There are few things in the world more rewarding than a bicycle ride any time of day and really any time of year. Going one-on-one with nature as you pedal or enjoying a cruise with a group of friends is peaceful, relaxing, and helps the brain release ‘feel-good’ endorphins. To get the most of the ride though, it must be a safe one which is largely predicated on the rider performing these five basic pre-ride checks before even hopping on the seat.
Check 1: Get Real With the Wheels
The wheels on a bike are probably the most important thing to check not only because they can fully shut down the ride but also because malfunctions can be dangerous. Making sure tires are properly inflated is an obvious inspection but it’s also important to make sure the quick-adjust on some rear wheels is secured and that the front wheel and handlebar stem moves in a uniform motion. Losing the rear wheel can be very damaging and a front wheel out of alignment is annoying and a safety hazard as well.
Check 2: Seat Post Security
Most of the time a bicycle ride is split between sitting and standing up to pedal so a loose seat post might not seem like the biggest safety risk. The truth is the body gets so accustomed to the seat being a secure brace to lean on that when it spins off or slides down the post shaft it is a real startling distraction. It’s simply better not to take the risk and instead wiggle the seat and secure it before taking off for the day. In fact, it’s a really good idea to take the seat off altogether and clean it once in a while to prevent rust and corrosion from seizing the post in place.
Check 3: Pedal Purveying
While a majority of bicyclers carry an emergency road kit with them with crucial items such as a hex key wrench or a replacement tire tube, very few bring along an extra pedal. Nothing kills the momentum of a nice ride like a pedal that starts to crack and eventually break off. Before the ride inspect for any fractures or cracks in the pedal and make sure that they spin freely and that the crankset isn’t loose or wobbly.
Check 4: Chain Can Be a Pain
Sometimes it happens where a chain just breaks out of bad luck mid-ride and the only remedy is foot pedaling home or calling for a ride. Often times a break is hard to predict or detect but you should still clean all the grime off the chain before heading out and make sure it rotates without issue. It’s important to have the right amount of lubrication on the chain because not only is too little harmful, but too much will attract debris and start to gunk up.
Check 5: General Once-Over
The final checkpoint involves just taking an extra minute and giving the bike a nice glance over before heading on the enjoyable ride. Checking the brakes to make sure they don’t stick is a wise idea as is checking the handlebar grips, wheel spokes, and other small details on the bike. Even detecting a small crack in the frame and changing your riding style can be the difference between a catastrophe or not.
Of course no matter how many pre-ride checks are performed the possibility for hazards on the road or trail always exist so be vigilant while cycling. There are also some other maintenance and tune-ups that can be performed along the way (tightening brakes, changing batteries in lights) so make sure to always pack an emergency road kit complete with a multi-tool, tube patch, and other essentials.