TOP CYCLING TIPS FOR – BIKE CHECK, PART 1
You can spend a fortune on top of the range gear, but it’s all for naught if you don’t look after your bike. She’s covered ride snacks and climbing, now the Pedal Taiwan cycling expert, Julia, brings you her first instalment of what to check before you ride, to ensure your kit’s always up to scratch!
Have you ever been out cycling, noticed a clunk or a squeak coming from your bike and thought “I’ll have a look at that when I get home” . Then, when you get home, you chuck the bike in the shed and forget all about it until next time you’re out? I do it all the time!
To avoid this, when I get my bike out I always try to remember to give it a quick check over to make sure that:
- the bike is safe
- the bike’s running as smoothly as it can
- there are no irritating noises to annoy me and the rest of the group
The standard check recommended by most cycling organisations is the ‘M Check’ which follows a letter M shape from the front to the back of the bike:
Credit British Cycling: https://youtu.be/JwSi-AGwm5g
Over the next few blogs we’ll work through the ‘M’ telling you what to look out for at each of the 5 key points on your bike – front wheel, headset and handlebars, bottom bracket and chain ring, seat post and saddle and finally back wheel, cassette and derailleur.
So, let’s start at the front of the bike. Here are the key things to check on your front wheel:
Very slowly rotate the front wheel, gently brushing the top of the tyre with the palm of your hand to make sure there are no stones or glass embedded in the tyre. It’s best to wear cycling gloves when doing this so you don’t cut your hand if there are small pieces of glass or flint in the tyre.
If you find embedded fragments let the tyre down and remove the bits with your finger nail or tweezers.
Then make sure the tyres are pumped up to the correct pressure. With under-inflated tyres you will be less efficient and run the risk of more punctures.
The recommended pressure should be stamped into the side wall of the tyre, and will be lower the wider the tyre. Generally pressures will range from 40-60 psi / 2.7-4.1 bar for mountain bikes, 80-100 100 psi / 5.5 – 6.9 bar for road bikes to a max of 140 psi / 9. 6 bar for tubeless racing bike tyres. Lighter riders require slightly lower pressure than heavy riders, and you should also let some air out if the roads are wet or slippery.
Stand in front of the bike, facing it, with the front wheel between your legs. Try to move the wheel from side to side. If it moves sideways it’s likely to be one of two things:
- The wheel isn’t fastened into the forks tightly enough. This is easily remedied by tightening the quick release or, if you don’t have quick release then tightening the bolts holding the wheel in place. However, don’t overtighten the wheel – you should be able to undo the quick release with your hands
- The bearings in the hub are wearing down. Probably a job for your local bike mechanic.
Spin the front wheel and look at it from above. Does it rotate smoothly? If you’ve got a wobble you may be able to identify a loose spoke , which will mean the wheel needs to be ‘trued’ – usually a job for a mechanic unless you have the tools and knowledge yourself.
Check the braking rim too. That’s the strip of metal that the brakes grip onto. Over time this metal strip can wear down, eventually becoming so thin that the wheel is unsafe. If your braking rim is noticeably concave it may be time for a new wheel.
There are two basic types of brakes – rim brakes and disc brakes. We could (and probably will) do a whole blog post about the many types of rim brakes and the pros and cons of rims vs discs) but for the purpose of this post about checking your bike before riding it, we’ll keep it simple.
First check that the brakes are working by spinning the wheel and applying the brake – the wheel should stop spinning immediately. If your disc brakes aren’t working it’s probably a job for a mechanic. If rim brakes don’t work it’s probably because either:
a) The brake pads are worn out – if the pads have worn down, are uneven in wear or have rounded surfaces they need to be replaced. Rim brake pads have grooves cut in them so you can see how far they’ve worn down
b) The brakes are not aligned against the rim correctly – this is not only dangerous when braking, but can seriously damage the wheel. Make sure that the brake pads grip the wheel braking rim.
c) The brake cable has broken or seized up, in which case the cable needs to be replaced before you can ride the bike.
d) The brakes may not have been tightened properly – maybe when you last took off the front wheel you had to loosen them off and forgot to tighten them up again. Just be sure that you’ve not left the brakes on ‘open’.
So, that’s it for the first bit of your bike check – only 4 more stages of the “M-check” to go! Watch this space…
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