Blue skies and warm weather are the perfect combo for bicycle riding. It's time to get your bike out of storage and give it a quick eye test to assess the overall condition of your bike. Obvious issues like flat tires, broken seats, and bent rims will require repair, but general maintenance should only take a few minutes. Use this checklist and you'll be cruising by the weekend.
This check shouldn’t take more than a half hour. Still, you might get interrupted and forget where you left off. It can help to work on systems as a whole, like the handlebars, stem and levers; the wheels and brakes; the drivetrain and so on. However you do it, keep track of what you’ve checked as you work so that you don’t overlook anything.
The chain’s condition is a key indicator of overall drivetrain health. When a chain wears out, it can mean that the cassette is worn out, too. And, maybe even a chainring. The derailleur pulleys might be toast, also.
So, if the chain checker shows that your chain is bad, you’ll want to investigate further and possibly address other more pressing issues than basic bike checks. You can do them once your drivetrain is back to 100%.
Ideally, your bike will be clean for this check. Dirt, grease and grime will hide issues you want to be able to see. Also, it can work its way into parts and cause problems. A good habit to form is keeping your roadster clean with a quick spruce-up after every ride that leaves it a little dirty.
Tighten and adjust your bike seat before using it for the first time. A loose seat can lead to trouble and an uncomfortable ride. If the seat cover is worn out and springs are exposed, then replace your seat immediately.
All bikes tires lose air pressure if they sit for awhile, so it's likely you'll need to add air. Invest in a quality air pump with a wide base to stand on, and large gauges that are easy to read. Stick to the tire manufacturer's recommended pressure level. An electric air pump is also helpful when you've got a lot of balls or bikes to fill.
Wheel spokes keep your wheels true (straight), so you should occasionally check to make sure they are all tight. Use a spoke wrench to tighten the spoke at the base. Don't overtighten and make sure you use the correct size wrench. The one shown above can be used on spokes of various sizes. It's a good idea to check your spokes every few months, even if you don't notice anything wrong.
Pull on your brake levers and make sure they engage both sides of the brake pads on each wheel. If the pull on the lever is too long, unscrew the barrel adjuster a few turns and test it. The brakes should not stick and should fully stop the wheel in motion. A frayed or sticky cable should be replaced with a new brake cable.
The length of your brake pads should press against your rim when activated, and they should not wiggle or be loose. Replace worn brake pads immediately and adjust the cable if they are too far from the rim.
Use a bike stand or prop your bike upside down and run it through the gears as you are spinning the pedals. Check to make sure it hits the shift points smoothly and make slight adjustments to the front and rear derailleur to keep the chain centered on each gear. You'll need a small Phillips-head screwdriver to adjust the derailleurs, and notice how much the derailleur moves for each quarter-turn.
Apply a dry lubricant the rear cog (set of gears), chainring (front gears), chain, and all moving parts of the crankset. Also hit the front and rear wheel bearings on each side with a bit of lubricant. Avoid using WD-40 and standard 3-in-1 oil as it will attract dirt which is something you don't want on these moving parts.
Check the condition and batteries of your bicycle lights and reflectors. If you don't have front and rear lights, it's time to get some. (In some states, it's legally required for bicyclists to have active lights while riding at night.) Do everything you can to make yourself visible to drivers.
These are the tires, brake pads and sometimes the brake and shift cables. Some tires and pads have wear indicators that show you when it’s time to replace them. On both it’s usually something that wears down with use, such as pockets in the tread, the tread itself or grooves in brake pads. If there aren’t any indicators, you can gauge wear by condition. Tires should have sufficient tread to prevent flats and sound looking sidewall casings, and brake pads need enough material to stop the bike under even extreme braking conditions.
You can reduce accidents and mechanical failures that can delay your ride and be costly to repair with regular maintenance. The ideal recommended maintenance schedule for you can vary based on the frequency and type of riding you are doing. If you are unfamiliar with any of the following terms, take your bike to specialist.