As the weather warms up, many of us love to hop our bikes, whether it’s for a leisurely ride or a thrilling adventure. However, before you head out, it’s essential to check your bike over and ensure that it’s safe to ride.
There are several bike safety checks that should be conducted – you can do these yourself with some standard tools and a bit of time. Take a look as we break down the key elements for conducting a bike check to ensure you whizz along safely.
Check your tyres
Start your bike check by ensuring there’s enough air in your tyres. You’ll find information on minimum and maximum air pressure printed on the side of the tyre. Use a pump with a gauge to get the pressures set correctly.
Lighter riders can afford to go closer to the lower end of the range, while heavier riders to the higher end. The range of pressure also affects the way the tyres roll and the bike handles and feels.
- More air = less bounce, harder ride, more speed
- Less air = more bounce, comfier ride, less speed
Be sure to check your bike tyres for any damage, including cuts, holes, splits, bulges, and bald spots. Remove any glass or stones embedded into the tyre as this will reduce the likelihood of experiencing a puncture. If your tyres are old or worn out, then you should consider replacing them.
Brake check and adjustment
Brakes are essential for stopping effectively and riding safely, so you’ll want to ensure they’re in tip-top condition. To check the brakes are working correctly, lift the bike up off the floor one wheel at a time a spin the wheel. As it spins pull the relevant brake lever slowly to ensure it slows the wheel gradually. If there’s any resistance before you pull the lever, then the brakes might need adjusting.
You can adjust your brakes at home using some standard tools or visit your nearest Halfords store where one of our trained technicians can help.
While checking the brakes, ensure levers are clean, undamaged and operating smoothly. Check cables and housings too. Frayed or split cables can cause serious safety issues on the road, so be sure to replace them if you need to.
Finally, take the opportunity to check the wheels are true and unbuckled. Stand over the bike and look down on the wheel as it spins. If it wobbles more than 5mm, it could benefit from a bike service. Give each wheel a gentle pull and check the bolts or quick release skewer is stable and in place.
If your brakes are operating smoothly and your wheels aren’t wonky, then you’re safe to go onto the next check.
A secure headset, stem and handlebars are critical to safe cycling, so it’s important to check they’re tight and turning properly.
Pull the front brake on hard and rock the bike back and forth, checking for any movement in the headset bearings. If there is any, undo the bolts on the side of the stem and tighten the bolt on the top cap of the forks, just enough to take out any movement making sure to not over tighten anything. When you’re done, re-tighten the stem bolts.
Next, lift the front end of the bike off the floor and check that the handlebars turn smoothly in both directions. Check that the stem bolts haven’t become loose. Hold the bike steady and try to twist the handlebars forward in the stem clamp. Then hold the front wheel between your knees and try to twist the handlebar sideways, as if you were turning. If there’s any movement, then tighten the side bolts. Test it to make sure it’s all working well before setting off.
It’s unlikely to be a problem, but it’s worth checking the frame and forks over for any potential cracks, especially if you’ve hit any big potholes recently. The danger areas are at the front of the bike (just behind the head tube) and around the bottom bracket. While you’re checking out the bottom bracket, lift the back wheel, and turn the pedals and check for any ticking or creaking as you pedal. If it’s making a creaking sound, your bottom bracket may have worn out and might need to be replaced.
Next, drop your chain into the smallest chainring and turn the cranks by hand. If they’re creaking or juddering, then the bearings may have worn and need replacing. Replacing bearings is a specialist job, so chat with an expert at Halfords to discuss your options.
Check your pedals spin freely on their axles too. If not, they may need adjusting or replacing too.
Adjust the saddle and seat post
Grab the saddle and try to twist it sideways or pull it up and down. If there is any movement, tighten the seat post bolts or quick-release mechanism. Then, re-check the saddle is secure.
Next, check the saddle is level and stable. If it’s not, tighten the bolts underneath the saddle and tighten them. Make sure it’s at a comfortable height before hitting the road.
Now it’s time to check and adjust your gears. Lift the rear wheel off the floor and turn the pedals – if the chain doesn’t move to a smaller gear easily, you need to loosen the cable slightly by screwing the barrel adjuster on the rear mech (derailleur) anti-clockwise.
If the chain doesn’t move to a larger gear easily, tighten the cable by turning the adjuster clockwise. If you’re unsure, or the gears don’t respond to gear movements, then visit your local Halfords. We’re always able to service your bike and ensure the gears shift smoothly.
Check the chain and re-lube
Finally, you’ll need to check the chain and re-lube. You should regularly clean the chain with a de-greaser, a stiff brush and water, and then re-lube it.
A quick tip is to run the chain backwards as you apply the lube. Make sure that every individual link gets its fair share and that you lubricate the inside, ensuring you lube the inside of the chain where it touches the teeth of the cassette and the chainset.
Wipe off any excess with a cloth to avoid excess lube from dipping off while you’re riding, ensuring no lubricant ends up on the wheels or brake surfaces.
Did you know that Halfords offer free bike safety checks? So, if you’d rather leave the checks to us, book in at your local store online today.
We also offer bike servicing for all makes and models and will ensure it’s running smoothly and safely. We stock the UK’s largest selection of road bikes, mountain bikes, hybrid bikes and e-bikes, ready to ride.