09 September 2015
Bike Maintenance – How to Ensure Your Bike is Safe for the Road
It is always important to ensure your bike is well maintained. As with any machine, there are a number of components that will need a little care and attention to ensure they last and work as well as you’d like them to.
Misfiring gears, cracked frames, loose bolts and poor brakes are all obvious risks and keeping your bike well-maintained and in good working order with a few minutes of regular and careful checking will ensure your ride is safe for the road.
The so-called “M-check” is a quick and easy way of checking your main components and ensuring your bike is safe to ride. An M-check should be conducted every week, and with practice, should take no longer than a few minutes.
Before every ride, check that your tyres are correctly inflated, your front and rear brakes are working properly and the batteries for your lights don’t need replacing. Remember, it is an offence to cycle at night without a front white light, a rear red light and a rear red reflector. It is advisable to always carry spare batteries, a pump, some tyre levers, a couple of inner tubes and a multi-tool.
Tyre pressure can be affected by a number of variables including a cyclist’s weight (higher pressure is needed for heavier riders), weather conditions (reduced pressure is needed for wet, debris-strewn winter roads), and tyre construction. Tyres should typically be inflated to between 80-120psi. Digital pressure gauges are cheap and most track pumps come with fitted gauges.
It is also important to conduct monthly checks on the condition of your tyres to ensure there is no debris such as stones or shards of metal or glass lodged in the tread. Check also for any little nicks, cuts, bulges or bald spots in the sidewalls as these are all indications your tyres may need replacing.
Brakes should be checked weekly and kept nice and tight. Ensure there is plenty of life left in your brake pads and that they are aligned with the wheel rims but not touching. Brake pads wear as you ride, especially in wet conditions. If they are worn down, they need to be changed. Removing grit and debris from the surface of your brake pads will ensure more efficient braking and prevent unnecessary scarring to the rims.
The braking surface of the wheel rim is subject to constant wear and a magnet for all manner of road matter. A build-up of debris will impair braking performance and coat your fork with dirt.
The chain, cassette and chainwheels are the principal components of your drivetrain. Although you don’t need to check these so regularly to ensure a safe ride, as any degradation of the components is likely to be gradual, a quick once over of the condition and functioning of your drivetrain will ensure optimum performance. Checking your drivetrain can easily be included in any brief pre-ride inspection.
Use a chain cleaner and keep your chain oiled to ensure your bike runs smoothly but avoid getting any oil on your brake pads or wheel rims. Don’t use too much oil as it will only attract more dirt and make your chain harder to clean.
Cables, like all bike components, are subject to wear and should be checked periodically for signs of fraying, and slippage. Brake and gear cables that are corroded or damaged should be replaced.
Silicone lubricant can be used to protect cables from the elements, prevent corrosion and allow efficient sliding. Most tension issues can be remedied by adjusting the barrel adjusters on your brake calipers.
Tighten all Bolts!
Check that all the bolts on your bike are nice and tight. The consequences of your stem bolt coming loose could be catastrophic. Tighten your stem, seat post and handlebar clamps and ensure all bolts are tightened to the manufacturer’s recommended torque settings. Check that your front wheel and stem don’t move independently by holding the wheel between your legs and twisting the handlebars.
You should check your wheels regularly for loose spokes. Ensure your spokes are of an equal tension and tighten if necessary with a spoke key. Broken spokes should be replaced as they will cause a buckle in the wheel and add pressure to the remaining spokes.
Make sure your wheels don’t wobble. If they do, they will need truing. True wheels are stronger and won’t rub brake pads unevenly. If you have a quick-release lever, check that it is in the closed position. If your wheel is not quick release, check that the bolts on both sides of the wheel are secure.
• Check your frame for any cracks or damage, particularly around the area where the frame meets the headtube.
• Ensure your gears are running smoothly. If they are slipping they will need adjusting or repairing.
• It’s definitely worth having your bike annually serviced by a qualified bike mechanic.
Richard Allbeson is a Senior Personal Injury Solicitor specialising in cycling accident claims at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Newcastle.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers have secured more than £40 million in compensation for CTC Members who have been injured in cycling accidents since 2002.