once a year, remove the seat post from the frame and wipe off any dirt. Wipe the inside of the frame where the seat post slides in, and, finally, apply a very small amount of good grease to the post and reinstall. The seat post on my beloved Austro-Daimler is frozen; I wish I had remembered to check it last year.
While I’m scrubbing and Ray LaMontagne is playing in the background, I’ve been thinking about bike parking. From Carpinteria to Santa Barbara to Goleta, new Bike Master Plans are focusing on improving our road infrastructure to get cyclists to where they want to go. But if we don’t build bike-parking facilities, riders end up locking their bikes to trees, signposts, and fences. All of these alternatives are not as safe, orderly, or aesthetic as more bike racks and corrals.
Santa Barbara is close to approving its first bike corral on Canon Perdido near Sojourners Café. Another one is being discussed for the Funk Zone. A bike corral is a simple concept with huge benefits for cyclists and, more importantly, local businesses. Bike corrals are simply the replacement of an on-street parking spot with a bike parking area that can hold up to 12 bicycles.
Cities all across the country are focusing on bike parking. Chicago is promoting bike corrals as business friendly, and Sacramento is planning to add 10. Portland should get some applause and fireworks for recently announcing that the city had installed its 100th corral. My daughter, Danielle, tells me that 100 is yesterday’s news. They have just installed corral number 105. Portland is struggling to keep up with the demand of businesses for more bike parking. Unfortunately, bike parking is often an afterthought in many cities, if it exists at all. Local businesses should want bike corrals because it economically adds parking for customers and employees that is accessible and safe. As a rule, bicycle parking should be clearly designated, visible, and close to the entrances of shops and businesses.
My bike is now clean, so it’s time for a quick spring checkup.