Summerize your mountain bike, camping gear, AT skis and more with pro tips
Summerize your skis
Your mountain bike isn’t the only gear that needs a little summer love. Camden Latimer of Wilderness Sports in Dillon gives simple tips on how to care for skis, snowboards, boots and the rest.
Buckle them up before they go in a closet. It seems inaucuous, but Latimer said the plastic on hard alpine boots (and even softer alpine-touring models) can “set” after several months in storage. That means the boot might not fit the same next winter, even if your calves got plumper, which can compromise the boot’s integrity.
Skis and snowboards
It’s as simple as wax and store. After you’re finished for the season, coat the base of your skis or board with a thick coat of all-temp wax. Be sure to cover the edges — this combats rust — and don’t scrape a thing until next November (or October, whatever).
Jackets and pants
Don’t be a dirtball. Wash your jackets, pants and any other waterproof outer clothing with a tech wash like NikWax ($12.99 at Wilderness Sports and even Walmart). This reactivates the waterproofing already on the clothing, unlike everyday detergent that can wash away protection. Also, no homeless ski bum smell.
“There are a lot of beliefs on how to store skins,” Latimer said. “Your hot attic is not the best place for skins, or any other gear.”
Noted. But what comes after finding a cool, dry place? Some people use skin savers — a strip of material that sits between the rolled-up skins to protect the adhesive — while others simply roll them up, glue side to glue side. Either way is better than leaving them attached to your skis or unrolled in the open air.
Big-kid toys aren’t cheap.
Two summers ago you spent a cool $3,000 on a mountain bike. It rides like a dream — or at least it used to. But this summer, you took the bike out of storage and noticed the brakes are squealing, the tires are floppy and something just seems wrong with the front fork. Nothing serious is wrong — yet — but you want to do everything possible to make sure nothing serious will ever happen, at least not before you’ve gotten three grand out of the thing.
Welcome to Summerizing 101, your guide to prepping summer gear such as bikes, tents, kayaks and more for the season to come, and storing winter gear such as skis and snowboards for the long, dry dog days. We talked with Summit-area experts for tips on what to look for, what to mend and what to replace before hitting the trail.
Trust us: A $3,000 bike is still worth it. You’ve simply got to show it a little seasonal TLC.
Mountain biking is the skiing of summer: just about everyone does it — but not everyone knows how to properly care for their equipment.
“If you know what you’re looking for you can ride stuff until the end, but I recommend staying on top of things,” said Camden Latimer, the bike service manager for Wilderness Sports in Dillon. “A lot of people want to get set up for the whole season right now.”
After pulling your bike out, Latimer suggests starting with a visual check of the entire bike. Is the frame bent or dented? Does the drive train work? Are your tires holding air? Any cobwebs or bird nests?
Next, look closely at your tires. If you’re riding tubeless tires, then check the latex sealant between the tire and the rim, Latimer said. It can dry and crack in storage, which leads to leaks. Wilderness Sports can re-apply sealant for $25, and most other local shops offer the same service. If you want to convert from tubes to tubeless, then the price is $25 per wheel, plus the cost of rims and tires (starting at $300 total).
Once tires are checked, hop on the bike and ride around to check front and rear suspension.
“People tend to neglect suspension,” Latimer said. “Like everything else, the suspension needs to be serviced, like the seals and dust wipers on each side of the front fork. Those keep dirt out of the inside, but they only do a good job when they’re a year or two old.”
Like the tire sealant, Latimer says rubber gaskets and foam rings inside a suspension system can crack, leading to leaks and poor performance. You can repair these at home with the right tools and a $20 seal kit (you’ll know what the right tools mean), or take it to a shop for a tech rebuild. Cost is $80 for a front fork at Wilderness or $35 for a rear suspension.
The final components to check on your mountain bike are the brakes. Disc brakes are nearly standard these days, Latimer says, and most modern models work on a hydraulic system. If you notice your brakes are lagging or unresponsive, then the hydraulic fluid needs to be bled at a shop. Pricing varies. Another issue is brake pads, which clamp around the brake rotor. These need to be changed when they’re about two-thirds worn down, Latimer said, and immediately if you start to hear screeching when you brake.
“If you wear your brake pad until it’s gone, you’ll be running metal on metal,” Latimer said. “It will sound horrendous and take life out of your rotor.”
Pads are about $20 to $30 for a full set. Rotors start at $80.
Road bikes are similar beasts to mountain bikes, but they come with a few little deviations. After checking everything you would on a trail bike — tires, brakes, drive train, suspension if it’s there — Latimer suggests taking a look at your feet.
“In the road bike world, those clip-less pedals are made of plastic, and depending on how much you walk around in the coffee shop or wherever in your cleats, those can wear out,” Latimer said. “If they feel floppy or aren’t holding (as you pedal), you can replace that.”
With cleats checked, Latimer also recommends checking your helmet. The foam in most helmets can deteriorate throughout time, such as rubber gaskets and sealants, which means bike helmets don’t last forever. Most are good for at least five years, and although they’ll last much longer, exposure to sun, rain and other elements can compromise its brain-protecting qualities.
The final thing Latimer looks for on road bikes is comfort — after all, you’ll be spending a lot of time in the saddle. He recommends changing out handlebar tape and bike shorts every season.
“Don’t ignore the comfort part of this,” Latimer said. “If you have good handlebar tape and a good saddle, it can make your bike feel new again.”
Kayaks and rafts
Watercraft such as kayaks, rafts and stand-up paddleboards are worlds apart from mountain bikes, but they all share one frustration in common: beat-and-battered rubber.
“Do that visual inspection of the whole boat and if you see funky wear or an interesting crack — maybe it was folded in the same way for six months — make sure they aren’t compromised,” said Matti Wade, owner of Ten Mile Creek Kayaks in Frisco. The retail store won’t be open this season, but Wade will still lead kayaking classes this summer and has been busy prepping his own gear.
One of his biggest recommendations is to take your craft on the water — say, Dillon Marina — before you make the first big trip of the season. It’s the perfect time for a visual inspection, and then once you get on the water, you’ll find most of the small cracks or leaks you missed before. He’s personally been paddling on Lake Dillon several times this May, and he recently saw another man on a raft who he’s sure was “making sure everything was kosher before he goes on the river.”
After checking for cracks, Wade suggests using a product called 303 Aerospace Sealant (around $12) to coat the entire surface of your craft. It’s like a combination sunscreen and conditioner, he says, which protects your craft from UV rays all summer and pampers the rubber when it goes back to storage. Speaking of rubber, Wade also checks the neck and wrist gaskets on his dry top before boating. If they’re falling apart, then he replaces them for about $50. River shops offer the same service for about $75, and most companies will also refurbish equipment. It beats paying $150 or more for a brand-new top.
Unlike bikes and boats, camping gear should be ready to go as soon as summer begins — that is, if you checked it before storing for the winter.
Gear such as tents and sleeping bags are the first to check, beginning with (you guessed it) a visual inspection. Look for holes, busted zippers, missing poles and the like and then promise to be better to your gear this summer. After every trip, Latimer suggests leaving your sleeping bag unraveled or in a storage sack, not the stuff sack. Bags of all types, down and synthetic, work best when the fill is lofted and plush. Tents can be stuffed and stored, but always set them up to air out and dry when you get back home. This prevents mold, cracking and that weird mountain mothball smell.
If you own a stove, then give it a test run before your trip by lighting it to check for leaking gaskets or other malfunctioning parts. Backpacking stoves can wear down faster than camp stoves, Latimer said, but Wilderness and other outdoor stores usually carry repair kits with rubber O-rings and sealant.
The big takeaway for stoves (and most gear): don’t jump to the conclusion that busted gear means new gear. With some TLC, you’ll have enough extra cash for another round of brews.
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