Before you leave home for a bike ride, there are a few bike safety checks you should do to ensure the bike is in tip-top condition. This will ensure your safety on the road and minimize the chances of a mechanical breakdown away from home.
Remember that they apply for a reasonably well-maintained bike in good working condition. If you haven’t ridden the bike for several months or more, you might want to do a thorough check-up yourself or send the bike to your local bike mechanic.
You pumped up your tires a few days ago but haven’t ridden since. The optimal tire pressure doesn’t last very long, it constantly changes with temperature and atmospheric pressure. You could’ve picked up a slow leak on your last outing, too.
In short, check your tire pressure every time you ride, but don’t wait until the last minute.
How much air you need depends on the terrain, tire width, rider weight, and type of tire. If you’re running tubeless, this calculator may come in handy. Leave new tubeless setups overnight to check for leaks before taking them on a ride.
Latex inner tubes are the most sensitive to pressure fluctuations, you’ll have to top up just before your ride and not the night before.
Most of us ride and put our bikes away without a second thought. Everything worked fine when you rolled in, so what could have gone wrong?
I understand the logic, but since brakes are vital for our safety, better safe than sorry, right?
Turn the wheels and try the brakes. Do you hear any rubbing?
Is the braking sensation solid or mushy if you have a hydraulic system? A mushy feeling with no stopping power means you may need to take more important steps than just changing the pads.
More reading : How to Clean Disc Brake Pads and Rotors
QR and/or thru-axles
Quick-release skewers are standard material on rim brake bicycles. They function with a lever that opens and closes against a small spring on each end, creating tension.
Check your QR lever. It should be firmly closed yet not require a death grip to open it. Verify it’s properly closed and not just tightened in the open position.
Modern bikes use thru-axles, but not all, so your bike could have disc brakes and a QR skewer. Are your thru-axles securely tightened to the manufacturer’s specifications in the opposite fork or drop out?
Do you have it in your saddlebag if they require a separate tool to remove the wheel?
Does your bike rattle when you pick it up by the handlebars and drop it a few inches from the ground?
If so, this is typical of a loose headset and something that needs to be addressed. Riding your bike over an extended period with a loose headset can permanently damage your bike frame.
Another way to check for a loose headset is to hold both brakes firmly and rock the bike back and forth. Do you feel play in the headset?
It may need to be tightened. Loosen the stem pinch bolts on your steer tube before you tighten the compression bolt (top cap). How much it needs varies, but don’t overdo it, and re-tighten those stem bolts too.
Electronic shifting battery level
Electronic shifting works so well that you forget about it. But that’s no reason not to check your battery level regularly, especially before a big event or competition.
Make sure to check your Shimano Di2 battery levels the night before. If you’re running low on battery just before you leave home, it’ll take some time to charge them again. Alternatively, you can bring a power bank and charge the batteries as you ride (only for 10 and 11-speed Shimano Di2).
SRAM eTap functions with individual batteries, so you can swap out those of the front and rear derailleurs in a pinch when you need to get home. Remove your batteries for travel or when your bike is on or in the car, as movement activates internal accelerometers, which drain them as if you were riding.
More reading : How to Get the Best Out of Shimano Di2
Without a chain, you aren’t going anywhere. While it’s the least expensive part of your drivetrain, they aren’t cheap, and you’d probably instead put that money into another tidbit with a more cool factor.
But don’t ignore it. Use a dedicated chain lube to reduce friction and keep your chain in top shape for as long as possible. All lubes aren’t the same, and the one you choose should correspond with where you ride and the season (wet vs dry). Silicone sprays like household WD40 are not strong enough to stand alone.
Don’t overload it either, more isn’t better. A goopy chain attracts dust and road debris, which creates even more wear. Distribute a light layer over the length of the chain the night before and remove any excess.
More reading : How to Lube A Bike Chain Correctly
Wheels and spokes
Have you checked your wheels and tires recently?
You’ve been puncture-free for a while, but that’s the ideal time to do it. Look for fragments stuck in the rubber and inspect your tire sidewalls and bead for damage to minimize punctures on the road.
How much tread is left? Are your tires squared off at the top?
If so, it’s time for new ones.
Do your wheels spin true, or are there a wobble?
A wobble indicates a tension problem or a broken spoke where it’s happening. Give each spoke a wiggle to check. One loose or broken spoke is easy to take care of, two or more may be a sign of a bigger problem. Check your spokes before each ride so you don’t miss out on that upcoming group ride.
More reading : What Affects Tire Wear?
Saddle bag contents
A phone call to a friend or family can get a rider out of a sticky situation, but it’s best to be self-sufficient when you’re out on your bike. A saddlebag is a convenient way to take the essentials with you. Check the state of its contents periodically to verify that everything is in good working order.
If your spare has been in there for an age, inflate and leave it overnight to make sure the rubber and valve are still airtight. I keep a glueless patch kit in mine, with tire levers, a multi-tool, and a CO2 cartridge. Some carry a quick link too. If you need a temporary tire boot, a bill or used gel packet will do the job.
I carry a hand pump, so the CO2 cartridge is backed up. If you ride tubeless, a blast of forced air will serve you better than a pump alone. Tubeless riders should also carry an inner tube because you just never know.
More reading : How to Fix A Flat Tubeless Tire
You’ve checked most of the bike, but what about your derailleurs?
Are the front and rear shifting correctly? Shift to the large chainring in your cassette’s lowest and highest gear.
Give your saddle a good twist to size up the tension of your seat post clamp and frame binder bolt.
A torque wrench is an essential investment for every cyclist. Use it to safely top off your handlebar, stem, and seat post binder bolts. The manufacturer’s recommended torque should be visible on or near each one. Before every ride would be a bit of overkill, but every few months is a good idea to keep your rides fun and safe.
Alex Lee is the founder and editor-at-large of Mr. Mamil. Coming from a professional engineering background, he breaks down technical cycling nuances into an easy-to-understand and digestible format here.
He has been riding road bikes actively for the past 12 years and started racing competitively in the senior category during the summer recently.