The time has finally come for a ride – and you’re all geared up and ready to take off with your newly custom bike! (Exciting, isn’t it?) But just before you set out for your adventure – it’s important to set a good habit of doing a quick safety check to ensure your bike is in tip-top condition.
Without a proper check, even little things like minor wear and tear can add up and result in issues or even a breakdown over time. This is where mountain and road bike servicing comes into the picture to get your bike back in good shape. While servicing is key from time to time to maintain the bike’s condition and inspect it for any issues – it’s also important to avoid such incidents from happening in the first place; it’s as simple as a quick pre-ride check.
Always remember – a bike is your best friend; with the right maintenance and care, it will have a longer lifespan and work at its very best! Give it a bit of lube, love, and attentiveness, and you’ll be sure to have smooth, stress-free riding for years to come.
From the brake pressure, and grips to the very dropper post – what are the different parts that call for a check before you set out? Continue reading on as we walk you through the various steps to follow and parts to check for an enjoyable and carefree ride!
1. Assess The Condition Of Your Brake
Two kinds of brakes – mechanical or hydraulic.
Hydraulic – check for any oil leaks or loss of pressure. Solution: See a bike mechanic. If it’s not leaking or losing any pressure, move on to step 2 (applies to all brakes)
Mechanical and hydraulic – when the brake lever is compressed, it should not go all the way to the handlebar grips. A good working brake should not allow the brake levers to pinch your fingers that are holding the handlebar.
Make sure that there is sufficient “bite” to stop the wheel from spinning, front and rear.
2. Check The Tires And Their Pressure
Even if it’s as little as a piece of debris being lodged in your tire – make sure to try getting it out – carefully. Give your bike tire a good, thorough inspection for any signs of excessive wear in the tread, exposed wires or threads, bulges, cuts, cracks, baldness, or blisters. If worse comes to worst, you may need to replace the tires if they’re in poor condition.
Then, tire seating checking comes next. The lines on the base of the sidewalls should be sitting right above the rim all the way around – so if you’ve discovered that they rise above the rim edge or dip below it – the tire is not seated the right way. After spotting any such issues, be sure to deflate the tire and re-inflate it to ensure that it seats properly. Refit the wheels on your bicycle, ensuring they’re centered in the frame and the quick releases are tightened correctly.
Last but not least – don’t forget to check your tire pressure! Always bear in mind that the recommended pressure will usually be printed on the side – it is measured in PSI (pounds per square inch) and will usually be stated as a range (e.g. 40 – 65psi). Here’s a pro tip: Use close to maximum pressure of the range for rides on paved trails, streets, or smooth dirt trails. For rough off-road trails like mountain riding – be sure to check the recommended pressure as set by the manufacturer. If you want to accurately set the tire to the right pressure, you may also consider speaking to a professional bike mechanic – they’ll recommend the right pressure for optimal performance.
Use the built-in gauge of the tire pump or air gauge. If you notice that the current pressure is lower than the required pressure, go ahead and operate the pump till the desired pressure is achieved. Last but not least, press down on the wheel once more to get a feel of whether the tire is properly inflated.
Bonus: The above guidelines for tire pressure check applies to bikes with front and rear suspension.
3. Headset And Bottom Bracket/Crank Check
Hold the front brake and rock the bike backward and forward – excessive “play” means adjustment needs to be made to the headset.
To ensure this, start by tightening the stem cap properly: Stand in front of your bicycle with your fork in one hand and the down tube in the other. Then, to check for any movement in the headset – push and pull on the fork. Slowly rotate it from side to side to feel for any signs of roughness. If it’s tight or loose – it’s time to loosen the stem bolts and remove tightness or “play” by making adjustments to the Allen screw atop the stem and finishing it off by securing the stem bolts.
Cranks and bottom bracket bearings – known as none other as the arms and moving parts that attach the pedals to the bike. Their condition is key as it keeps the pedal connected to the bottom bracket and also transfers the pedaling power correctly aligning it with the forward gearing.
Being a key part, you’ll need to ensure it’s functioning well. As the bike is lying on the ground, stand on its right side and start rotating the cranks so that the arm is pointed upwards. Hold the crank arm with one hand, tug on it tightly, pulling it in your direction, and then the bike. By doing this, ideally, there should be no movement or “play”. If you do feel “play” in the crank arms for both sides, it most likely calls for servicing or replacement for the bottom bracket. Ultimately, if you notice that yours seem to be loose – visit a bicycle shop to have the crank arms removed and inspected.
4. Inspect Your Wheels & Spokes
To check your wheel, start by laying your bicycle on the ground, then hold the handlebars with one hand and using the other, grasp the top of the front wheel. Rock the wheel side to side to ensure there isn’t any “play” or movement.
Pick up the front end of the bike and spin its front wheel – and while it’s spinning, make sure it feels and sounds smooth. If you catch any grinding or crunchy noise or the wheel wobbling from side to side while spinning – it may be best to seek bicycle servicing from an experienced bike mechanic.
Now, on to the spokes – beginning with the valve stem, work your way around every wheel by wiggling the spokes to check if any are loose. Once you’ve checked a couple, you’ll eventually get a feel for the right tension. Meanwhile, if you notice any loose spokes – use a spoke wrench (when sighted from the top) to tighten the spokes by turning the nipple clockwise in half-turn increments. Then, give the wheels a good spin and observe for any wobbles; if you do, you’ll need to true the wheel.
However, wheel truing is as complicated as it can get – and it’s best to leave it to the hands of an expert mechanic. Any wheel builder will know what it takes and how to do it the right way.
Bonus: As for wheel quick releases – if the wheels are held in place with quick-release levels, give it a check to ensure the levels are closed with the right tension. If unfamiliar with the correct use of wheel quick-release levels, simply go down to a bike shop for their expertise.
5. Take A Look At Your Drivetrain
It’s always good to check the various drivetrain parts now and then – chainring bolts, crank arm bolts, derailleurs, and so on.
While typical major parts should not come loose amid regular use, it would still be wise to inspect them occasionally. A gear calibration should also be done periodically due to wear and tear. This is to ensure the smooth operation of the drivetrain. Otherwise, it may result in the deterioration of the drivetrain or worse yet, damage your drivetrain parts – such as a broken chain or even a damaged frame.
Bonus: If you notice that the drivetrain seems to be grimy, spray the chain and derailleurs with a degreaser and let it sit for a couple of minutes. Then, take some time to clean the chain with a sponge (and warm, soapy water), hold onto it, and turn the crank to draw the chain through the sponge until the links are all clean.
6. Give Your Chain A Check
Start by inspecting the chain closely for any damaged or broken links – if it’s the case, it calls for an immediate replacement. However, if you only notice a bit of surface rust, then all you’ll need to do is some cleaning and re-lubricating. But after you’ve spun the cranks backward, see if the chain is able to move freely over the cogs with no skipping, kinking, or binding – it should be pretty quiet without any grinding or squealing noises.
However, if you do spot any of the above issues or the chain is covered with grime or grease – be it partially or entirely – it’ll need to be lubricated and cleaned. On the other hand, to fully understand the current condition of the chain – use a chain wear indicator tool. With its use, you’ll know if the chain is worn and requires a replacement.
7. Adjust Your Bike Seat To Its Correct Height & Position
Every single component of your bike is important for a smooth ride, and this applies to your saddle aka seat as well. Comfort is key when you’re off on a ride, and this is where the correct height and position come in for your saddle.
Ensuring that the saddle is at the right height for optimal pedaling is key for your knees: When your leg is extended in the 6 o’clock position, the knee should be bent slightly. The correct position is when the knee is directly over the center of the front pedal when your feet are parallel to the ground. After which, it’s up to personal preference whether the saddle should be tipped backward, level, or forward.
By doing the above, it will bring you closer to the seat height of your preference.
There’s never any harm in taking extra precautions before you go for a ride. After all, when your bike is in excellent shape, so will you! There is no stopping you and your bike from taking on any rocky roads – your performance will be at its A-game and you’re in for a good time. Psst, here’s a tip from us: we highly recommend doing your pre-ride check one day before a ride or at your trusted bike shop.
Still, if a pre-ride check is done and you notice any issues with your bike – be it in your fork or wheel – you may want to consider going down to a bike shop to get it checked. If that’s the case, come down to AttitudeBikes! Our friendly and experienced mechanics are ready to serve you and get your bike in tip-top condition. Whether it’s creaking bottom brackets or a fork with poor sensitivity – from general bicycle maintenance to suspension fork service – we’ve got it covered.