Back in the Saddle Part II: Tools and tuneups for cyclists |

Back in the Saddle Part II: Tools and tuneups for cyclists

Peter Bollenbacher, a mechanic at Ski Haus Bike Shop, works on a bike during a busy weekday. Every bike shop in town is booked at least a week in advance as everyone is getting their bikes tuned.
Shelby Reardon

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Usually, it’s a little easier to get a full bicycle tune this time of year, but the COVID-19 pandemic has bike shops functioning a little differently with stricter schedules and safety protocols.

Thankfully, there are a lot of things cyclists can do at home to keep their equipment in the best shape possible while waiting for a full tune appointment in the busy shops.

At-home maintenence

Keep it clean: Cleaning your steed after a long ride will help its performance in the long run and keep parts from rusting or breaking down. Ensure that the chain is lubricated well after cleaning.

Inspect brake pads: Brakes look a little different on each bike, but many have brake pads along the rim. If the pad material wears down, it’ll destroy the rim of the wheel and turn a simple task into a more complicated one. Inspect the brakes to ensure that there is still material on the pad. 

“A lot of people will not even notice the brake pads are wearing until there’s not even any material left on the pad,” said Erin Sleppy, retail associate at Ski Haus Bike Shop. “Then it’s just making an awful squeaking sound on the rotor. So, make sure that pad material is wearing and not disappearing.

Check tire pressure: Proper tire pressure will not only make a ride smoother but will keep your tires and wheels in better shape for a longer period of time. The correct or preferred pressure is dependent on the type of bike, the terrain and the weight of the rider. 

“Keeping an eye on those three things is going to be most important for safety,” Sleppy said.

Shop maintenance

Before doing anything to a bike, make sure you’re confident in what you’re doing so you don’t cause further damage, or start something that can’t be finished. Laraine Martin, executive director of Routt County Riders, said she feels confident fixing small issues on her mountain bike, but when it comes to her brakes or shocks, she leaves that up to the experts.

Most shops are by appointment only to try to limit the amount of people coming in during the slow reopening process for local businesses. With a surge of people looking to get their bikes ready for spring and summer riding, and others buying brand new ones, shops are busy doing full tunes and bike builds, so don’t expect to make an appointment within the next week.

Ski Haus Bike Shop: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, 970-879-0424
Ski Haus is booked out nearly two weeks but welcomes walk-ins for small and quick fixes. When making an appointment, the shop suggests bringing in the bike for an assessment in case they need to order parts. 

Orange Peel Bicycle Service: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 970-879-2957
Orange Peel is offering mainly service, with some curbside retail. Calling ahead to make an appointment is preferred, but small fixes could be made on the spot. Orange Peel is not offering demos for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19. 

Ski and Bike Kare: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, 970-879-9144
Ski and Bike Kare downtown is open by appointment only and has no contact between staff and customers.  

Wheels Bike Shop: 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, 970-819-4805
Wheels prides itself on quick turnaround tunes but is booked about 10 days out. 

Things to carry

Whether a blowout happens halfway down Emerald or miles from a trailhead, it’s inconvenient. Even riders of tubeless bikes need an emergency repair kit. 

“If you have an actual blowout, even a mountain bike with a tubeless setup that has slime inside, that’s not going to prevent you from having an actual blowout,” said Martin. “If something really terrible happens to your tire or your wheel, you’re going to need a tube to back you up. So, whatever fits in your kit.”

Knowing how to fix a flat tire on your own is not only convenient but saves the cyclist money and the bike shop some time in the long run.

It’s also a good idea to carry a spare chain, an extra chain link and a chain tool in case the chain breaks on a ride.

“Instead of carrying a full chain, I carry a quick link. The chain that I have, I’m able to insert a link if the chain breaks,” said Martin. “Then usually once you use your emergency chain link, you have to end up getting a new chain after that.”

Depending on the length and location of the ride, a small bottle of lube and a set of bike tools are good to keep on hand as well.

To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.

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