While I would always recommend an annual service to be carried out by a mechanic at your local independent bike shop, it not always practical to do especially at short notice. If you wake up on a bright weekend morning and you feel the urge to get out and ride, all you really want to do is get on with it while you’re in the mood!
So, here are as few pointers, including some basic checks which you should carry out before your first and indeed every ride. This guide should not be considered as a replacement for a proper service, but as a simple guide for on-going upkeep of your bike and to ensure you stay safe and rubber side down!
Check your wheels and tyre pressure.
Do your tyres feel soft? If you have a pump with a gauge, inflate your tyres to the required pressure (recommended pressure range for your tyre will be written its side wall. MTBs usually ride at lower pressure than road bikes or hybrids, but after a winter in the shed, you will certainly have to inflate the tubes regardless.
If you don’t have a pressure gauge, squeeze the top of the tire with your thumb and fingers and inflate until the tyre feels firm. Check the tread & side walls for cracks & wear. Worn treads and cracked tyres should be replaced without delay.
Finally, make sure you have a cap on your valve stem which will help to keep out muck and water and prolong the life of your inner tube. Also, check the nuts or quick release mechanisms that hold your wheels in place. Make sure that your wheels are securely fastened and that the wheel is square to the frame and runs freely.
Inspect your Control Cables.
Check that all your cables are dirt and corrosion free. Make sure that there are no frayed or broken sections. Frayed, partially broken or corroded cables should be changed as soon as possible. Lubricating your cables with a light oil spray particularly where they disappear into the outer cable housing will make a big difference to the sharpness of your braking and the crispness of your gear change.
Chain & Gears
If you ride every day, have your chain changed every six months or so. If your chain slips going up hill or as you power through a traffic light, you may already have waited too long. A bad chain will damage everything else it touches (cassettes, jockey wheels and the chainrings).
Lube the chain to prevent rust. To lube your chain correctly, make sure the chain is dry. Lean your bike against the wall or a maintenance stand if you have one, use a clean cloth and wipe your chain down. Place one drop of lube on each roller, wait five minutes and wipe it down again. Work through the gears making sure that the mechanism changes quickly and accurately with no ‘rattling’ or excess noise. Gear adjustments can be tricky so if you are not confident, have them checked at your local bike shop as soon as you can.
Inspect your brakes
Squeeze your brake levers and make sure that there is enough pressure to stop the bike. Check your brake pads, they should come evenly to the rim, not below or on top of the tyre. All brake pads have wear lines to indicate when they should be changed. Regular winter cyclists will need to change pads more often as winter grit and dirt wear pads down more quickly.
Obviously brakes are very important to your safety so change the pads if they need it. Checking the pads on disk brakes is a longer process and may require some expert help, disk brake pads are more expensive than v-brake pads, but it is still essential. If they need to be changed, get it done.
Inspect the handlebar, Stem,Headset & Steatpost
Next, check to make sure that your handle bar is set at the correct height and that the stem is fastened tightly. Be sure that both are secure, as there are few things more exciting (and not in a good way) than realising that you can’t control your bike as you go down the street handlebars loose in your hands.
Check the headset. The headset collective name for the components between the bike frame and fork which allows the front wheel to rotate freely in the frame. Lift the front wheel off the ground and turn the handlebar from side to side. The headset should turn smoothly. If it creaks or grinds then it will need to be adjusted or repaired at a bike shop. Another test involves squeezing the front brake and ‘rocking’ the bike back and forth. If you notice any ‘play’ in the fork again, have your headset checked out at you local bike shop.
Check your seat & seat-post is solid & secure with no lateral movement. The saddle should also be firmly fixed and be level or pointed slightly down (depending on preference).
While it is not yet a legal requirement to wear a cycling helmet in the UK, few riders these days choose not to wear one. A cycling helmet is a simple lightweight item which can cost as little as £30 for a good quality one. Spend the money, it may just save your life!
As you get ready to put on your helmet, look it over once to make sure there are no cracks on the outer shell or inner surface. Check too, that the straps are adjusted so that the helmet fits snugly, and sits down on your forehead, sitting somewhere above your eyebrows. A common mistake is to wear a helmet that rides up too high, which won’t protect your forehead in the event of an accident.
Test ride your bike and make any adjustments that need to be made. Inspecting your bike is very important for efficiency and for safety. The good news is that these inspections are quick and easy, taking no more than a couple of minutes to do. Checking your bike for the most common mechanical failures that can lead to a crash, you’ll be taking some very effective steps to ensure your own when you go out.
If you have any questions of if you need help to adjust your bike – the staff at your local bike shop will be happy to help.
Share this page: