Advice from a Bike Mechanic

Sanjay Patel, mechanic at Cyclemani on the Danforth. Photo: David Gray-Donald.

We asked Sanjay Patel, bike mechanic at Cyclemania on the Danforth, for tips on getting your bike ready to ride

What to do with your bike after it sat around all winter
  • Pump up the tires

  • Make sure the handlebars are tight, give them a twist (they shouldn’t be too stiff or too wobbly)

  • Give the wheels a spin, make sure they are spinning freely

  • Make sure the brakes are working

  • If you’re not sure what to do, bring it to your local bike shop

Make sure your chain is moving smoothly

  • Look for stiff links

  • If there are stiff links, you need to either unseize them yourself, remove those links, or replace the chain

  • A little rust on the chain is fine, as long as it’s moving. A bit of redness here and there will come off if you ride it. It’s stiffness you’re looking for

Lubricate the chain so it moves well

  • It’s best to use a bike specific chain oil

  • Something like WD40 can work but it doesn’t last very long

  • In a pinch you can also use olive oil

Lock it up!

  • A wire lock is only good for a very short period of time when your bike is still in view, or in addition to a u-lock, like to secure your wheels or seat. Wire locks can be cut with really simple tools and quietly.

  • A u-lock will offer more protection at any given time, because people need a bigger tool to cut it. Chain locks are similar to a u-lock, they just need to be thick.

  • U-locks are a bit more expensive than wire locks, but they’re what you need to spend to stop the bike from getting stolen.

  • A good u-lock will cost at least $50

Other essentials

  • You can use pumps at some bike stores, gas stations and TTC stations. Having one at home is convenient, and a good one will cost about $40.

  • Bells are a must-have, and cost around $10

  • Stay aware: don’t wear headphones or use your phone while biking

On buying a bike from a store or online

  • Buy new or used from a store, unless you really know bikes yourself or you really trust the person

  • You can see a lot of bikes listed for sale online of various price ranges and qualities, and you could be thinking you’re getting a good deal whereas there’s a part that needs to be replaced and that part is going to cost more than the cost of the bike. Or people might try to deceive you

  • Make sure you test ride before you buy any bike. There’s no one right type of bike for you. Get something you feel comfortable on. To figure that out you need to test ride

How to carry stuff on your bike

  • First, figure out how much stuff you want to carry. That can determine whether you want a simple front basket or a more robust rear luggage rack

  • If you’re going to be getting a bottle of wine or a little bit of groceries, a front basket would be okay

  • If you’re hauling around clothes, laptop, groceries, stuff for kids, etc., then a rear luggage rack is going to offer you more options. You can get a big rear basket, or bags that are removable

A spring tune-up at Cyclemania costs $75. It includes:

  • Full inspection and adjustment

  • Tightening nuts and bolts

  • Readjusting the gears

  • Tightening the breaks

  • Balancing the wheels

  • Pumping the tires

  • Making sure the bike is ready to ride

If you’re bike isn’t working properly, you risk really serious injury and damage

This article appears in the May/June 2023 Issue.