Fall Bike Commuting | Maintenance To Keep You Riding

Fall bike commuter with pannier
Riding in the fall can mean a little extra attention to the bike.

We all dream of endless summer days, of commuting with a tail wind both ways, of never experiencing a flat tire, or having any sort of difficulty with traffic or our bike.  Summer is good to us and our bikes. Not much is needed to keep your bike rolling beyond keeping the chain lubed and the occasional cleaning. With the arrival of fall (and brace for it, winter!), it is time to think ahead and do a little preventative maintenance to make sure everything continues to ride smoothly.

Fall bike commuter with pannier

Riding in the fall can mean a little extra attention to the bike.

Check your brakes

During the fall you are likely to come into wet conditions and this can significantly reduce your stopping time.  Wet brakes do not stop nearly as well as dry brakes and old worn brakes just take this situation from bad to worse (to downright scary).  Take some time and really inspect your brake pads. The pads used with rim brakes should still have some grooves on the pads. If yours look as smooth as a road cyclists legs, it’s definitely time to replace them. Disc brakes should be working well as long as there is still more than 1mm of compound on the pad – anything less and it is time to replace.

Bike commuter bike maintenance

It’s a good idea to do a thorough check of your brakes, tires and other components throughout the cold and wet fall months.

 “Don’t be like me: I recently inspected my brake pads only to discover that the compound has been completely worn off and that squealing sound during “braking” was because of metal on metal.”

Check your tires

We all know that wet roads do not have the same traction as dry (and remember that wet painted lines on the roads are even worse). Couple these wet roads with road debris and falling leaves and it could quickly escalate to a very slippery situation. The bald tires you were using throughout the summer may have been good for dry pavement but now is a good time to think about getting something new and maybe something a bit wider. Wider tires will definitely increase your traction.  Although it may be a bit harder to pedal, you will be thankful for them when you take that first wet corner at speed. Added bonus when you switch back in the spring to skinnier tires, you’ll feel like a champion on the bike.

Bike commuter tire change

Failing tires can literally ruin a ride. Always good to check them out and trade them for a knobbier set. You’ll find the traction much better.

Clean your bike

This time of year is just plain harder on your components. Wet and grimy roads can leave your bike looking pretty miserable and can seriously wear out your components. The grit and grime acts like sandpaper and wears out parts much faster than you want.  After any wet ride be sure to give your bike a quick cleaning; this could be as simple as a quick rinse with the hose and a towel dry. Be sure to re-apply lube to the chain. If you do get a beautiful day, take the opportunity to break out the soap and buckets to give your bike a much more thorough cleaning and some extra TLC.  A good option, when you have time, is to fully degrease the chain and, if you currently are using a dry chain lube, switch over to a wet chain lube. It is more durable for wet weather conditions.

Bike commuter applying chain lube

After every time you give your bike a cleaning, you should re-apply lube to the chain. Switching to wet lube for the fall and winter is a good idea too.

What else?

Although there may be other components that show wear and could use replacing, I try to push them at this point.  I know how hard winter is on my bike and I feel that there isn’t much point in replacing cables, chains, handlebar tape, cassettes, etc. before winter destroys them. As long as the bike is working well enough I will try to push some components  through winter and then do a big overhaul in the spring. If you’re finding the colder, wetter weather is slowly convincing you to ditch the bike, check out my last blog about fall weather hacks.

Bike commuter tyre inspection

During all seasons it is a good idea to check over the tires from time to time. I recommend more often in the fall and winter because smooth tires can mean slips and falls – and that’s no fun!

With that in mind, what are your other must-do fall maintenance tasks?


Have a good ride!

~ Joe

Instagram | @joe.meissner

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