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'Tis the season

While I never stop riding my bicycles outdoors during the bone-chilling winter months, most normal — or should I say sane — people choose to hibernate. The majority of cyclists just stay off the pedals or spin away on an indoor trainer.

However, before we know it, the nice weather will be here and people will start thinking about dusting off the saddle and jumping back on their bicycle. But, prior to hitting the road or trails, it should be in good working order.

I highly recommend taking your two-wheeled machine to a bike shop. With that in mind, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to offer a few suggestions as to what you might want to ask or point out when chatting with the staff member servicing your bicycle. If nothing else, it gets the conversation rolling.

So here goes, in no particular order of importance:

— Check for chain wear. A simple measuring tool will indicate if your chain is up to snuff or so stretched out it needs replacing. Also, look to see how the chain lies or "rests" in the chain rings.

— Have the mechanic grab a hold of the crank arm and give it a wiggle. It should be tight; if it's loose, it might just need tightening or you may have bottom bracket issues.

— Run your fingers along the wheel spokes, making sure they are secure and not broken.

— Examine tires for adequate tread; don't forget the sidewalls.

— Report any problems with shifting gears.

— I may be a little picky, but I like a quiet bike. Mention any noises that seem abnormal, pointing out — the best you can — where they are coming from and what you think triggers them.

— Have you noticed any frayed cables?

— And how about the brakes? How much do you have to press the lever to properly stop your bike? Are they too mushy? Too tight? Also, look over the pads, whether you have rim brakes or disc.

— Nuts, bolts, screws. All fastened correctly and at the right torque?

— From a purely safety standpoint, please don't leave any bike shop without lights — both front and rear. They truly do save lives. Case in point, because of recent deaths of professional cyclists while out training, a fellow pro has launched a public awareness movement titled "Be Bright, Wear a Light."

I haven't listed everything, but these ideas get the thought process started. Obviously, many of these items you can check yourself. Everyone's situation is different. If you don't ride much, chances are everything is cool. But if you ride a ton — like me — things do wear out. For example, some of my bicycles require a new chain and cassette every season.

And last but not least, here's the best advice from someone who works at a bike shop. The earlier in the season you drop off your bike, the better. The wait time is much shorter, which means you'll be back on your bike sooner. Stay safe!

More cycling action at The Res in Hallowell, Maine.

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