Bike ABC’s: Air, Brakes, Chain
A is for Air
Having properly inflated tires helps prevent flats. Check the sidewall of your tire for the recommended tire pressure. While you’re checking the air, take a moment to look for cracks or excessive wear on your tires. Also take the opportunity to ensure your quick-release levers, thru axles, or nuts that attach your wheels to the bike frame are properly tightened. Finally, make sure you have your patch kit and pump with you before setting off on your ride.
B is for Brakes
Squeeze your front and rear brake levers to make sure that the brakes engage properly and smoothly. If your brakes are not engaging in a satisfactory manner, there are ways to make small adjustments depending on what types of brakes you have. Stay tuned for a future article covering brake adjustments. If your brakes are not engaging and you need them fixed quickly, be sure to head to your local bike shop before heading out on your next ride.
C is for Chain
Look at your chain and all the gears. Keeping your chain lubricated and everything clean will ensure your bike shifts easier and the drivetrain last longer.
Bike Seat Height and Positioning
Having the saddle, or seat, at the right height for pedaling is important for knee comfort. When your leg is extended in the 6 o’clock position (straight down), your knee should be slightly bent.
Fore/Aft Position Adjustment
The correct fore/aft position is when your knee is directly over the center of your front pedal when your feet are parallel to the ground.
Personal preference determines whether the saddle should be tipped forward, level or backward. Don’t be afraid to keep the necessary tools in your bag to make these minor adjustments mid-ride!
Full Bike Inspection
Lift the bike up and spin the wheels. The rims should be straight and not wobble noticeably from side-to-side or up-and-down. If they do, that means your wheel isn’t true (straight), and you will likely need to take your bike in for service. While it is possible to ride your bike with wheels that aren’t exactly true, it may diminish your braking and throw off the overall balance of your bike.
Cranks are the arms that attach the pedals to the bike. Give each one a pull to make sure it is tight. Do not ride a bike with a loose crank, because it may continue to work itself loose and fall off of the bike entirely.
Spin the crank and shift through the gears. The chain should transfer smoothly from gear to gear. If the chain wants to jump up or down a gear on your rear cassette, then the shifting needs to be adjusted. It is possible to ride your bike without the gears being adjusted, but the experience will not be an enjoyable for you.
Bike Frame and Headset
First, check the frame for cracks. Then, hold the front brake and rock the bike back and forth. Excessive play means the headset needs adjusting. Do not ride a bike with a cracked frame or loose headset as this can be highly dangerous for you!