Steamboat’s back in the saddle, getting ready for spring cycling |

Steamboat’s back in the saddle, getting ready for spring cycling

Spring bicycle tuneups are key to a long, problem-free season

— It's as regular a part of Closing Day at Steamboat Ski Area as a beer and a concert at the base.

"I'll ski the last day, have fun, and hanging out with everyone at Stoker or riding the chairlift, everyone knows I'm the bike guy," said Chris Johns, owner of Wheels Bike Shop in Steamboat Springs. "They all tell me, 'I'm bringing the bike in tomorrow.'

"You just know 12 people will show up the next day."

What was but an afterthought in the first week of April becomes the focus of a long line of Steamboat locals with sunrise the Monday morning after the ski area closes. With trips away from the mucky Routt County spring to the dry desert on the mind, Steamboat's cyclists become eager for that tuneup, and local bike shops, slow all winter, suddenly explode.

"Once the mountain closes, we start getting people getting ready for Moab," Utah, said Rich Takesuye, of Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare, speaking in front of a full rack of bikes waiting for attention. "People will be riding downtown and stop in. It picks up and then all of the sudden it's summertime."

There's a number of things people should expect in their annual spring tuneup, and several things they can do to keep their wheels spinning through the summer.

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Refresh and replace

Most of Steamboat's bikes went into winter storage in less than ideal condition.

"Some of my customers get them tuned just before they store them," Johns said, "but I'd say 99 percent are just going to take that last ride in the fall, either here in town, where it's muddy, or in Moab, where it's sandy, then store it for the winter."

Johns said with skiers saving for passes and new winter gear, servicing summer gear takes a back seat.

That leaves plenty of work for spring.

Takesuye said a basic $64 tune at the shop ensures that all the bike's components are in good working order.

That includes wiping down the often still-dirty bike and checking gears, brakes, cables, suspensions and tires.

"We recommend you do everything at the beginning of the season so you don't have to keep coming back," Takesuye said. "We also have a safety check, where we go through making sure things are tight, the brakes and air is in the tires."

Spring is also the time to replace worn-out or ruined components.

Johns said bikes left in the cold all winter can suffer cracked rubber seals in the suspensions. Tires can be weakened if left in the sun, and even a leather saddle can need replacing after months outside.

Tires often enter spring worn out from last year's riding, owners reluctant to shell out for replacements in the fall. Brakes, grips, cables and housings often are ready to be replaced.

"As we're cleaning, we're examining for those worn-out parts, things you wouldn't see unless you are going through the bike the way we are," Takesuye said.

More extensive repairs sometimes are required.

"You start to get into a major tuneup when there's a drive chain overhaul," Takesuye said. "We take the chain and gears off and soak them in solvent. There's a buildup of grime that eventually happens."

Steps to prevention

There are plenty of ways riders can help ensure their early season stop at the shop is their only one.

One key is proper chain lubrication, which should be done about every other ride for an average cyclist.

"In the mountains, riding in streams, it just dries up like that," Takesuye said. "A chain doesn't need a lot of oil, just several chain passes through. Then the key is wiping it down. Do it all when you come home, then it's ready for the next ride."

Johns said shifting smoothly through the gears can save wear and tear on equipment, as well.

"The cables can get worn after a while," he said. "It damages the shifters if you are pressing super hard all the time. It's better to shift smoothly."

After that, keeping the bike out of the elements can prevent a costly mid-summer repair trip.

That's the last thing anyone wants because, as those suddenly swamped employees at bike shops around town know, there may still be snow on the ground, but it's bike season.

— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email

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