The arrival of May means it's time to get out warm weather gear and equipment. From gardening tools to patio furniture, summer is on the way.
Since May is National Bike Month, it is also the perfect time to bring the family bicycles out from the garage or basement. But before hitting the road, it is important to make sure that bike is road-worthy after sitting inside all winter.
"The first thing to do is to put air in the tires, and the amount of pressure should be written right on the tire," said Bruce Anderson, owner of Andy's Cycle in Keene. "You also want to check the brakes and see if the gears are working and the seat is adjusted.
“Then take the bike out for a spin. You want it to be safe and running well, and once you take it for a spin, you will know if there is an issue."
"We recommend first checking the air pressure in the tires and checking the brakes before looking at the chain," said Patty Clark, who co-owns Norm's Ski & Bike Shop with her husband, Jaycee. "Chains can get dry or a little rusty so a lubricant like Tri-Flow can clean and oil it."
"A lot of time people come in and we notice the brakes need work," Clark added. "With brakes it can be a slow process and people don't realize they are much slower than when they first got them.
“With a bike tune-up we also check the brake pads and all the gears. We look at the cables and replace any that are frozen, plus see if the wheels need to be trued, especially since potholes in the road can make wheels wobbly."
When a bike is once again road- or trail-ready, for families with young children, another consideration is looking at how much they have grown over the winter and if their bike is still the right size.
"When the seat is in the highest position and knees are coming up very high, it is time to look at the next size. A lot of times there are two sizes a child can sit on," Clark said.
Clark gave a good rule of thumb for estimating bike sizes for children, with a general recommendation of going up four inches in wheel size every two to three years, until the pre- to early-teen years when a tall child might try either a 26-inch bike or a small adult frame bike.
"There are so many options and considerations, including new or used bikes," Clark said. "Around mid-May we start to get a lot of trade-ins."
With the bike ready to go, riders should next look at accessories. A good fitting helmet is a must (Clark says she never minds checking the fit of a child's helmet, whether purchased at their shop or not), while other gear, though optional, is available to enhance the ride.
"When you start looking at accessories, you should buy what you need for the type of riding you are doing," Anderson said. "Blinking lights on the tire for day or night when riding on the road is something to consider. Also, during hot summer days a rack and bag to hold gear, particularly on a long ride, can be purchased for less than $60."
Clark recommended looking at items like bike gloves to help with vibrations, a chamois for a more comfortable seat, bike shoes to help with efficiency, a mirror for road travel and, for long rides, a repair kit.
"More and more popular in our area are electric-assist bikes that you pedal, but the bike can go over 20 miles per hour. They are popular with people who want to commute to work," Clark said.
This year National Bike to Work Day is May 17, and students at Keene Middle School will be encouraged to participate in National Bike or Walk to School Week, May 13-17.
According to Mari Brunner, acting planner for the City of Keene's Community Development Department, "The city originally received a Safe Routes to School grant for the Jonathan Daniels School for infrastructure changes in the 'Maple Acres' neighborhood in order to make them safer for kids walking and biking to school. The infrastructure changes, which include painted pedestrian and bike lanes, were completed in 2017. With the transition of Jonathan Daniels School from an elementary school to a preschool, the city decided to reach out to Keene Middle School as a partner as this is actually a great age group to target, because they are starting to become more independent."
Whether biking for health or fun, to school or work, or just on the trails over the weekend, bike season 2019 has arrived in the Monadnock Region.
For more information on National Bike Month, visit bikeleague.org/bikemonth. To learn more about making walking and bicycling to school a regular part of your community, visit walkbiketoschool.org or keenesrts.com. Visit Norm's Ski & Bike Shop at 62 Martell Court in Keene or online at normsskibike.com. Andy’s Cycle is at 165 Winchester St. in Keene and online at andyscycle.net.