Spring Has Sprung, Now Clean Up That Bike


We’ve officially survived a long, wet winter. Congratulations! And though we in Montana know that the weather can turn on a dime and there are no guarantees the sun will shine (this month), we surely are grateful when we feel the warmth of a changing season on the backs of our necks. In fact, an accurate description of the seasons in Montana can be summed up in a recent contribution to Make It Missoula’s “Best Saying in Montana” contest, where Gail Anderson wrote, “I hope Summer falls on a weekend this year!” I love that one!

All kidding aside (for the moment), now that Spring is here, it’s time for our bikes to get some love and attention. Hopefully, they’ve been stored nicely and neatly indoors, perhaps on their own soft bed in a heated garage or lovingly hung from your basement ceiling. Maybe you put on some classical music for it while you’re away… ok, I’m kidding again. Hopefully, the wheels are straight, the seat is still in one piece – more or less – and you have a chain. Now let’s get it ready to ride.

There are two great resources for a DIY approach to fixing your bicycle. Of course, there is no shortage of terrific bike shops in town that will get your ride in tip-top shape. However, I highly recommend that every rider have at least a basic knowledge of how to repair their steel steeds.

The first resource is to bring your bike down to Free Cycles, run by Bob Giordano and the Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation (MIST). The community shop is open Monday – Thursday from 2:00 – 6:00 PM and on Saturday 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM. There are Bike Well classes held on Tues, Wed and Thurs. evenings, and through a volunteer effort, you can learn from experienced bike techs how keep your bicycle in stellar riding shape. Don’t expect the volunteers to fix your bike for you at no charge, but they will gladly lend a hand and answer questions while you’re getting your knuckles greasy.

The second resource is slightly more organized. Missoula’s own Lifelong Learning Center (310 South Curtis St.), which is a converted public school that offers continuing education classes (and fitness classes) for adults, is offering two opportunities to take a Basic Bicycle Repair course. The class is taught by Charles Pengilly, an accomplished bicycle tourist, bike advocate and writer, and the first class is scheduled for Saturday April 16 from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM. The class will be repeated on Saturday April 23 at the same time. Enrollment is limited, but there are spaces left. The “Early Bird” cost is $21, but it will go up to $26 the closer it is to the day of the class.

Finally, if you’re still inclined to hire a professional to do your dirty work, and there’s nothing wrong with that – we should all support local business – I do have a tip to save some bucks. One of Missoula’s “daily deal” websites, Seize the Deal, has offered some discounted gift certificates to select local bike shops in the recent past(saving at least 50% off regular price), and I expect there will be more to come since biking season is just beginning. Sign up to receive a daily email for that day’s promotion.

For the super techy, I’ve just learned about an App for the iPhone and Android mobile devices that can help you out in a pinch. It’s called the Bike Doctor App and it’s like a Swiss Army tool for your back pocket. It costs just under $5 and covers all the common repairs you may need when riding, in a step-by-step format, as well as giving you instructions for keeping your bike clean and lubricated. Pretty slick!

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Ryan Newhouse has pedaled through thousands of miles of Missoula’s streets and trails as a commuter, long-distance cyclist, recreationist and former city bicycling ambassador. Although he now works from home, he still uses two feet or two wheels to push or pull himself and his daughter around town.  Back to “Bike It” home page or check out Ryan’s own blog.