Checking your bike before you ride is an important part of both long-term maintenance and ensuring your own safety, especially if you'll be riding on busy roads or choppy trails.
These pre-ride checks might look like tedious chores at first glance, but it only takes a few minutes to check the items below, and trust me - that will be a few minutes well invested as you'll be avoiding potential risks and stress further down the line.
So... here goes:
The very first thing you'll need to do before performing any kind of maintenance on your bike is to ensure she's as clean as a whistle.
This might not seem like a necessary aspect of maintaining your bike but it will make it far easier for you to see any glaring issues such as loose bolts or general wear and tear that might affect your ride after a few miles.
What's more, keeping your bike's components sparkling clean is a surefire way of extending their lifespan a little, so grab a cloth and some warm water and get scrubbing!
To ensure you're well equipped to perform any minor maintenance tasks that may pop up, you should always ensure you keep a small toolkit close to hand.
You don't need to carry a lot of heavy or bulky tools with you, but it is worth having a small kit with you. I covered the 4 Must Have Tools For Every Ride in this article here, but to recap, carry items like:
- Multi-Tool, containing:
- Allen / Hex key; and
- Phillips and flat-headed screwdriver
- Track pump
- Chain tool or chain splitter
- Teflon-based chain lubricant
You might also want to carry some disposable gloves to keep your hands free of grease and dirt.
It is worth taking these tools with you whenever you go for a ride because you never know when you might have overlooked something or an unexpected jolt or bump might result in the sudden need for a quick fix.
Begin your maintenance by checking the pressure in your tyres. If your tyres are worn out - grab some new ones here!
If you ride on 700c tyres then you should use anything from 90 – 110psi, with the upper end of that range being better suited for heavier individuals, and vice versa.
Bodyweight aside, it is also worth going for a little less pressure if you will be riding in wet conditions as this will help your tyres maintain better traction with the ground.
With the pressure corrected, position yourself in front or behind of the respective tyre and give it a spin; if there is any noticeable side-to-side movement or noise then there may be an issue with your hubs and we recommend that you seek assistance before riding.
Providing your tyres are spinning smoothly and quietly, give them a final once over to check for pieces of stone or glass that may have cut or wedged their way in, and promptly remove them.
A good rule of thumb is to ensure that your brakes are fully applied when your brake handles are pulled roughly half way towards the handlebars.
Excessive rubbing in the brake pads can significantly reduce the lifespan of both the pads themselves and your rims, so be sure to pay extra attention to this before you embark.
When you release your brake handles they should spring or slide back into position quickly smoothly, so if this doesn't happen and they become 'sticky' then this might be because of frayed cables; it could also be because your cables are dirty but this won't be the case because you've already cleaned your bike, right?!
If there is no obvious wear to your brake cables then apply a light coat of oil to lubricate them.
While you're down checking your brake cables, you should also keep a watchful eye on your gear cables to check for any obvious signs of wear or damage.
The pivot points on your derailleurs should move smoothly and without any hindrance, and we recommend slowly moving up and down through each gear to check for smooth transitions.
If you experience any rattling or your gears get caught in some manner then you can tweak the barrel adjuster to alter the tension of the cables. Make small turns on the adjuster until your gears are shifting cleanly.
After this is done, pedal backwards and watch the chain moving through the rear derailleur. Again, this should be a smooth movement with no bunching.
If you do encounter any issues with your chain then it could be because of a stiff link, so hopefully you paid attention to our second point and have your trusty toolkit handy!
Try also applying some of your chain lubricant while flexing the chain and it should come free without too much difficulty.
Don't forget that if your chain is worn out and needs to be replaced, you need to replace the rear cassette at the same time. The reason for this is the chain and cassette teeth wear out and stretch together - so they need to be replaced at the same time otherwise the gears will skip.
Bonus: Additional Checks
Another quick check you can perform is to hold the front brake tightly while trying to rock your bike backwards and forwards.
There should be minimal movement, if any, and excessive movement may indicate some damage to your headset or looseness in your brake cables.
As a final check, go over the frame and components of your bike with your multi-tool to make sure that all of the nuts and bolts are nicely tightened.
You probably won't need to perform all of this actual maintenance on too frequent a basis, but running these quick checks every time you ride can help to prevent the accumulation of wear and tear that will eventually turn your bike into a major fixer upper!
So... that's it for now! I'd love to know if you have any special checks you perform yourself. Let me know below in the comments!