The Bicycle M Check

The M Check answers two important questions:

  • Is my bike safe to ride, or will a wheel come flying off, just as I start to pedal?
  • Are there any areas of my bike that I should be looking at?

It’s one of the most useful tools for anyone who wants to maintain a bike themselves and it is easy peasy to use, as it follows the well known letter M.

That’s the reason we show it as the first video inside our new online bicycle maintenance course. The course gives you an easy, step-by-step system you can follow, for maintaining your own bike at home.

Please note: Our course will be doubling in price from £10 to £20 this Sunday night, once we’ve given London Cyclist readers the opportunity to join. You can join now here.

How to run the M Check on your bicycle

M-Check from the London Bike Kitchen

Tom Martin from the London Bike Kitchen explains the bicycle M-Check in our video above. Here’s how to do it on your bike:


At the bottom of the M, is the rear wheel. Here’s what you should check:

  • Lift the bike up and give the wheel a spin. Check it doesn’t wobble side to side and that there’s no grit and knocking.
  • Check for any cracks or splits in the tyre. Also, check that there is still tread.
  • Check your tyres are fully inflated. When you press down on them they shouldn’t budge. Ideally, use a pump with a pressure gauge.
  • Check the rims to see if they are worn by using the wear line indicator if your bike has one. Otherwise look for excessive grooves that could indicate your brake pads have worn out the rim.
  • Check the quick releases and wheel nuts are firmly tightened.

You’ll need to repeat this test on the front wheel.

Rear derailleur

  • Shift through the gears and check they change smoothly without any hesitation.


  • You shouldn’t be able to press your brake lever more than 2/3rds of the way down. At this point, your brakes should be fully engaged.
  • Check if your brake pads need replacing.
  • Check your brake cable for any fraying or corrosion.

Repeat this on the front brake.

Seat post

You can quickly check that the “minimum insertion” line isn’t visible on your seat post. You can also try to move the saddle to check it is securely tightened.

Front derailleur

  • Check you can run through the full range of gears
  • Check the gear cable is not frayed or corroded.

Bottom bracket

  • Put one hand on each crank and rock them back and forth. You shouldn’t feel any play.
  • Spin the cranks backwards and check that you can feel a smooth rotation, without any resistance.


  • Spin pedals to check they spin freely.


  • Spin handlebars back and forth and check they move smoothly, without any knocking.
  • Hold down your front brake and try to rock your headset. You are checking if there’s any clicking, which will need to be dealt with.

To see the rest of the course, head to:

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.


4 Responses to The Bicycle M Check

  1. Paul 16/11/2012 at 1:31 pm #

    Great info, I have been teaching this to newcomers to our cycle group. I am a City & Guilds qualified cycle mechanic!

  2. Paul 16/11/2012 at 1:33 pm #

    Great info, I have been teaching this to newcomers to our cycle group. I am a City & Guilds qualified cycle mechanic! I think especially this time of year it is helpful for all cyclists if they can maintain to a servicable degree their bikes, what with mud, leaf debris grit and salt on our roads.

  3. Richard 16/11/2012 at 2:09 pm #

    FYI the video is not loading/playing at the moment.

    • Andreas 16/11/2012 at 2:18 pm #

      That’s often because YouTube has been blocked in an office computer network.

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