Pre ride checklist information

I posted a while ago asking for things to post and Jack Bulkley suggested some pre-ride information.

So for Jack and anyone interested here is a list of;

“What things should I check before a road ride?”

I have gone into fairly technical descriptions of how to identify and remedy any issues you may encounter. If you are unsure please send me a question regarding the topic you would like clarified.                                                                                    These are the things I would check regularly and are often over looked.

. .  Check your tyres for wear and deformation, especially the rear which does all the driving and carries most of the weight, if you notice the tyres are getting squared off or look flat across the top then it may be a good time to replace them with some fresh tyres. Also check tyres for cuts and glass or other foreign objects  If you find a big enough cut that the tube is exposed, you will need to either patch the tyre or replace the tyre. If you find small pieces of glass or wire etc, remove these with a pointed object or they will eventually get pushed further in to the tyre causing a puncture. Now is a good time to check the valve stems of your tubes to see if they are straight and functioning correctly. Check the tyre pressures as they should be around the 100-120psi mark for most riders. The picture below shows a piece of glass found in this tyre. If you happen to find a cut large enough to expose the tube through the tyre, you will need to patch the tyre or fit a sleeve to stop the tyre pinching the tube.

. . Take a look at your brakes, you want to inspect the brake pads for wear and for alignment against the rim braking surface. Checking pad wear is straight forward, nearly all brake pads have wear indicator grooves and lines as can be seen below

What you want to see is grooves still visible in the brake pads, once the grooves start to disappear it is time for new brake pads. To check alignment of the brake pads, the pads should sit fairly central to the rim when the brake is applied and they should run parallel to the rim as shown below. You also need to check the brake is centred to the wheel and not rubbing on one side. If the brake looks too close on one side you can try to move the brake mechanism by hand, this can take a bit of force, if that wont work, loosen the brake retaining bolt (normally a 5mm allen bolt) and then whilst holding the brake lever on as if you were braking, tighten the bolt while holding the brake on.

While around the wheels check if there is any sideways movement in the hubs. Do this by holding the wheel and tyre and try to move the wheel sideways between the brake pads. If the wheel feels flexy that is okay, what you don’t want to feel is a rattle or looseness when moving the wheel sideways as this indicates loose cones and bearing adjustment is required. If you do notice this and do not have the tools or know how to adjust the cones, a trip to your Local Bike Shop (LBS) is in order.

Check the wheel for any loose spokes by lightly squeezing or plucking the spokes. Loose spokes need to be tensioned and should be done by a skilled individual as incorrect adjustment of spokes can damage a wheel more than repair it. Check the rim for any damage or buckles which may need truing at your LBS. If you notice small cracks near the eyelets of the rims the rim or wheel will need replacing.

While checking wheels we need to check the Quick Release skewer (Q/R) is fitted and tightened correctly. Q/R skewers MUST be fitted so you can read the word CLOSE from the outside of the bike or such that you need to apply force to tighten the lever using the palm of your hand. The majority of Q/R skewers work on a cam system that tightens the skewer as you push the Q/R lever/handle to the closed position. The Q/R needs to be adjusted such that when the lever is closed to half way the cam starts to tighten and you feel pressure on your palm, then with reasonable force you push the skewer lever to the closed position.

When fitting a Q/R skewer I face the lever/handle towards the bottom bracket, not against the fork leg as shown below. The position below makes it difficult to undo the skewer to remove the wheel.
1.This is the correct locked position for a quick release hub. The lever is pointing upwards and the curve of the lever faces the hub.
2. This is an incorrect locked position. Although the lever is pointing upwards, the curve is pointed away from the hub. This position occurs when the adjusting nut is held and the lever is rotated clockwise like a wrench to tighten the quick release instead of pivotedvertically.
3. This is also an incorrect locked position. The lever has not been pivoted far enough and in this position can vibrate loose while you’re riding. The lever is also in the wrong vertical position and could catch on something and loosen up.

Moving up to the handle bars next. Check all cables around the handle bars for signs of wear. You are looking for bulging, cut or frayed cables, all signs that cables need replacing. Check where the cables connect to the brake calipers and derailleurs to see if the cable is tearing/fraying or about to break. Any cable that appears worn, frayed or you are unsure of it’s ability to work as it should NEEDS to be replaced ASAP. If all cables are fine then move on to the next step

Holding the bars as normal check your brakes are firm enough, you do not want the levers to come all the way back to the bars. If you need to adjust the tension you can do so quite easily by adjusting the barrel adjuster on the brake caliper to give more tension to the cable. See picture below. Winding anti-clockwise on this adjuster increases tension and feel at the brake lever

Once you are happy with the brakes check the headset has no freeplay by holding the front brake on and try to move the bike forward and backward. If the headset is loose you will feel a slight knock and this needs to be adjusted. Caution here as this adjustment is  best done by a skilled individual as over tightening may cause damage to the headset and cause the headset to be over tight which will result in terrible steering and handling.

Whilst at the handle bars check to see if you can move the bars sideways whilst holding the front wheel between your legs, if you can the stem bolt/s need to be pinched up. Again, use caution especially where carbon fibre is evident as over tightening can damage bars and stems. The use of a torque wrench is recommended by manufacturers when adjusting these fittings.

Moving to the seat, make sure your seat is fixed so there is no sideways movement  if you try to twist the seat whilst holding the bike. If you can move the seat then the seat needs re-tensioning as it can slip down or twist sideways, either will result in soreness for the rider and if the post is carbon fibre the scoring of a post when it is twisted or slides down will eventually lead to the post cracking. Re-tensioning with a torque wrench is recommended if your bike has a carbon post. Check the fittings that attach the seat to the seatpost for tension and nip up the bolts if you feel any slight movement.

On to the gears and checking to see if they are adjusted to run smoothly. One important thing to check here is the condition of your chain. Are there any chain links that appear to be coming apart, if yes, then that can be disastrous and I suggest parking the bike until you get a new chain fitted. The picture below shows what you DO NOT want to see

If the chain appears okay then proceed as follows.                                                                                                                                                        First thing to check is the alignment of the rear derailleur hanger/tip where the derailleur is mounted to the frame. If the derailleur looks to be twisted or bent under (most common if the bike has had a  fall or crash) the hanger/tip needs to be re-aligned at your LBS. You do not want to see this as shown below

If the hanger/tip looks straight then proceed as follows.  Hold the rear wheel off the ground and change the gears whilst moving the cranks in a pedalling motion, this can be tricky and you may need someone to hold the bike for you. The gears should move smoothly without hesitation up and down the rear cassette. If the gears seem to “catch” or skip when shifting they need to be adjusted.   The best way I can describe the adjustment is as follows;

If the gears are slow to move up to an easier gear (larger cog) then you need to wind the barrel adjuster on the rear derailleur 1/4-1/2 turn towards the easier gears (anti-clockwise). If the gears are slow to move down to a harder gear (smaller cog) then you need to wind the barrel adjuster toward the harder gears (clockwise). Picture’s showing the rear derailleur barrel adjuster are shown below.


Something a lot of riders forget to check are the pedals and cleats of the clip pedal systems. Check the wear of the cleats and if need be replace worn cleats. Below are examples of a well worn Shimano SPD-SL road cleat and a new one

Check for loose screws on the plates and spring fixtures of the pedals and make sure the pedals are tightened firmly on the pedal/crank arms. To tighten a pedal the axle needs to tighten anti-clockwise for the left pedal and clockwise for the right pedal.

Last and certainly not least, check your frame and fork for any damage. If you have had a fall/crash you always need to look for signs of damage which could be cracks, dents, deep scratches and paint damage. If you spot anything you are unsure of get the bike inspected at your LBS as there could be a structural issue if cracks or major damage are identified. Bicycle frames can be damaged from general riding conditions, if this happens and you find damage when checking your bike you MUST  get the bike inspected by someone who knows what to look for and can advise your next step.

I hope this explains what to check and how to check the bike over.

If you have any questions please feel free to post the questions here for me to answer.

Shane Russell

SR Bike Works                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Mechanical Editor