Topic7FBimage1 Some people pick up bike mechanics rather easily. Others struggle to grasp mechanical concepts on their bike. That’s okay. You don’t have to be a mechanic to ride your bike. But every rider should and can learn to give their bike a quick inspection before riding just to make sure everything is in working order. The goal of this quick lookover is to catch small problems before they become serious and possibly cause a crash. This inspection, called the ABC Quick Check, can take less than a minute if everything is in good shape.
Topic7FBimage2 The A is for Air. Tubes inside your tire naturally lose air over time. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong. They need to be pumped up on a regular basis, at least once a week, so if you don’t have a pump of your own, ask a friend or neighbor or see if there are any public repair stations in your area. On the sidewall of your tire is a recommended pressure range, for instance 40-65 PSI. It’s a good idea to pump up your tires towards the top end of this recommended range. You’re less likely to get a flat tire when they are nice and firm.
Topic7FBimage3 B is for Brakes, the most important part of your bike. It’s New York State law that you have working brakes on your bike. Dragging your feet on the pavement to come to a stop doesn’t count and isn’t safe. If you have coaster brakes (the kind that work by pedaling backwards), make sure they’re working properly. If you brake with hand levers, make sure the levers stop the wheel when applied. If the levers have too much travel and you can press them all the way to the handlebars, unscrew the barrel adjuster a bit to tighten the brakes, giving you better stopping power. Ideally there should be 1” between the handlebar and the fully applied lever. If you have rim brakes, look at the pads and make sure they aren’t too worn. If the pad has less than ¼” or ⅛” left, it’s time for new brake pads. Also make sure the pads aren’t askew: the pads must not touch the tire or extend below the rim.
Topic7FBimage4 C is for Cranks, Chain & Cassette. These components make up your bicycle’s “drivetrain” - what makes the bike move as you pedal. Do your best to keep your chain clean, silvery and shiny. Apply appropriate lubricant regularly and wipe off the excess so it doesn’t get gunky. It’s also a wonderful idea to check regularly for chain wear: Chains “stretch” over time, damaging your gears. It’s much cheaper to replace that chain when you need to than to replace expensive gears. Get a simple chain checker or measure with a ruler: 12 links, pin center to pin center, should measure no more than 12 1/8 inches.
Topic7FBimage5 The Quick is for quick releases, which many bikes are equipped with today to keep the hubs tight in the frame. Make sure those are tightly closed and are closed in a position where the levers are in line with the frame.
Topic7FBimage6 Other things to check: Look over your bike for anything broken, such as spokes. Some people will lift the bike up a couple inches off the ground and drop it, to see if there are any rattles from loose screws or bolts which can be tightened. Take the bike for a quick spin, listening for any rubbing, grinding or clicking noises that can indicate a problem. Make sure your gears are shifting properly. If something isn’t right, have the bike taken to a trusted mechanic. Remember, bikes are legal vehicles, not toys. A bike shouldn’t be ridden if something is wrong.