About equipment

Checking and maintenance

Maintaining your cycle regularly will enhance your cycling experience and help keep you safer. How much maintenance you can do yourself will depend on your ability and the tools you have. Many aspects of cycle maintenance can be difficult and require special knowledge and expertise. Improper adjustments can be very risky to the rider so if there is any doubt, it's best to get your bike serviced by an expert at a cycle shop.

Books or cycle maintenance classes will help you learn more about maintaining your cycle. See your local library, cycle shop or cycling club.

To help you understand the terms used in this section, have a look at the bicycle component diagram.

The pre-ride safety check

Here is a simple, checklist to help you. You should get into the habit of checking these things every time you ride. If anything is wrong after having done the check you will need to get it fixed.

Nuts, bolts and levers

  • Are there any loose parts or accessories? Lift the front wheel off the ground, then let it drop. Does anything sound, feel or look loose? Do a quick inspection of the whole cycle.
  • Are the front wheel, rear wheel and seat post quick release levers firmly done up?

Tyres and wheels

  • Are the tyres firm? Check by putting your weight on the cycle while looking at the tyres. Compare the amount they bulge out to how you know they look when they are correctly inflated.
  • Are your tyres in good shape? Spin each wheel slowly and look for cuts in the tread and side wall.
  • Are your wheels straight? Spin each wheel and check that the tyre doesn't touch the brakes or wobble from side to side. Take your cycle to a bike shop for wheel straightening.

Brakes

  • Do the wheels turn when you are holding the brakes? Test each brake by holding each on in turn and make sure you can't roll the cycle forward.
  • Are the wheel rims and brake pads/discs clean?
  • Are the brake pads contacting with the wheel rims or disc?
  • Can the brake levers be pulled enough to stop the cycle, without them touching the handlebars?

Handlebars

  • Are the handlebar grips secure and in good condition?
  • Are the ends of the handlebars covered?
  • Is the seat firmly fixed so you can't twist it?
  • Is the seat positioned at the correct height so that your toes touch the ground when seated?
  • Are the handlebars firmly fixed in the frame? Stand at the front of the cycle with the front wheel held between your legs and check to make sure you can't twist the bars.

Reflectors and lights

  • If you are riding at night, are the lights working?
  • Are the reflectors visible, secure and clean?
  • Are your batteries fresh or fully charged?

Maintenance

Like any mechanical device, a cycle and its parts are subject to wear and stress. Different materials and mechanisms wear or fatigue from stress at different rates and have different life cycles. If a part of the cycle is getting too worn it can suddenly fail, causing serious injury to the rider.

If you want to do some of your own maintenance, here are a few things you can do. You should carry out these tasks on a regular basis. Depending on how regularly you cycle, it is recommended that you get your cycle checked by an approved cycle mechanic at least on an annual basis. If you cycle more frequently, every few months may be more appropriate for an expert check.

  • Clean the cycle using a soft brush and regular dishwash liquid. When hosing the cycle don't squirt water directly onto the centre parts of the wheels.
  • Lightly lube the chain if it is dry. Wipe off excess lube as this can clog up in the chain ring and rear cassettes.
  • Take a look at the brake blocks. Are they starting to look worn or are not hitting the wheel rim squarely? They may need adjustment or replacing. If you have disc brakes, ensure the brake pads are not worn and are making contact with the discs.
  • Check the frame, particularly in the area around all tube joints, the handlebars, the stem and seat post for any deep scratches, cracks or changes in colour. These are signs of wear and the part may need replacing.
  • Check that all parts and accessories are secure and tightened.
  • Squeeze the front brake and rock the bicycle forward and back on the ground. Does everything feel solid? If you feel a clunk with each forward or backward movement of the cycle, you probably have a loose headset, which can be tightened.
  • Lift the front wheel off the ground and swing it from side to side. Does it feel smooth? If you feel any resistance or roughness in the steering, you may have a tight headset, which can be loosened a little.
  • Check the bottom bracket by rocking one pedal toward and away from the centre of the cycle, then do the same with the other pedal. Does anything feel loose? If so, some tightening may be necessary.
  • If your brake levers pull too far towards the handlebars, turn the brake cable adjusting barrel counterclockwise, then lock the adjustment in by turning the barrel's lock nut clockwise as far as it will go. If the lever is still moving too far you will have to see an expert.
  • If the chain won't shift quietly from gear to gear, the derailleur is out of adjustment. The cause may be as simple as cable stretch - to fix this turn the shifter or derailleur cable adjusting the barrel counterclockwise a half turn. Try the gear shift again. If the problem continues tighten the cable another half turn. If this does not cure the problem you will have to see an expert.
  • Check the brake and gear cables and their covers. If there is any rust, kinks or fraying they will need replacing.
  • Make your way around the wheel by squeezing the spokes that are next to each other. Do they all feel about the same in terms of tightness? If any feel loose or are missing, the wheel will need looking at.
  • Lean your light lens and ensure the lights are pointing in the right direction to be seen, but not dazzle other road users. Replace or recharge your batteries if low on charge.

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Last updated: 6 December 2016