The sun is shining, birds are singing, and bikes arecoming out of the garage. Some of them are squeaking, creaking and moving slowly.
Al Barbour at Nauss Bicycle Shop (2533 Agricola Steet, 429-0024) says a lot of people wait until their bikes don't work before they come in.
His advice: Find out how much air to put in your tires (the PSI, or pounds per square inch, should be written on the tire) and keep them full. Use a pump with a gauge on it (the ones at gas stations often cost money and aren't designed for bikes). Keep your bike clean (dirt is abrasive on chains and parts), keep things tight ("bikes are simple machines") and make sure that your brakes work. "It's not important that you go," he says, "it's important that you stop."
To do this you will need an adjustable wrench, a three-headed Allen key (sizes 4, 5 and 6) and a multi-headed screwdriver. You will also need citrus cleaner, rags, brushes, chain oil and parts oil.
Bike Again! (Bloomfield Centre, 2786 Agricola Street, 429-0924) is a great way for a beginner mechanic to get their hands greasy. Closely affiliated with (and around the corner from) the Ecology Action Centre, Bike Again! is a volunteer-run community program that takes donated bikes and bike parts and transforms them into new bikes that people can borrow or keep.
Dave Bethune, a volunteer at Bike Again!, says he got involved because he liked the idea of people becoming better mechanics with their bikes. Wednesday evenings (5pm-9pm through the summer) Bike Again! is bustling as cyclists of varying skill levels and ages drop in to change tires, true wheels, make adjustments and replace parts. Bethune emphasizes, "you do all the work yourself." Volunteers with more experience buddy up with those with less experience to help them out as they learn how to fix things.
Bike Again! is diverse, but Bethune thinks it could be even better: "We need more women," he says. Leah Girardo (host of Pedal Driven, a bike-themed radio show on CKDU, Tuesdays, 1-2pm) is working on that. She recently taught a women's bike repair workshop out of NSCAD and is now running a drop-in night for women at Bike Again! Tuesdays from 6pm until 8pm. "For me, bikes are not just about bikes," she says. "It's about skill, community building and social issues." Girardo says bicycle repair shops are still not particularly welcoming to women. The goal of women's night is to create a safe, supportive, empowering space for women and women-identified folks to learn about bikes.
Can-Bike (call 490-6666 or check out the website for information: canbike.net/cca_pages/schedules-ns-halifax.htm) offers various courses about learning to ride and safe cycling. Wayne Jay of Chocolate Lake Centre says most of the courses cover basic bicycle maintenance---how to perform an ABC quick check (air, brakes, chain/crank, quick release, final check-over), and how to fix a flat.
Cyclesmith (6112 Quinpool Road, 425-1756 or 114 Woodlawn Road, 434-1756) has two bicycle maintenance courses, scheduled depending on interest. The Basic Bike Repair Course is $35 for one class and the Advanced Bike Repair Course is $135 for three classes. Mechanic Charles Ryan says groups sometimes come in for maintenance workshops, but you can also sign up individually.
Halifax Free Skoolsessions run bi-weekly from 11am-4pm at the North Branch Library, 2285 Gottingen, (halifaxfreeskool.wikispaces.com) also offers free bike repair courses some Saturdays---check the schedule.
Feeling bookish? Anchor Archive (5684 Roberts Street, 446-1788) has lots of bike related zines to peruse including Chainbreaker, Community Bike Project Spring Tune-Up, and A Rough Guide To Bicycle Maintenance. And Halifax Public Libraries has at least 30 titles including Glenn's Complete Bicycle Manual, Bicycling Magazine's Complete Guide to Bicycle Maintenance and Repair and Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance. Park Tools, the Minnesota-based bike tool company, has a book called Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair, which is available at Mountain Equipment Co-op (1550 Granville Street)---MEC also has a wide selection of bicycle gear and products, including Bio Cycle Chain Cleaner ($5.50 for 1 litre).
If you would prefer to get an expert to fix up your bike or it needs extra work, there are lots of bike shops to choose from. Al Barbour at Nauss says "pick a place you trust, and get your bike tuned up there once a year in spring, once every two years if you are a summer rider."
A tune-up at Nauss will run you about $45 and takes about a week. Barbour says that they are thorough and that they tend to fix a lot of bikes that other shops won't fix. "Dave was born into an old-school approach," he says, "we have weird old tools and parts." Cyclesmith has a handy menu of tune-up options to the left of the entrance to the store. Services range from fixing a flat ($5 plus a tube), a basic tune-up for a fair weather cyclist ($40), or more detailed work from wheel truing ($60) to a major overhaul, recommended annually for cyclists who use their bikes a lot ($160).
Sportwheels (209 Sackville Drive, 865-9033) offers free adjustments to bikes purchased at the store in the last year. Their services include an express tune-up ($30), a tune-up plus truing wheels and adjusting hubs ($60), a major tune-up ($85), a drive train cleaning ($45) and a pro tune-up ($110). Repairs take between a few days and a few weeks.
At Bicycles Plus (1519 Bedford Highway, 832-1700) a basic tune-up costs $69 and includes a side-to-side wheel true. A deluxe tune-up costs $109.99 and includes a drive train cleaning. The pro tune-up ($139.99) includes all of the above plus repacking the hubs. This time of year it tends to take just over a week to fix a bike; in the winter bikes are often ready in one day.
Ideal Bikes (1678 Barrington Street, 444-RIDE) is the fastest: tune-ups take one day---two days over the weekend---and cost $30. At Bikes by Dave (2828 Windsor Street, 455-1677) a basic tune-up costs $33, a tune-up plus a drive train scrub (the tune-up special) costs $50, and your bike should be ready to ride in two to seven days.
Stores usually offer free estimates and advise customers that extra parts cost extra money. While you're thinking about money, remember that if you keep your bike clean and in good condition it will run better and cost you less money later in new parts.
And don't be afraid to pick up that wrench! After all, it's not rocket science.