It's important to keep your bike in good running order in order to be safe and comfortable on the road.
You need to do the following regularly (every week during the cycling season):
- check your tire pressure and pump your tires to the recommended pressure (the number is embossed on the tire sidewall). Under-inflated tires make it more likely you'll get a flat, and slow down your ride.
- oil/wax/grease your chain (and preferably clean it if it's dirty). A dry chain will squeak and wear out faster, and is more likely to snap.
- check your front and rear brakes to ensure you can quickly and fully stop. This is essential to your safety. You should not be able to press your brakes right to the handlebars: if you can, that means the cable has stretched and needs to be tightened.
- check you can shift properly
- check that all your nuts and bolts are tight, and that your tires aren't worn or cut or have glass embedded in the tread
You can maintain your bike yourself, or you can take it to a local bicycle store. If you want a full tune-up before spring, it's best to take it in the winter (before March) when the shops aren't so busy.
If you want to do some of the maintenance yourself:
- The Ottawa Board of Education offers bike maintenance courses. See page 23 of http://www.ocdsb.ca/programs/continuweb/general/General%20Interest%20Program%20docs/doit.pdf for more info.
- The Re-Cycles Community Bicycle Organization (473 Bronson Avenue, south of Gladstone) is an excellent place to learn hands-on bike maintenance at a very reasonable price. You do the work and get advice as you go from the experienced mechanics there. See http://www.re-cycles.ca/ for more info and hours.
- if you're in the west end, Recyclore Bicycle Recycling at St. Paul's High School, 2675 Draper Avenue (near Greenbank and Baseline), is a community bicycle shop similar to re-Cycles. More info: http://recyclore.org/ and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7gV7s7XI0s
- You could also ask at your local bike store if they're doing any courses.