10 Essential Bike Checks Before You Ride
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Each tire has a recommended psi that's written on the sidewall. Make sure your tire is within this range to decrease your chances of a puncture. Check the sidewalls for signs of wear and the rest of the tire for worn patches in the tread.
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The quick release levers are what hold your wheels on the bike. Get into the habit of opening and closing these levers before every ride to make sure they're tight and closed all the way to the frame.
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You don't want to find out in the middle of a ride that your brakes aren't working properly. There's little that can be done to fix these problems once you're on the road. Start out by spinning your front and back wheels separately, elevated off the ground. Apply each handbrake to make sure that the calipers and brake pads squeeze each side of the wheel evenly.
If the lever comes all the way back to the handlebar before the wheel stops, you'll need to check the brake pads and the tension on the brake cables. If one side of the calipers contacts the wheel before the other, you may need to re-center the calipers, which can usually be done by simply shifting it over with your hands.
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Your headset is the part of the bike that allows rotation between the fork and the head tube of the frame. You can make sure that it's tight by applying pressure to the front brake while the wheel is on the ground. Rock your handlebars back and forth. If there's movement while your bike is in a stationary position, the headset bolt will need adjustment.
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This is the portion of the bike that connects the crankset to the frame and allows it to rotate freely. With one of the pedals in the six o'clock position, move the bottom bracket side to side by pushing and pulling the crank arm without letting it spin. Check for movement. Most bottom brackets require special tools to adjust, so if you don't have these or are unsure of how to fix, take it to your local bike mechanic.
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Depending on who you ask, a chain will last between 1,500 and 10,000 miles. The reason for the wide range is because chain wear is influenced by a number of factors, including riding style, gear choice, the weather you ride in and how often you lube the chain. You can check for chain wear using a ruler. If it squeaks when you pedal, clean and oil it before your ride.
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As far as your gear goes, a properly fitting helmet is a must. Check your helmet to make sure there are no cracks, the straps buckle just beneath the chin and the front fits snug on the forehead right above the eyebrow. A helmet will only serve its purpose in an accident if it stays in place.
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Although you'll want to check all of your bolts occasionally, the bolts that connect the stem to the handlebar and the seatpost to the frame should be checked before every ride to avoid a major accident. A torque wrench is needed to avoid over tightening, especially if you have a carbon stem, handlebar or seatpost, which cracks easily if you go past the recommended manufacturer's specifications.
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Early morning and late evening rides should always been done with bike lights. Make sure they are fully charged and in proper working order.
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If you do all of these checks, you won't need to bring a lot of gear with you. But to ensure you have what you need to fix a flat or tighten the occasional bolt, here's what you should bring:
1. Two spare tubes
2. Tube patch kit
3. Mini pump or CO2
5. Extra chain link
6. Tire levers
7. Money for cab ride home