You don’t have to dress like a “cyclist” to ride a bike.

Racing cyclists

You don’t have to dress up like a Tour de France rider to get on your bike and ride to work, or the shops, or to visit friends. Do not be put off travelling by bike thinking that you have to be clad in lycra; as long as you don’t have flapping trouser bottoms or long loose shoe laces that could catch in the chain or the bike frame you are good to go. You do not need to be a cycling expert or enthusiast. You do not need to record your times, your average and maximum speeds. You can travel at a speed that is comfortable to you and even walk up difficult hills. The sense of freedom travelling by bike brings makes a short journey more rewarding and more fun than sitting in a car in traffic. So come on make the effort, make the change in the way you travel, get your bike out.

 

M – Check

How to “M Check” your bike.

M-check

The “M-Check”.

You should get into the habit of checking your bike regularly. A good way of doing this is the ‘M’ check which ensures you don’t miss anything. Start with the front hub and wheel, up to the handlebars, down to the bottom bracket, back up to the saddle and end at the back wheel, looking out for potential trouble-spots in between.

 


What to look out for…

1. Start at the front wheel:

wheelCheck for missing or broken spokes – if any spokes are broken it’s important to replace them as soon as possible as one missing spoke will make the others weaker.
Spin the wheel – it should spin straight. If the wheel wobbles when it spins it may have a buckle and need truing – visit your bike shop.
Whilst the wheel is spinning listen to make sure you can’t hear any damaged bearings. If there is noise coming from the bearings they may need to be cleaned or replaced. If you cannot adjust the wheel yourself, take it to your bike shop.
Check the rim: some rims will have a wear line. If you can’t see this, your rim may need replacing. Check that the rim surface is flat and not concave. Check for hairline cracks in the rim. Rims that are cracked or worn away should be replaced.
Check that the tyres are pumped up to the pressure specified on the side (usually expressed in BAR or PSI) and look for wear on the tread or for any cracks in sides of the tyre. Worn and under inflated tyres are more likely to get punctures so it is worth taking time to check them and replace if necessary.

2. Then look at your brakes:

brakesAre your brake blocks or pads worn down? Are the blocks lined up correctly? Squeeze the brake levers: the blocks should hit the rim squarely and make sure they do not touch the tyres. If you have discs check they work smoothly without squealing. Squeeze your brake levers and push the bike forwards to make sure the brakes are effective. The levers should not pull all the way to the bars.

3. Check your stem and headset:

handlebarStand over the front wheel holding the brakes on and push backwards and forwards (hold the top of the forks as well if you have any front fork suspension). If there is any movement the bearings may be loose – visit your bike shop. Hold the front wheel between your knees and try turning the handlebars – if the bars move without the wheel moving, your stem needs tightening
Check that your bar ends (plugs at the ends of your handlebars) are in place – replace them if not.

4. Check your bottom bracket:

chainsetHold the cranks and try to move from side to side, if there is any movement, the bearings may be loose or your cranks may need tightening. If you are unsure, visit your bike shop.
Turn the cranks and listen and feel for any noises or stiffness in the bearings
Spin your pedals and check they are in good condition and secure.

5. Check your frame:

frameLook out for hairline cracks in the frame, especially at the joins. You should never ride a bike with a cracked frame, no matter how small – take it to your bike shop for advice.

6. Check your saddle:

saddleMake sure it is at the right height and is bolted tightly: remember, your leg should be almost fully extended at the bottom of a pedal stroke.
Make sure the seat post is not extended beyond the safety limit marked.

7. Check your gears:

gearsWhile pedalling, click through the whole range of gears (you may wish to turn your bike upside or ask someone to help you with this). If the gears don’t change smoothly check that the cogs are not worn or adjust the cable tension. If you are unsure how to do this visit your bike shop.
Check that your chain is clean and lubricated – if you ride regularly, you should aim to clean and oil it once a week. Be careful not to over oil as this attracts dirt and can increase wear.
Check your back brakes and wheels as with the front.