So… you’re going for a bike ride. Your body will get a workout, and so will your bike. Have you checked your bike for mechanical safety? Timely bicycle maintenance can prevent a serious accident. Here is the “ABC Quick Check,” which you should do every time you ride.
A is for Air
- Check tire pressure. Be sure to inflate tires to the rated pressure noted on the sidewall (pounds/square inch). Use a gauge to verify you have reached the recommended rate.
- Check for damage to the tire sidewalls and/or tread. Sidewalls of tires can be damaged if the brakes aren’t adjusted properly. If the bands of the tire are showing below the surface, you need a new tire — now!
B is for Brakes
- Visually check the brakes for adjustment and pad wear. Brake pads should be parallel to and aligned with the side of the rim when applied. And, if less than 1/8″ of rubber shows at any place on a brake pad, replace the brake pad.
- Check cables and housing. Cables need to travel smoothly. If the cables stick, apply lubrication at the ends of the housing and work it in by applying the brakes several times. Replace frayed cables .
C is for Crank Set
- Check the crank set. The crank set consists of the bottom bracket, the crank arms, and chain rings. To do this check, take the left and right crank arms in your hands and attempt to move them side-to-side. If both move, you have a problem with the bottom bracket. If only one crank arm moves, that individual crank arm is loose; secure it. Do not ride if you have a loose crank arm.
Quick is for Quick Releases
- Quick-release hubs need to be tight, but not too tight. When closing a quick-release, correct tightness is attained when the quick-release lever leaves an impression on the palm of your hand and the lever can be opened without undo effort. Orient the closed lever up and back to minimize the chance of catching on anything while you ride.
- Quick-release brakes, which are opened when removing or installing wheels, need to be in the closed position. When closed, check to make sure the brake pads aren’t rubbing the rims.
- (Quick-release seat clamps, on mountain bikes and some hybrid bikes, need to be in the closed position. And, be sure your seat is at the correct height.)
Check is for a brief, slow ride…
…to make sure that your derailleur and shift levers are working properly.
You can complete many items of the ABC Quick Check visually; others require just a brief physical check. If you find that your bike needs adjustments beyond your ability, enlist the professional mechanics at your local bike shop.
Gene Miller, Kirby Beck, Allan Howard, and Stuart Bracken for the International Police Mountain Bike Association’s Police Cycling Program developed the ABC Quick Check.
Adapted from Bicycle USA; a publication produced by the League of American Bicyclists for their Effective Cycling education program.