When first learning how to drive a vehicle one of the most stressed teaching points was giving the car a ‘once-over’ before even thinking about turning over the key. This was supposed to involve checking the tire pressure, taillights, rear-view mirror, windshield wiper fluid, and about 27 other things that would just make you late for your date. Whether you followed those tips back in the day or not, the same principles should be adopted when it comes to going out for a bike ride. A car with a burnt taillight will still get you home but a bike with a busted frame not so much. Follow this pre-ride bike checklist to give your cruise a better chance at being successful.
One thing somewhat sporadic bike riders fail to equip their cycle with is a utility pack fixated either on the front handlebars or behind the seat post. The pack/bag/basket should be equipped with some of the essentials needed as your rides get longer and longer, mostly replacement tire tubes, a hand pump, tire patches, and a bicycle multi-tool. The bicycle carry-alls are not only great for emergencies, they allow you to carry a cell phone, headlight batteries, and energy snacks as a convenience.
Arguably the most important thing to check before taking off on a ride is the tire pressure of your bicycle as recommended by manufacturers standards. Riding on an underinflated tire will make pedaling much more difficult and could end in a complete flat which will leave you stranded (unless you bring your bicycle carry-all).
A brake check takes only seconds but it is much easier done before hopping on your bike saddle then when barreling down your first hill of the ride. The brake pads don’t necessarily be changed frequently but the cables and the alignment do need adjusting on a regular basis.
Frame and Bolt Once-Over
Unfortunately if your frame ever snaps it’s probably going to do so without warning or directly following a warning from your friends that you should avoid that bump. That being said it still helps to give the handlebar stem, seat post, and major bolts a quick inspection to see if they are loose or oxidized.
It’s best to clean off your chain after a ride instead of letting dust and dirt settle until the next cruise. Inspect the chain to see if there are any burrs or elongation and give the tires a couple cycles to see if any chain lubrication is needed.
Lights and Reflectors
Finally, if your bike is equipped with lights make sure they work and that you’ve packed extra batteries. Inspect to make sure the reflectors aren’t cracked and are still in tact.
Although some surprises such as a rabid family of possums on the trail may still pop up on your ride, a thorough pre-inspection will help limit the issues on your end.