This blog post is part of a new series by our bike ambassadors. It’s dedicated to presenting tips that will encourage new riders to get started. We’ll link these posts on our Resources page, forming a library of tips for beginning cyclists.
Previously in this new serious of resource tips, we talked about finding and choosing the right bike. Once you’ve found the bike that works for you, it’s important to make sure it’s in good condition for riding before venturing out onto the road.
ABC Quick Check
The ABC Quick Check is an easy-to-remember, fast way to make sure your bike is ready to go. It helps you identify up front things that could be inconvenient problems if they crop up while you’re riding. What does it stand for?
A is for Air: Give both front and rear tires a quick squeeze to make sure tires are firm, not soft. Check the sidewall of your tire to find out what level the air pressure should be, and use a pump to fill to that amount. It’s a good idea to check for any cuts, tears, rocks, or other flaws in the tires. Proper tire inflation and care helps prevent flat tires.
B is for Brakes: Check both hand brakes (if your bike has two) by making sure the whole brake pad squeezes tightly on the wheel’s metal rim, not on the rubber tire or on empty air. There should be space between the hand brake lever and the handlebar. If your brakes do not fully stop the bicycle, do not ride until they are fixed.
C is for Chain: Take a look at the chain. Is it dry or rusted? If so, apply a tiny drop of chain lube to each link. Each link should be free of rust and debris. Click for more advanced chain maintenance.
Quick is for Quick Release: Quick release levers make it easy to adjust or remove parts of your bike for maintenance and storage purposes. Make sure any quick releases (usually found on seat posts and at the center of wheels) are closed and pointed towards the back of the bicycle.
Check is for…Check!: Look over the rest of the bicycle. If you see any broken spokes, missing nuts or bolts, or have a wiggly seat that you can’t tighten, do not ride. Fix any small issues before you ride to prevent injury or causing damage to your bicycle! If you are unsure how to fix any problems on your bicycle, contact your local shop or schedule a bike tune-up.
To see an ABC Quick Check in action, watch this video.
Flat tires are nearly inevitable and can leave you stranded if you don’t know how to fix them. But it’s an easy enough process that most riders can pick up quickly. The best way to learn how to fix a flat is to watch a demonstration: To see a tire-change in action, check out this Fix-a-Flat video by REI.
You need a few things to fit a flat: tire levers, a pump, a patch kit, or a spare tube. The process goes like this: Pull your wheel off using tire levers. Remove tube from inside tire and check for punctures or tears. Use the patch kit to repair a small leak, or replace the tube with your spare. Slightly inflate the new tube and replace the new tube inside the tire. Put the tire back on the wheel, and the wheel back on the bike. Tighten any quick releases or brakes you may have loosened to get your wheel off. You’re ready to ride!
Clean and Lube a Chain
To keep your chain in good shape, it’s important to keep it cleaned and lubricated. Having a well-lubed chain protects the moving parts from excessive wear and tear caused by friction and rust.
There are many different types of chain lube on the market, and how frequently your bike needs to be oiled largely depends on how frequently you’re riding and the conditions the bike endures. For the most part, lube only when your chain sounds squeaky or appears dry. Cleaning and lubing your chain after riding through wet, muddy conditions will keep it from rusting.
Make sure to use bike-specific lube and be careful to avoid over-lubricating. Wipe away excess lube before riding.
Do It Yourself?
Your local bike shop likely offers a free or by-donation basic maintenance class. Co-ops like The Bike House and Velocity are also good options. Or check out REI’s post for more info on cleaning and maintaining your bicycle.
Last updated by Colin Browne on March 26, 2020.