You don’t have to be a fully-trained mechanic to keep your bike in good working order. Here’s what we think are the most important things to get right when checking and maintaining your bike.
1. Check your rear wheel is tightly fitted and the quick release lever is secure in the closed position. Not all wheels will have quick release levers. If wheel is not quick release, check that the nuts on both sides of the wheel are secure.
2. Check spokes are of equal tension and not loose. Pluck each spoke with your finger. The sound from each spoke should be very similar.
3. Check if there is enough air in your tyre. If the tyre is soft, then attach your pump to the valve and pump up. Note: There are two types of valve fitting – Presta (long and thin), and Schrader (thicker and slightly shorter). Recommended tyre pressure is usually written somewhere on the tyre.
4. Check your seat post isn’t loose and that you haven’t exceeded the limit marked on the seat post. Once you have checked these, use an allen key to tighten the seat post clamp. Check the seat is secure by giving it another check once you have finished.
5. Check that your chain is clean and oiled. Keeping your chain clean and oiled is important for the smooth running of your bike.
6. Check that your pedals spin smoothly and that your cranks are on tight, spin smoothly, and don’t creak.
7. Check that your front wheel and stem do not move independently, and that your handlebar clamp bolts are tight. Perform this check by standing in front of the bike, holding the front wheel between your knees, and twisting the handlebars. You can prevent any movement by tightening the stem bolts and the handlebar clamp with an allen key.
8. Check if there is any rocking or clicking in the headset. Perform this check by firmly grasping the head tube with one hand and applying the front brake with the other hand. This will steady the front of the bike so that you can shake the headset to establish any rocking or clicking in the bearings.
9. Check that the front and rear brakes are working properly. If the brake lever pulls against the handlebar grip, the brake cable needs adjusting. This is done by loosening the brake cable anchor bolt, pulling the cable tighter, and tightening the anchor bolt again. Both sides of the brake mechanism should move when the brake is applied. If this is not happening, turn the small adjustor screw on the stationary side until both sides are moving again. Most brakes have these adjustor screws. The brake block must pull flat to the wheel rim. If this is not the case, use an allen key to tighten the block in the correct position. This is done whilst applying the brake. Finally, check the front brake by applying the brake and pushing the bike forwards, and check the back brake by applying the brake and pulling the bike backwards.
10. Check the frame for any cracks or damage. Focus this check on the area where the frame joins the head tube.
11. Check the front wheel. Repeat the rear wheel check.