The basics of bike maintenance

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UNC’s Outdoor Pursuits boasts not only bikes to rent, but the opportunity for students to learn how to repair their bikes. Photo by Paige Murray.

The adrenaline of speeding down a back-country trail as stretches of land race by. The feeling of a cool breeze dancing through one’s hair on a hot summer day. The satisfaction and accomplishment of crossing over a finish line after months of perseverance and training. The avoidance of crowded parking lots when running late for class.

These situations have one thing in common: bikes.

With the Cruiser Program at Outdoor Pursuits, biking has been more and more common at the University of Northern Colorado. But as much as bikes have become a key part to campus life, many do not know need-to-know basics of a bike.

Outdoor Pursuits has been part of UNC for seven years. The program was a result of the Quality of Life Act, which prompted UNC to assist in the happiness of its students.

“The Quality of Life Act is what gave us the funding to start getting a bunch of gear and start doing our trips,” said Alec Dehaven, a graduate assistant at Outdoor Pursuits.

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Even though the act is not in place anymore, Outdoor Pursuits still receives plenty of funding so that it may provide programs such as the Cruiser Program. They have over 100 cruisers that students rent out to use throughout the year. When a bike needs maintenance, students simply can bring it into the shop and have it repaired. If a student wishes to fix their own bike, but does not know how, he or she is always welcome to go into the shop and learn about bike maintenance.

Although Outdoor Pursuits has about four or five mechanics almost always in the bike shop for maintenance, it can be very important for students to know how to care and maintain for their bike.

“In a typical day, a bike mechanic will come in and look at any bike or cruiser that is down and try to get it back and running for people, because people are always trying to rent those out,” Dehaven said.

There is much to know about bike basics, from fixing a flat tire to being able to replace a chain if it comes off. Along with maintenance, the mechanics will often give a mini lesson on fixing bikes; all students need to do is call ahead of time to see if a mechanic will be in and available to teach.

Bikes may seem to have a lot of parts, especially small and complicated ones, but when it comes down to the basics, it is not very difficult to pick up on.

One of the main parts of a bike are the tires. Having a basic knowledge on a bike’s tires can mean the difference between having to carry a bike when it gets a flat, and being able to repair it for a simple ride home.

Bike tires actually have an inner tube that holds in the air to keep the tire inflated. The tire that surrounds the tube is what is used to keep traction and withstand rough terrain. Though the tube inside isn’t delicate by any means, it still can be punctured by rocks and other sharp or hard objects.

Todd Kesterson, one of Outdoor Pursuits’ bike mechanics, illustrated how to check one’s tires.

“To tell if a bike tire is flat, you want to fill up the tube with an air pump,” Kesterson said. “Once you fill it up, you want to run your fingers across and you’ll be able to feel where the air is coming out, so you can patch it up with goop [tire glue] and put it back into the tire.”

Though there are tools that can be used to put the tire back together, it can also be done without them, it just may prove to be a little more time-consuming.

Parts of a bike can be ordered through Outdoor Pursuits as well. Prices can vary depending on the piece that is needed. Pricing is very reasonable compared to other local bike shops and bike mechanics can put the parts together once they arrive.

An important thing to keep in mind when fixing a bike is that every bike is different. Bikes are designed differently based on what they will be used for, whether it is mountain biking or street biking.

Learning bike basics is something that can be useful in various situations: mountain biking down a back-country trail as stretches of land race by, cruising down the street on a hot summer day, crossing over a finish line after months of training or weaving in and out of traffic as you avoid crowded parking lots. Knowing how to fix a bike can make the world of a difference in a hard situation.

To learn more on basic bike repair and maintenance, students can call the Outdoor Pursuits office at 970-351-GEAR to find a time to talk with a bike mechanic.

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