Just like a car, there are a lot of maintenance checks that you can be doing on your bicycle to keep it in a safe, operable condition. Cycling safety is critical, and there are a lot of dangers on the road. And many of those dangers are out of our control. We can’t always control how close a car passes us or if a vehicle will run a red light or not stop at a stop sign. Those are things bicyclists must be aware of every time they go biking.
The safety activities and habits that are in our control help us gain confidence in sharing the road with cars, exploring city trails, or going mountain biking.
It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner cyclist or if your racing professionally, there are things that everyone can be doing to help ensure a safe ride. Some items can be done before you even saddle up, such as bike maintenance and completing a bike safety checklist. This article will review how to do complete a bicycle inspection checklist.
To help remember the checklist and to be efficient, you want to start at the front and work your way back. Imagine drawing an ‘M’ by the structure of the bike. You will begin at the front wheel, go up to the handlebars, go down to the crankset, back up to the seat post and back down to the back wheel to complete the flow of the ‘M’.
What to check before riding:
- Tire Pressure (front and back tire)
- Wheel Spokes (front and rear wheel)
- Brakes (front and back brakes)
- Handle Bars and stem
- Seat Post
- Battery level for electric mountain bikes
Check the Spokes on the Front Wheel
As summarized above, the first place to start is at the front wheel. Squeeze the spokes with your hand. With one hand, grab at least two spokes and squeeze them together. The reason you want to grab two spokes with one hand is to compare the tightness and to gain leverage to help make it easier.
Do this for every spoke. You are looking for loose spokes. The spokes are essential because they keep your wheel balanced and intact. If they are not stable, then that may cause unnecessary wobbling. If you find a very loose spoke then it is recommended to bring the wheel to a bike shop to get repaired.
Check the Air Pressure for the Front Wheel
While at the front tire, squeeze the tire with your hand to check the tire pressure. You want to make sure that the tire is not flat (obviously) and to determine if it needs more air. How frequently your tire needs to be pumped up with air will depend on how often you bike, the distance, and the weather.
To be one the safe side, try pumping your tire with air weekly. If you are not sure if your tire needs air, then it doesn’t hurt to use a tire pump that has a gauge on it. The indicator will measure the psi of the tire, and you can compare that with what the max tire pressure. The max tire pressure will be posted on the tire. Sometimes it is hard to find or read if it is an older tire.
If your tire reads a pressure of 55 psi and your tire has a max psi of 80, that means you can pump up your tire pressure with an additional 25 psi, to arrive at the max psi of 80. Do not go over what the tire says. If you do, you increase the risk of getting a flat tire or worse it can blow up and make a very unpleasant sound.
Check the Smoothness of the Front Tire
After you check the spokes and the air pressure, you can spin the tire to check for smoothness. It should not be bouncing around, and it should not be hitting your brakes. If your tire is hitting the brake, try and move the brake so that it is centered. If you find your brake is always sliding, you can try tightening it down to the correct position.
Check the Front Brake
Check the brake. Lift the bike and spin the front wheel and press on the front brake. Does the brake stop the wheel from turning?
Check the Stem and Handlebar
One of the most important checks to do is checking the stem and handlebar for any wiggle or looseness. This is extremely important because if you are riding and you try and turn left, but your bike keeps going straight will most likely result in an accident.
This could happen because your stem and handlebar were too loose. To perform a bicycle safety check on your stem and handlebar you want to step over the front wheel so that one leg is on each side of the wheel. Place one hand on the left side of the handlebar and the other hand on the opposite side.
Try and move the handlebars back and forth while your legs are locked in place between the wheel. If the handlebar moves and the tire doesn’t, then you know it is unsafe to ride your bike. If you can’t move your handlebars, then you know it is safe to ride your bike.
Check the Crank
Move to the crank. The crank is what connects to the peddle. Grab each crank and try and wiggle them. You want to see if there is any play. If you find that there is a lot of wiggles than bring your bike to a local mechanic.
Check the Seat Post
Now we can move to the seat post. Grab the seat post with both your hands and try to move it. It should not move, and if it does, you will need to tighten the seat post enough so that you can not move it with your own hands. This is important because when you are biking the momentum of your body can rotate or lower your seat post. That can make for an uncomfortable ride. It is also dangerous because if you are uncomfortable, it can distract you from being alert.
Check the Spokes on the Back Wheel
Now we are on the final stretch of the bike check. Check the spokes on the back tire, the same as the front tire.
Check the Air Pressure for the Back Wheel
Check the Smoothness of the Back Wheel
Check the tire smoothness, the same as the front tire.
Check the Back Brake
Check the brake, the same as the front brake.
Now you have completed your bike inspection checklist. How often should you inspect your bike? Ideally, it is a good idea to examine your bike before every ride. Everyone has busy lives, and it becomes unpractical if you are riding your biking every day for errands, commuting, or pleasure.
If you can’t do it before every ride, then try and do it at least once a week if you ride regularly. If you can’t ride your bike all year round because of the weather than inspect your bicycle once you take it out of storage. This article summarized the critical items to check before riding your favorite bike. There are bike maintenance tasks that may be performed to help extend the life of the bike.