This morning was just a lousy morning. I slept through my alarm, then the water wouldn’t get hot enough in my shower, and things snowballed from there. Hideous, I tell you. Anyway, I was hoping that a change of scenery would help so I was stupidly looking forward to going to my job. That didn’t work out the way I was hoping, big surprise! Eleventy billion phone calls, a hundred of those red flagged “important” emails sitting like a time bomb in my inbox, and why oh WHY does the stupid printer never ever have any paper in it? What are these people printing all day long and why can’t they be considerate and put some paper in themselves? Or better yet, don’t. I’d say send it in an email but they’re probably already doing that and printing it too.

Anyway, I went home and wanted to set all of my work clothes on fire. Which, while satisfying, would have been a pretty terrible decision. A lot of it is synthetic, so it probably wouldn’t burn anyway, it would just melt and release toxic fumes or something. So instead, I decided to go for a ride. What better way to deal with your feelings than literally getting on a bike and ride as far as you possibly could away from them? So I changed my clothes – without burning them, I promise – and got out of my house.

I gave it away a little in the title of this post, but let me tell you that riding a bicycle when I am angry is apparently the thing that I am second best at, behind my actual job. I headed over to the trail near my house, where I do my best riding. I guess everyone else had such a crummy day too and they were off doing normal things like drinking away their problems, because I had the trail all to myself. OK, it wasn’t a nice day, but it wasn’t too hot or too cold, and it wasn’t raining or anything. It was sort of nice that I didn’t have to keep yelling, “On your left!” as I passed by a bunch of people walking and looking at the weeds or something.

I had my headphones in and great music playing. I just found the perfect groove and kept going. The trail is a five-mile loop if you travel the main branch, which is great. It is long enough that I don’t feel like I am riding some sort of terrible loop, but circular so I don’t ride 5 miles and then have to turn around and ride all the way back just to get home. Sometimes I just want to do five miles, you know? Anyway, I was angry cycling and listening to my music. Before I knew it, I was at the beginning of the path again. I looked at my watch and it had been about 18 minutes. Man I wish I had checked the exact time before I started. I was just so mad that all I did was start my playlist!

Oh well, I’m sure that there will be another day where everything pisses me off. Next time I’ll be ready with a stopwatch.

If you don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to taking care of your bike, don’t worry. I was once like you and I am here to tell you that you do have the ability to change. You can learn how to keep your ride in really good shape even if you are non-mechanically inclined. Really! The easiest way is to spend some time in bike shops. You’ll get the best information out of people who build and sell bikes every single day. Plus, it is always better to have a human to talk to. But it can be hard to do that all the time, so there are a few things you need to know just for yourself.

Before every ride, keep the ABCs in mind: “A” stands for air. Make sure your tires are inflated properly. If you don’t know what the correct pressure is, it should be written on the sidewall of each tire. Check for cracking or holes, then tighten the valve caps. Also be sure that your patch kit and pump are with you and in working condition. “B” means brakes. Test the front and back breaks to make sure that they are working properly. You really don’t want to find that there is a problem when you actually need them to work.  “C” is the chain. Check it and all the gears. Make sure it is lubricated and clean.

Depending on how often you ride, you’re going to want to check the nuts and bolts to make sure they’re tight enough. Most things, you’re trying to tighten as much as you can, but that can be bad for bikes. Look in your owner’s manual to see your torque specs. Being too tight can be just as bad as being too loose. Buy a torque wrench or bring it to a bike shop to be sure you’re doing it right.

If you’ve been riding in inclement weather or on a muddy or dusty trail, you obviously want to clean your bike. There are special cleaners made specifically for bikes, or you can use dishwashing liquid diluted by water to clean off the frame. Small brushes, like an old toothbrush, are great at getting in all the tiny places dirt and crud can accumulate. If your chain is really gross, they do make chain cleaning devices. Otherwise some degreaser and a rag should be able to handle it.

Even if you didn’t get the bike really dirty, regularly wiping it down with a damp cloth is a good idea. Lubricants attract dirt, which can make the gears and chain a real mess. Make sure you keep your bike’s moving parts lubricated but wipe off any excess before you hop on. If you’re going to rinse it with water, be very careful. Don’t use a high-pressure hose and be sure to dry everything well to avoid rust and corrosion.

By following these basic tips and taking good care of your ride, it should last you a long time. I hope this post helped and you feel more confident in handling some routine maintenance tasks!