A poorly maintained bike can result in serious injury. Here is how to check your bike is safe to ride before every journey and what regular maintenance bicycles require.
Since the global pandemic began, cycling has rapidly increased in popularity with more people cycling to avoid busy public transport and get their exercise out of doors in the fresh air. Alongside the increase in people cycling we have seen a surge in enquiries regarding accidents relating to poorly maintained bikes. Checking your bike before every ride is a quick and easy job to do but could prevent serious injury.
Why do you need to check your bike?
Flat tyres, brakes that won’t stop you, rusty gears that don’t shift – these don’t just ruin your ride, they could cause you to fall off, putting you at risk of serious injury. If you are dragging your bike out the shed for the first time in a while, then checking all its parts is imperative for your safety. If you have started using your bike more regularly, it is experiencing a bit more wear and tear, so it is important to keep on top of routine maintenance. With practice, a thorough bike-check doesn’t take long, and will quickly become part of your normal pre-ride routine, like finding your helmet or gulping down a coffee!
What is an M-check?
An M-check is used by many different cycling organisations, mechanics, coaches and bike riders as a way of remembering what parts of the bike to check and in what order. By always starting and finishing at the same points you can be sure you have missed nothing and when repeated regularly it becomes a habit to check your bike in this way.
Start at the front wheel and work to the back wheel
Check the quick release that holds your front wheel in place is tightly closed and when you move the wheel from side to side it doesn’t wobble. Pick the front of your bike up and spin the wheel looking to check the tyres have no worn areas or cuts in them. Check the wheel spins smoothly and isn’t buckled or rubbing on the brakes. Pinch the tyres and check they are inflated (to check accurately use a pump!). Put the wheel down again and move up to the handle bars. When you rock the bike backwards and forwards can you feel any knocking or movement in the headset (where the bars attach to the frame). Swing the bars from side to side to see if the move freely. Finally use the front brake to stop the wheel. Does it stop quickly and firmly?
Frame and bottom bracket
Look over the long diagonal down tube of the bike to the bottom bracket where the pedals attach. Check there are no big bumps or scrapes. Wobble your bottle cages to check they are not loose. Grab both crank arms and pedals, give them a good tug and check your pedals spin round freely where they join the crank.
Moving up the seat tube
Follow up from the bottom bracket to your saddle, check your seat post is tight so the saddle won’t suddenly drop down or twist. Grab your saddle and try to nudge it up and down or forward and back to see if it is secure where it is clamped to the bike. Finally follow the tubes behind your saddle down to the rear wheel, check these for any damage.
At the rear wheel check the wheel is securely locked in the frame and repeat the checks on the wheel that you did at the front – picking up the bike to spin the wheel and check the tyre. Test your back brake is powerful, stops the wheel with control and isn’t rubbing.
For our final test
If you check your bike regularly you will soon know how it should look and feel, so you can quickly recognise any new damage or worn parts. A very quick final check is the drop test – lift your bike 2-3 inches off the ground, then drop it down. You are listening for any rattles, clunks, thuds or noises you don’t normally hear – and at worst something dropping off! A beautifully maintained bike will be almost silent.
Sparing a couple of minutes to do this before every ride could make the difference between you spotting something that needs fixing or having an accident whilst out on the road.
Good Service History
The m-check is designed to spot problems, but it doesn’t go deeply into how well your gears shift, whether cables are worn or if bearings need changing. For that you need a full service at your bike shop.
Ideally you would give your bike a service before riding it for the first time or if it has been unused for a while, and after that once every six months if you are riding regularly. It is money well spent as not only will a good bike shop spot potentially dangerous problems, but they will ensure your bike is running smoothly and efficiently, which will make your cycling much more enjoyable!
If you aren’t mechanically minded a good relationship with a local bike shop can really help you out! If you are having your bike regularly serviced by them, they will keep you up to date on what needs replacing to make sure you stay safe. Shops will also help you with the small problems such as aligning brakes or tweaking gears. Many shop mechanics now run courses to teach you how to do the basics safely at home.
Look after your bike and it will look after you! Get checking today.