Tom Robertson

Pre-Trip Bike Maintenance Check Up

Feb 8, 2019
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Your campground is reserved, your gear is laid out in an Instagram-friendly grid, and tomorrow’s the big day. Before you go, take 30 minutes for a quick run-through of your bike — the old “ounce of prevention” — to make sure your wheels are road-worthy before you strike out on an adventure.

Frame

Start with the frame and give it a good wipe down with a rag. Once the dirt and grime are gone, make a quick check for cracks, especially around the welds.

Tires

With the tires inflated, look for sharp debris or glass embedded in the tire, as well as any cuts that look like they go through the rubber and tire casing. Also check tread wear; if the top tread is starting to become square in shape (as opposed to rounded), or the casing is visible through the tread, it’s time to swap out for a new tire. If you’re running tubeless, adding a little fresh sealant is a good idea.

Wheels

Spin the wheels while straddling the bike and give them a quick spot check to make sure that they are round and true, and that there isn’t any excessive friction in the hubs. Also give the spokes a quick squeeze to check for consistent tension.

Brakes

Check the pads (some rim brake pads have wear indicators) to ensure there’s enough material left. A quick visual inspection of the braking surface (rim or disc rotor) should uncover any issues there. Finally, check the lever feel and adjust cables or bleed hydraulic brakes if required.

Chain and cassette

Chain and cassette wear can wreak havoc on your shifting and increase the chance of a broken chain. Looking at the cassette, focus on the teeth. If the cassette teeth come to a sharp point, the cassette should be replaced. As for the chain, you can use a chain checker tool to make sure that it isn’t stretched. If you don’t have one of these tools, you can look at how the chain lies over the front chainrings. If the chain doesn’t seat itself on the chainring properly, it’s probably ready to be replaced. A quick clean and lube of the chain is always a good idea.

Shifting

Run through the gears to make sure that the shifting is dialed in. Check cables and housing to make sure there isn’t any excessive friction or fraying.

Rack

Check for cracks and ensure mounting bolts are tight.

Bolts

Go over the bike from front to back, making sure all of the bolts are snug.

Take a Spin

The last step is to take the bike out of the garage and give it a quick spin around the block. Run through the gears, test the brakes, and listen for any creaks that might require further investigation.

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