2009-03-25- Spokes: Spring and Bicycle Care- NY Times

SPOKES: Spring and Bicycle Care
New York Times-City Room
March 25th, 2009
By Sean Patrick Farrell

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE4DF133EF936A15750C0A96F9C8B63.

The ice cream trucks are out, flowering bulbs are poking up in the parks and cyclists are again flocking to the city's paths, bridges and new on-street lanes. Last year was a bumper year for New York City bicycling, particularly for commuters. Starting today, City Room will explore urban cycling with a weekly feature, Spokes.

Americans across the country rediscovered cycling as an inexpensive way to get around as gas prices shot up last year. In New York, an increase in transit fares this year may keep the trend going.

Whether it's a beater, a 10-speed, a cyclo-cross or a commuter model, a bicycle needs regular maintenance, and spring is a good time for it.

''The city is a rather rough environment for a bike,'' said Eric Schofield, the general manager and a mechanic at Bicycle Habitat, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

He said he has seen a recent shift in New Yorkers' perception of bikes from toys to tools, as more people rely on them for regular transportation. He stressed the importance of checking for proper tire inflation, the lubrication of chains and other moving parts, and properly adjusted brakes.

Most bike shops offer repairs and tuneups, but services often take longer as the weather warms up. At Pedal Pushers, an Upper East Side bike shop, the balmy spell last week doubled the usual repair turnaround time, to 48 hours from 24.

Roger Bergman, the owner, recommends a tuneup every 1,000 miles or every six months.

Bicycle Habitat, which has two or three mechanics at the ready, claims a 25-minute or shorter turnaround for most repairs and offers bike repair classes.

Time's Up, a nonprofit environmental group known for its involvement with the cycling events called Critical Mass, also offers basic instruction in bicycle maintenance.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, a small class at Time's Up's location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, had a lesson on wheel repair for a suggested $5 donation.

As Eric Berkow, a 28-year-old Harlem resident, dug into his wheel's innards, he explained that he'd been getting around the city almost exclusively by bicycle for two years. He regularly rides from the Bedford Avenue subway stop in Williamsburg to the First Avenue stop on the L line, at 14th Street. Under the expert's recommendations, he should have a tuneup every 303 times he goes across the Williamsburg Bridge.

Mr. Berkow, who said he was not ''a fan of the train,'' added that he regularly beat the L subway to Manhattan.