How to do a bike safety check

Completing a safety check helps diagnose any maintenance issues before they affect you while you are out cycling.

Depending on how much time you’ve got you may want to do the 10 second check, or if you’ve got 5 minutes then the M-Check is far more comprehensive.

These instructions are taken from the Bike Doctor app which is a bike maintenance guide for the iPhone and iPad that you can have with you at all times.

10 Seconds

For the quick 10-second check you should check your tyres to see if they need inflating. Do this by trying to squeeze the wall of the tyre with your thumb. They shouldn’t give at all. You should also give the brake levers a squeeze to check they are completely stopping the bike. The chain should be lubricated but not too oily and definitely not rusted. Finally, quickly check by hand the bolts and quick releases to ensure they are not loose.

Check tyre pressure

M-Check

M-Check

If you want to undertake a more comprehensive check then follow the M-Check method starting at the front wheel.

The first thing you should check is that the quick release or bolts feel tight. If it is a quick release, then when you push it down it should leave an imprint in your palm for a few seconds.

If it is a bolt then you may need a spanner to check it is firmly tightened.

You should also run through the spokes on the wheel to see if they feel loose. Check also for broken or missing spokes.

Lift the bike and give the wheel a spin. Check it isn’t moving side to side too much. If it is then it may need truing.

Check the rim surface on the wheels to look for wear and tear. Check the tyres, including the sidewalls, to see if they are under-inflated, punctured, cracked or worn out. Also check to see if there are any objects stuck in the tyre.

Check wheels are tight

Check the forks to see if they are damaged or bent. The front fork should slope forward as opposed to backwards, as is occasionally an error on cheaply assembled bikes.

Straight Forks?

Spin the wheel and check that it doesn’t touch the pads. Check that the pads are aligned with the rim. Check that the pads are not too worn out, as they may need replacing. Check the cable to see if it is frayed.

Brake pads

Lift the front of the bike and move the handlebars left and right to check that it doesn’t feel sticky or too loose. Check that the bolts are sufficiently tightened and that the stem isn’t raised past the limit mark. Check that the handlebars are firmly secured in the stem. Check that the brake and gear levers are firmly attached and that you can reach them. Check the alignment of the front wheel with the handlebars.

Bottom bracket, cranks and pedals.

Check that the components are not bent. Check the crank arms don’t feel loose when you try to wobble them. The pedals shouldn’t be loose and should spin freely. With the gears you should check that you can shift between all the chainrings and cogs without any trouble and without the chain coming off.

Cranks

You should check that the seat post is not raised past the limit mark. You should also try to move the seat side to side. If it moves, then the bolt or quick release needs to be tightened. Finally, ensure it is in a position to provide a comfortable ride. The saddle should be straightened and securely held in place.

Saddle

The rear wheel, as with the front, should be checked to see that all the bolts and quick releases feel tight. You should also run through the spokes on the wheel to see if they feel loose, broken or missing.

Lift the bike and give the rear wheel a spin. Check it isn’t moving side to side too much. If it is then it may need truing. Check the rim surface to see if it is worn.

Check the tyres, including the sidewalls, to see if they are under-inflated, punctured, cracked or worn out.

Also, check to see if there are any objects stuck in the tyre. You also need to check the rear brakes. Spin the wheel and check the pads don’t touch. Check the pads are aligned and not worn out. You should also check the brake cable to see if it is frayed.

Rear gear

The rear gears should be checked to be sure you can move through the full set of gears without the chain falling off and without any shifting problems. You should also check to see the gear hanger is not bent, as can often happen after a crash. Check the gears are not skipping by pedaling and switching through the gears. The chain should also be checked to be sure it is not too oily or rusty. You should also check for stiff links that will cause you problems when peddling.

How often should you check your bike?

In an ideal world it’s good to complete this check 3-4 weeks if you ride regularly. If you ride in the rain a lot as well (almost inevitable if you ride all year) then chain lube will need to be done regularly.

Take these instructions with you

Bike doctor appWe built the Bike Doctor App for iPhone and iPad after looking for a more comprehensive bike maintenance manual. The app has since been downloaded over 20,000 times and frequently gets 5* reviews from happy users. If you are looking for a convenient maintenance guide on the move and you’d like to learn more about looking after your bike, then search for Bike Doctor in the App Store.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

5 Responses to How to do a bike safety check

  1. Harry-H 30/10/2015 at 9:49 am #

    10 seconds to “check all the bolts and quick releases”? My bike’s got at least 18 bolts, requiring three different allen keys and 2 different spanners. I’m not going to check them in less than 5 minutes, realistically. If you include getting my toolbox out, finding my spanners, then putting them all away again, this is a more like a 10 minute check, not 10 seconds. Is it a typo?

  2. SRC 30/10/2015 at 10:11 am #

    I use the M check regularly. The ten second check is a bare minimum and easily achievable. Most of the checks are visual or a quick touch. If you were to nip up every bolt every time you ride, you’d soon be shearing heads off bolts through over tightening. Being charitable, perhaps you were aiming for humour. Sarcasm rarely comes across well in print.

    • Andreas 30/10/2015 at 3:26 pm #

      Have updated the wording. Thanks guys for comments 🙂

  3. Francis Parrett 30/10/2015 at 10:50 am #

    I appreciate the comments above and suspect they come from experienced riders. As a recent returnee I find the 10 sec and M checks info very reassuring as I do most of the M check after cleaning the bike after previous ride and the 10 sec bit before next ride. I know these checks focus on mechanicals but I also check the lights are working and I have enough fuel on board as there have been occasions they have been left behind in my impatience to get going! Also now I always check I have the right kit in my 0.9cl saddle bag for the right bike. It holds a mutlitool (+ spanner when on non QR wheels) spare tube + patches, levers, pump + gas cylinder, mobile phone, car or house keys, credit card and cash and there is still room for the latex gloves (like the mechanics use) to keep the grease of my kit. You only need to puncture once on Whitedown Lane in the rain to learn you can only go as fast as your weakest point!

  4. raymond 30/10/2015 at 4:49 pm #

    How about the lights? Don’t you check them?

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