The weather forecast shows that spring is officially here! Now that freezing temperatures, snow, and shorter days are behind us, it is a great time to go for a bicycle ride. However, if your bicycle has been neglected during the winter months, it is important to make sure everything is working properly before riding. Aside from deferred bicycle maintenance, spring brings more people outside and “April showers” can increase safety risks. Being mindful of these changes and taking necessary precautions are important for smooth riding this season.
Seasonal Riding Tips
If one has not done a bike tune-up before the task can seem intimidating. Luckily there are many bicycle shops around New Jersey that offer maintenance and repair services for as low as $25. Be sure to stop in or make appointments early because shops get busy quickly. Here is a list of local bicycle shops in NJ. Bicycle libraries – which provide bicycles, bicycle parts, and repair tools for free or for donations – are also an affordable source of bicycle repair. Several locations throughout the state can be found here.
Another option is to complete a standard bicycle tune-up on your own, which can be pretty simple and requires common tools such as a multi-tool or Allen wrench set, chain lube, adjustable wrench, bicycle pump, and a rag.
If a bicycle has been stored indoors over the winter, then the ABC Quick Check will suffice. The League of American Bicyclists defines these steps as:
Air – Inflate tires to the proper pressure, typically this is listed on the tire.
Brakes – If there is less than ¼” of the brake pad left then it will need to be replaced.
Cranks and Chain – Tighten loose cranks and remove rust and gunk from chain
Quick Releases – Should all be closed and point back to avoid getting caught in anything.
Check – Go for a ride after checking the functions above to verify everything is working fine.
If a bicycle has been outdoors over the winter, then moisture likely got to it in the form of snow, ice, or rain. It is important to check for rust in the screws and bolts and add WD-40 to remove the rust. And, since water also dries up parts of the bike, lubricate problem areas (pedals, seat post, headset, and cranks) with a waterproof grease.
Riding in the Rain
What to wear: Warmer spring weather can still be unpredictable at times. To dress for these sudden changes, wearing waterproof layers that are also breathable is recommended. In addition, since visibility decreases in the rain wearing bright colors can make one stand out more. Remember to always use a front and rear light when visibility is low. Rain can lead to muddy trails and some may not be fully dry from winter snow. These conditions can be dangerous for riders so it is best to choose roads and paved paths but continue to be mindful of slippery surfaces.
Another thing to be mindful of in the spring is that there will be more people outdoors using trails and paths. Remember to show courtesy and respect to all trail users by being predictable when passing or turning by announcing or signaling intentions, keeping right, and using lights.
Once you have revived your bicycle from the cold winter months, there are a lot of bicycle-related events happening around New Jersey to enjoy this spring—for all ages and skill levels.
Events in NJ
May is National Bike Month! This celebration of bicycling has been around for 60 years and engagement in bike related activities and bike commuting has been growing. To learn more about Bike Month and planning events, visit this page.
National Bike Month events
- Bike to School Day on May 4. To see what schools around New Jersey will be participating, click here.
- Bike to Work Week is May 16-20.
- Bike to Work Day on May 20.
Challenges Around the State
- April-September 2016, REI Cycling Classes and Events. REI stores around New Jersey (Princeton, East Hanover, Paramus, and Marlton) offer cycling classes throughout the spring and summer. These courses include cycling education for all ages and hands on bike maintenance. Most classes are free but pre-register before they fill up.
- May 1, Jake’s Ride, Short Hills, NJ. Family-oriented ride ranging from 1-20 miles to support dystonia and Parkinson’s awareness and research.
- May 8, CycloFemme Mother’s Day Ride, Marty’s Reliable Cycle, Morristown, NJ. CycloFemme is an internationally recognized day created to celebrate women in cycling. This “easy paced 10-mile ride” explores the beautiful park trails that Morristown has to offer.
- May 14, Pedal for Promise, Olsen Middle School, Tabernacle, NJ. UrbanPromise is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide the children and young adults of Camden with life skills and spiritual growth. Funds raised from this event goes to support their mission.
- May 18, Ride of Silence, Locations around NJ. This organization exists to honor those who have been injured or killed while cycling around the world and to raise awareness about sharing roads.
- May 21, Jersey Genesis Triathlon, Harry Bowen Memorial Park, Port Republic, NJ. The triathlon includes half a mile of swimming, 16 miles of biking, and 4 miles of running. There are also options to complete a duathlon or aqua bike race. Plus there is a race for kids called the Bambino Biathlon. There is food after the events and all proceeds support the park.
- May 21, 3rd Annual Farm Roll, The event is a partnership between Blue Moon Acres Farm and NJ Bike Tours. Participants have to be 14 years and older and can chose from a 15 mile or 25 mile ride. Register before April 20th for a discounted rate. Includes farm-to-table dinner after-party.
- May 22, Tour de Elizabeth, Elizabeth, NJ. This 15-mile bike tour themed “Bikes ‘n’ Bites” will feature the cities diverse selection of restaurants. For all skill levels.
- May 28, Tour de South Brunswick, South Brunswick High School, Monmouth Junction, NJ. The last day to pre-register for this fun event is May 22. The event features three rides: 4-mile family ride, 10-mile fun and scenic ride, and the 25-mile ride that goes through the entire township.
This article was written by Nimotalai Azeez, a Research Assistant at the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center. She is currently pursuing a Masters of City and Regional Planning at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.