Spring Tune up
Spring Tune-ups, bike, body and soul
I’ve always wondered why January is “New Year’s Resolution” time when it is one of the least motivating times of year. Its cold, its dark outside, we are wearing cozy sweatshirts and sweaters to hide that winter fat and our bodies are telling us to eat more, sleep more and just survive until spring. We make plans to exercise more, eat less and live better. We buy a new treadmill or elliptical machine and watch in despair as it turns itself into a new clothes hanger for jackets and scarves over the span of a few weeks. We get an app, there’s always an app, and count calories in and out…for a few days, until a friend brings in a cheesecake, and since you already blew it for the day on that, you eat whatever else you can find. You plan a hike with a friend and a 3-day blizzard hits so you stay in and eat cookies with cocoa instead. What a recipe for disaster and self-doubt! Seriously, how many of us actually keep a New Year’s resolution longer than into February, when, tada! Its now Valentine’s Day and there is a box of chocolates that must be eaten or you’ll hurt someone’s feelings. And don’t even think about Easter! Even the bunnies are out to get us with their baskets of chocolate bunnies and weird fluffy Peeps. I say no more! It’s time for Spring tune-ups instead.
I love hiking, biking and whatever there is to do outdoors and during the winter, I just ignore whatever is under the snowpack and hike or snowshoe the best I can but as soon as the snow begins to melt and trails begin to thaw, my hands begin to itch for the handle of a McCleod or rake. I see all the sticks and rocks that have migrated onto the trail surface and notice the damage that recent snowmelt has done. I count the deadfalls that there is no way I’m willing to hike-a-bike around and start to carry a small saw with me to clear them or note their location for chainsaw time later. Some trails are now narrow streambeds and some are now pitching off-camber at an alarming angle. The first thing to think about before venturing onto still damp trails, is how can they be helped to last the spring season. Take time to plan to traverse the entirety of a favorite trail with the specific goal of clearing rocks, widening too narrow and eroded portions, clearing deadfall or re-routing sections that might be beyond reasonable repair. I’ve actually found that one of the best times to bench trails is when the top inch or so of ground surface is thawed, but the underlaying part is still frozen. Frost-heaving frees that top thawed section from the rest and makes it very easy to remove, leaving a clean flat surface behind. Take a lunch, take a few friends and a couple dogs and make a day of it. Work doesn’t have to be drudgery, after all. Have fun and imagine the satisfaction and fun you will have when you are hiking or riding that freshly renewed trail later in the spring. This is motivation to get yourself in shape for spring!
Think ahead. Now you have an idea of what you want from your local trails and a clear plan to ride them joyfully and frequently, so what about a tune-up for your bike while you are renewing things in Spring. Your bike did a great job for you all last season and then it sat, waiting hopefully to get out again this winter, and it did, rarely, and may have gotten put away muddy or wet. It's time to take it outside and give it a bath. Remember to use a gentle spray and a mild mixture of dish soap in warm water for the washing. Never use a high-pressure sprayer on your bike's seals or you may force water into them. Gently rub off the grime and check to be sure that your cranks are tight, your bottom bracket is smooth, your brakes are functional with good pad depth and check the torque of your pivot points. If you have a tubeless set-up, you’ll need to refresh the sealant and maybe replace your valve core if it got gummed over the winter. Use a piece of gear floss to clean your cassette, check both the chain and cassette for wear and wash the chain. Relube your chain with the lube of your choice and take a short test ride to see if the shifting is all right. If your bike protests shifting with lags, clunks and creaks, it may be time to have a professional take over and do an annual tune-up, usually costing about $80, but totally worth it for the longevity of your bike. If you have an e-bike you probably need an annual firmware update, so get it into your local shop to get those computers communicating.
Now that you have been clearing trails of logs and rocks, re-berming eroded areas and doing a full bike inspection, it’s time to think about a spring tune-up for your body. But wait...since you have been out and active, you already feel better and full of energy with no counting calories or doing special sit-ups at night. You have been too busy prepping things to sit around eating cookies and somehow you feel renewed just in time for the trails to start being ridden. You are ready to go rip it, and your spring resolution is no longer making big insurmountable changes in your lifestyle, it’s now just maintaining that activity level and positive mind-set all season. Easy!
The older you get, they more you realize that you only have so many seasons left to enjoy speeding along on a mountain bike or hiking miles into the woods. The older you get, the more you realize that taking extended time to do a spring tune up on your body is less time out enjoying what you want to do, so you are a bit more careful of letting things slip too far over the winter. Consistent exercise is key