Its more than just a good idea to check your bike before you ride; Your comfort and safety depend on how well you look after your bike!
Follow these tips before you ride to ensure you have a safe journey;
- Stand back and look at your bike.
- Does it look right?
- Is anything hanging off?
- Come in closer and visually inspect your bike, start at the front and work your way back looking at the contact points;
- Tyres; are they in reasonable condition and pumped up?
- Steering; stand with the front wheel between your legs and hold on to the bars with both hands; apply moderate force, can you spin the bars without the wheel moving? If there is any movement seek advice before riding.
- Brakes; check the action of both front and back brakes. They should have about the same amount of travel and stop the wheel before the lever gets to the bar.
- Saddle; are the bolts or seat post clamp holding the saddle to the post tight and is the post tight in the frame? Is the height right? Its safer to have the saddle too low rather than too high but there is a sweet spot between the two where the riding is easiest.
- Pedals and Cranks; holding a pedal turn the crank back to where the pedal is at the top, then try bending the pedal in and out of the frame, do this on both sides. Does it move, rattle, squeak? If it does seek advice before riding.
- Chain; is the chain in place and does it allow the cranks to turn smoothly when you spin a pedal backwards? Often a chain that needs servicing will stick to the crank gear or jam up when you turn it backwards rather than running smoothly.
- Racks, mudguards and accessories; These should all be securely fitted and functional. If your not using those mounts for the lights you lost last year, remove them!
- Gears; If you have them do they work? This is usually best tested when riding and as this is the last check you can hop on and gently ride. Find a quiet space and work your way up and down the gears. A well adjusted gear set should change cleanly between gears at any speed, if yours isn’t you should service them before you head out.
- Personal Safety; It is commonly accepted that the bare minimum is a crash helmet. Assuming you are going to wear this can I suggest adding some eye protection and gloves?
- Be Seen; Having a safe bike is half the battle, the other half is ensuring you are seen. Being another statistic is not cool. Wear high-vis clothing, use lights, ride bold and own the road.
- Your ride survival kit;
What do you carry with you on a ride? For every rider this is different; if you don’t mind walking home then your free to ride without any kind of survival kit but for most of us a few basics packed into a seat bag or in the bottom of the basket are essential. These are some of the essential things I carry;
- A spare tube
- Tyre lever
- Multi tool
- Change for coffee
Here are a few pictures to help you identify some issues [click the image for a close up];
In Image 1 note how the V-Brakes are not evenly balanced. In this case we discovered there was no spring tension in the right side lever of the V, we took the pair off, de greased them and centred the adjustment on the springs before re fitting.
In Image 2 can you see how the gear cable droops away from the frame? In all cases, even when the gear selected is at the bottom of the travel the cables should have just enough tension in them to hold their shape and not dangle like this. It could be badly adjusted, stretched or it could be the derailleur is ceased.
You will see in Image 3 how the other end of the cable was all frayed where it met the derailleur. We replaced the entire cable but not before removing, de greasing and re oiling the derailleur.
Note the level of wear on the brake blocks in Image 4. They are borderline but as this rider knows how to change them we elected to leave them on and they will change them at their own discretion.
It is not unusual to scratch your bike but deep gouges like this on the brake lever in Image 5 can indicate a bike that has had hard life and deeper issues. In this case we didnt find anything to worry about.
Here is an interesting one [Image 6] and in my opinion the only serious problem with this bike; The quick release on the rear wheel looks normal but it has been closed facing forward causing three potential problems.
- Firstly a forward facing QR can catch in the bushes, especially on this cyclocross bike; a simple catch on a branch could flick it open releasing the back wheel!
- The second problem is that the tip lever is actually hard up against the frame [chain stay] which has prevented it from closing properly.
- The third problem comes when trying to open the QR. There is no way you could get your fingers behind it and that could lead to all kinds of frustration when its cold and muddy!
Always ensure your quick releases point backwards and that the lever is clear to close properly without catching anything. In the closed position you should be able to get a gloved hand in behind it to open it.