Six must-do safety checks before you ride
Riding a poorly maintained cycle is a recipe for disaster. A few quick safety checks before each ride will keep your bike working smoothly and efficiently and is a great habit to get into. With a little knowledge, you can catch problems early and save yourself time and money. Here’s how easy it is...
Brakes and wheels
Always a good place to start. Check that your wheel mounts are locked in place and that your wheels are secure. Next, give your wheels a good spin checking for any wobbles. This will also show you any dents or bends in the rims. Give your brake levers a squeeze to ensure that brake pads have proper contact with the rims, are clean and are free of grease. If you have disc brakes with hydraulic lines, it’s important to check that the fluid is still in good condition; when it becomes cloudy, take the bike to a technician to get the lines flushed and re-filled. The discs themselves should be checked for signs of warping or damage.
Tyres need a good amount of tread and to be pressurised correctly: too low and you will have tough rolling resistance; too high and there is a risk of them bursting (especially on warmer days). Your maximum tyre pressure will be marked on the sidewall of the tyre. Accurate pressure is important, so make sure when you get a pump it has a dial or indicator. A good quality track pump will usually have this feature, and will be much easier on the arms compared to a hand pump.
Chain and gears
A worn, ‘stretched’ chain can make gear changes difficult and even damage the cassette. Luckily, it’s easy to monitor the chain’s condition with a chain wear indicator . Clean the chain regularly with de-greaser, a stiff brush, or chain cleaning set . Cassettes and their sprockets need regular checking. Teeth can become worn, bent or even go missing entirely. It might be a pain to discover cassette issues before you ride, but far better that than find out miles from home.
The humble pedal needs TLC too. First, check them by giving them a spin looking for any signs of warping or impact damage. Next, make sure fasteners are secure; a good hex key set should do the job. The bearings and spindle should be greased. To do this look for a grease port or remove the pedal (you may need a pedal spanner ) and lubricate inside.
Saddle and seat post
A pretty important part of your bike is the seat (or saddle). Over time the seatpost can become loose and difficult to adjust. Unbolt and lift the seatpost then apply a bit of grease. This will make sure you can adjust it more easily. Replace the seatpost and secure it tightly with the clamp. Make sure it’s straight (in line with the frame) and level.
Headset and stem
These are what controls your steering so keeping them in tip-top condition is vital. Locking your front brakes, apply some downward pressure to the handlebars over the forks and see if there is any play on the headset. Any movement and you might need to tighten the headset. After this, lift the front wheel off the ground a little. Listen and feel for any resistance when turning the handlebars from side to side; if there is, it might be time for a service or a new headset altogether.
The easiest way to check your headset is secure is by locking the front wheel between your knees and applying force in both directions to the handlebars. If it moves easily, a quick tighten up with a hex key or bike multi-tool will do the job. Finally, check your brake levers are secure and easy to pull, with cables that are correctly and evenly tensioned.