November Challenge #1: MEC Bike Maintenance.

It took me half of the month to do 1 of 3 events for my November Challenge. I wanted to try 3 new things in the month of November related to fitness and I am running behind schedule! I still have two left to do to complete my challenge, and only 12 days to do them! This one has been on my list for a while and I finally signed up and attended on Sunday. I tried out the MEC Bike Maintenance 101 course at the Edmonton MEC! 

I really thought I was going to be the only one at the seminar on a chilly Alberta winter day, but there was actually 4 of us! It would have made a lot more sense to take this course when I first started riding more in the spring, but I am fully prepared to take care of my bike all winter on the trainer and get it ready to ride in the summer now!

The Bike Maintenance 101 course at MEC is actually being split up into three different parts for future dates: Know Your Bike, Accessorizing Your Bike, and How To Fix a Flat. The instructor told us that our class was actually the last all-in-one course where we were taught about all three of those lecture components.

I highly recommend this course for anyone who rides a bike, plain and simple. It is beginner enough that even I was able to follow along and learn about how to truly take good care of my bike, but advanced enough that if you were having trouble cleaning your drivetrain or you wanted to find a better approach to pulling the tube off of your wheel you could get that information. The bike maintenance instructor guy (his official title obviously), Alexi, was really great. You could tell he was the type of guy that just loves bikes and what he does so much that he almost knows too much and just wants to share absolutely everything!

The other people in the class were still currently riding outside. Yup, in the winter, on the ice. I hooked by bike up to the trainer as soon as there was a breath of crisp air, but huge props to everyone in Alberta still riding outdoors. Alexi gave a bit of information for everyone riding outside including lights to-see and to-be-seen, studded tires, and adjustments you can make to your bike cleaning routine to help it stay in top form in the winter. He also talked a little bit about indoor cycling trainers which I liked!

I won’t tell you every single thing Alexi taught us, because I would probably never get it all right and I really think this course would be beneficial for everyone to take, but I will tell you the ABCs to check before every ride you go on. 

A = AIR. Check the air pressure in your tires. Alexi told us that using a pressure gauge is a necessary tool to check the air pressure in your tires before you ride. Once you get familiar with your bike and your tires you will probably be able to simple feel your tires and know if they need air or not but until then, double check with a gauge. All tires will have a range of pressure (a minimum and a maximum) written on the rim so you can check to make sure it is in that range. The closer to maximum pressure, the less resistance you will have and the faster you can go, but the less surface area you have to support you and the easier it is to pop and get a flat. 

B = BRAKES. Check your brakes. You don’t want to be screaming down the first big hill of your ride or heading for a major intersection for you to realize your brakes aren’t working. Hold the front brake and try to push your bike forward. If it doesn’t move, you’re golden. Do the same to your back brakes while sitting on your bike and try to move yourself forward. 

C = CHAIN. Ensure you have cleaned your chain well (Alexi showed us multiple ways to clean our chains and then lubricate and wax them for smooth riding). Make sure your chain is nice and lubricated but that there is no excess oil on the outside – the oil/lube is for the inside of the chain. Alexi also showed us a cool chain wear gauge (THIS) that shows you how much your chain has been stretched! All chains stretch; it happens, but making sure yours doesn’t get to a point where it will wreck your drivetrain is essential. 

Once you have established your ABCs, you are clear to ride! I think this graphic is so cool:

Besides learning my ABCs, the best things I learned from the course were how to properly clean and care for my bike including how often is has to be done (a lot more than I thought), and how to change a flat tire. I had to call my dad way more than I wanted to this summer to come find me on the road or stuck in my driveway with a flat tire on my bike. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to change it myself, I just didn’t know how!

Challenge #1 complete! This 90 minutes workshop was a great value for only $10 and tons of information. Another great feature is the time left at the end for questions. You can bring any and every question you have about bike maintenance and the staff are happy to help you out! This isn’t only during the workshop but anytime at the MEC bike shop!

What is the best piece of advice you have been given about bike maintenance?

Do you cycle in the winter? Outside or on a trainer?

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