Year-Round Safety Checks

With constant attention to results, it can be easy to overlook regular maintenance for your bike, resulting in an unsafe or inefficient machine. Review these simple maintenance procedures to keep your bike rolling reliably on a daily basis.

With constant attention to results, it can be easy to overlook regular maintenance for your bike, resulting in an unsafe or inefficient machine. Worse yet, an unnoticed, easily fixed problem can turn into a much more costly endeavor. Review these simple maintenance procedures to keep your bike rolling reliably on a daily basis.

Brief Check

Before each ride, do a quick check of the obvious. Check the tire pressure, quick releases, and give the brakes a quick grab. This will keep you out of most trouble. Your bike will roll, your wheels won’t fall off, and you’ll be able to stop yourself. A few other things that should be checked are not as recognizable. when checking the tire pressure, confirm that the tire properly seated in the rim and that the tube isn’t peeking out from under the tire. As you examine the wheels, make sure the play isn’t because the hubs are loose. Sometimes it’s assumed that only quick releases are the cause of loose wheels, resulting in a tendency to over-tighten them.

Detailed Check

Beginning with the wheels, inspect the rim and spokes for wear and cracks. Lightly rock the wheels to make sure they are secure in the frame and that the quick release skewers and hubs are not loose. This can be done lightly with a quick wiggle. It doesn’t require much force. If you haven’t been rotating your tires, it would be a good idea to inspect the wear down the middle and along the sidewalls. Indicators of a worn out tire are exposed threads and cracks along the sidewall.


Moving to the brakes, start by giving the brake levers a quick squeeze. The pads should make even contact and the pads should still have plenty of material. If you feel resistance, check the brake housing for damage. Generally, cable and housings should be changed annually for optimal performance.


Run through all the gears and look for any hesitation in the up or down shifts. If the shifting is slow to respond or is stiff, check the cable and cable housing for wear or rust. Like the brakes, the cable and housing should also be changed once a year for optimal performance.


The drivetrain involves the front crank, the rear cassette, and corresponding derailleurs. A quick wiggle will ensure that the cassette and crank are secure. Check the teeth for wear. If you find pointed ends, then it’s probably time to get a new drivetrain. If the teeth still have a slightly flattened tip, then it can still be used. A common culprit of poor shifting for the rear derailleur is a bent derailleur hanger. If your bike has fallen over on the side of the drivetrain, you may need to have it straightened by your local bike shop.

Nuts and Bolts

The best way to check the safety of all nuts is with a torque wrench. Most small bolts on your bike should be about as tight as your wrist can tighten them. When you start to re-grip the wrench and really lean into it, then you may be over-torquing a bolt. The main hazards of over-torquing a bolt include stripping the head or snapping the bolt clean off, which can be dangerous if it occurs when you are riding. If you find that any of the nuts or bolts are loose, and you are unsure of how to tighten them, get help from your local bike shop.

Communicating the Problem

The best way for bike shop technicians to determine the condition of a bike is for them to inspect the bike in person. After doing the checks described above, you will be able to determine the location of any problem. Providing this information makes the mechanic’s job much easier. Trying to diagnose a “weird noise” or find “a very specific part”, without the model or year of the bike over the phone wastes the mechanic’s time — and yours! Visit your local bike shop with bike in hand, and your mechanic will suggest the best course of action to get your bike functioning the way it should be. In short time, your bike will be up right side up and ready to roll.

As seen in Issue #129.

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