Stay at home. It’s the most crucial piece of advice governments around the world are passing out at the moment as part of the global effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
If you do have to leave the house for essential travel, then there’s no better choice than the bike, health experts say.
You won’t have people entering that 2m circle of danger in which viral transmission occurs, says biometrician Gerd Antes, a health science mathematician focussing on the ways in which infections spread.
“I can only emphasise: Get on your bike, ” says Antes, who sees riding a bike as 100% mobile isolation.
The benefit is that you’re only touching your own bike and not the same buttons, poles and seats touched by countless others on a train or bus.
“There’s a high level of protection for others because you naturally have to keep your distance at all times, ” says Antes, director of a centre at Freiburg University Hospital in Germany.
What’s more, if you switch to cycling, you’re contributing to reducing the number of people on public transport, “which is, after all, still the biggest public mass event and where the risk of infection is particularly high.”
If your bike has been left to gather dust in the garage for the past few months, here’s how to get it ready for the road again in four steps.
Get a bucket of water: As a first step, cyclists should give their bicycle a good clean. “It’s enough to wash off the dirt with a sponge and some soapy water, ” says bike specialist David Eisenberger.
But don’t use a high-powered cleaner, as this can damage the bike, Eisenberger warns.
Then you need to inspect the most important parts of your bike. “The maintenance motto goes: Chain, tyres, brakes, ” says repair expert David Kossmann.
Oil the chain: After cleaning the bike, its chain should be oiled. Cyclists can tell whether that’s necessary if there are any orange rust spots on the chain or if it squeaks while riding the bike. “If the chain isn’t serviced, it can tear or break, ” warns Eisenberger.
Test the tyres: With tyres, it’s a matter of having the right air pressure. “Tyres can force a breakdown if there isn’t enough air inside them. And the bike’s driving characteristics will change too, ” says Kossmann. “The correct air pressure can be found on the tyre sidewall.”
Cyclists can press down with their thumb into the tyre to see if it needs air. “People who regularly ride their bike usually develop a good sense for the right pressure, ” says bicycle repair pro Martin Utz. Alternatively, there are bicycle pumps with built-in pressure gauges.
It’s also sensible to take a look at the tyre’s tracks and tread pattern. “A tyre is definitely worn out if the underlying layer is visible, ” explained Utz. Fine cracks – however numerous – along the tyre walls are no reason for worry, on the other hand.“Many modern tyre rims have wear indicators, ” says Utz. Those are grooves, partially even dyed in colour, that run along the entire tyre rim at the level of the brake pads. If this market cannot be seen any longer, it means the tyre rim is already so strongly rubbed off that it can burst.
Check the brakes: One early warning sign that there are problems with the brakes is if they are no longer smooth. “With calliper brakes, the lines could be completely rusted, ” explains Kossmann. The brake lines connect the brake handles on the handlebars with the brakes on the wheel rims.
If water gets inside the partially uncovered brake lines, rust will be the result. Another indication there are problems is if cyclists can completely press down on the brake lever on the handlebars. “The brake pads are probably worn out in that case, ” says Kossmann.
But when is it no longer worth the repair costs for a bicycle? Rims, tyres, chains, linings or brake pads are interchangeable parts and all not a major problem, says Eisenberger.“With modern tyres, a lot of repair work can only be carried out with special tools, ” says Utz. Disc brakes, for example, require precision work that can’t really be achieved with households tools.
“With very cheap bicycles, like those that are on sale for less than US$250 (RM1,078) in supermarkets or DIY stores, it’s often not worth your money to exchange certain parts, ” Utz says. – dpa
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