Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve ridden, and your bike’s been sitting in the garage or in storage. If so, it’s a good idea to inspect it adequately before taking off for some fun and exercise. What you want to avoid is a problem that pops up on the road that could’ve been avoided by doing a smart safety check ahead of time. Here’s some great expert advice from our friends at Chainwheel Drive on Drew Street in Clearwater.
Check the Tires on Your Bike
First of all, look over your tires and make sure there’s no visible damage to them— any big cuts, excessive cracking of the rim indicating age-related deterioration. While doing that, pick up the rear of the bike and follow it by picking up the front. Spin the tires around and use your fingers to estimate the tire pressure. Next, move to the spokes to see if they’re good and snug. A general rule of thumb is that if a small child can open the collapsing mechanism that holds the wheel into the frame, it’s not tight enough.
Check Your Bike Chain
Next, try to remember the last time the chain was lubricated. You can tell it needs it if it makes crazy sounds. If it’s been a season or two since you’ve ridden, apply chain lube or even cable lube. Make sure the lubrication goes where it’s actually needed and not where it will splash up onto your clothing. If you can, use a bike stand or just hold the bike up with your pelvis and lean over it to spin the cranks backwards. Then drip a little bit of lubricant in between each chain link and run your fingers over it back and forth to even it out. It’s a good idea to use a rag to rub the chain to remove excess oil. Proper lubrication makes for a smooth ride and takes care of any rust that might inhibit easy shifting of gears.
Saddle and Handlebars Checks
All the contact points on your bike need to be snug and secure. If you give your saddle a bit of a twist and it doesn’t move at all, the bolt is tensioned correctly. The same applies to the handlebars. Put a little body weight over them. Even with a flat bar you can put your hands on the break levers. Just give it a good stress to make sure it’s not slipping in the stem. Or, if you come around to the front of your bike, you can double check that the stem on the back side of the handlebar is snugged securely and everything seems to be in good order.
Check Your Brakes
When it comes to the all-important brake function, both rim brakes and disc brakes have wear indicators on them. The rim brake shows a line etched in to the top of the brake pad itself. If you can still see that, it means you’re in good shape. The other immediate sign is if you can’t pull your brake lever all the way to the handlebar. Also make sure that the brake pads collapse on the rim at the exact same time. That way you’re not over braking one side of the wheel and causing it to push over one direction or the other. It’s good to determine the proper braking ratio between front and rear brakes. Try starting with just the rear brake and apply only the amount of pressure of the front brake to make sure to stop where you want to.
Don’t Forget Your Water Bottle
It’s a good idea to make sure that your water bottles are topped up and that you have your roadside assistance kit on board. Especially on hot, humid days, it’s imperative to stay hydrated. You may not even feel thirsty, but your body is probably expending more than the usual amount of energy, depending on the speed, time, and length of your ride. Drink enough fluids to make sure you stay hydrated, because your performance will significantly suffer if your hydration/fluid levels drop by more than 2 to 3 percent of your body weight. Taking a couple of sips every fifteen minutes is a good rule of thumb. Many cyclists suggest one bottle per hour as the minimum in hot weather. And take on carbohydrates in the form of drinks, gels, energy bars, or other easily digestible foods.
Helmet and Mirror
If you haven’t bought a helmet recently, consider buying one that incorporates the new WAVECEL and/or MIPS technology. EVA foam does break down over time, so helmets shouldn’t be any older than three to five years.
Never ride against traffic. So having a side view mirror boosts confidence to see what is behind you, making your circumstances, especially turning left or right, more predictable and thus safer. You can move the mirror around while you’re riding, and it helps to see the pace line behind you if you’re riding in a group.
If you’re wearing a highly visible fluorescent-colored jersey, your chances of being hit, according to a recent Danish study, go down by 50 percent. Drivers on the road need to distinguish you from the surrounding background, all the clutter that’s in their visual field. So wearing fluorescent jerseys and socks is going to make a huge difference between being seen and not being seen in terms of riding safety.
Are Your Bike Lights Bright Enough?
Bike lights need to be visible to a motorist hundreds of yards ahead of you and be able to pick you out during the day as a cyclist. So get the brightest blinking tail light possible. The same applies to the headlight. The data is strong that a blinking headlight is what you need to ride during the daylight hours to make you stand out as a cyclist. Put it on the blinking mode. There are many good head lights with 500 lumens or more.
Be Sure to Ride with a Roadside Assistance Kit
In your saddlebag carry a spare tube in case you run over a nail or something pops the tube. You can even carry a single dollar bill to use to boot the tire. That way if you do run over a piece of glass or a sharp rock that causes damage, you can use the dollar as a placeholder for the rubber that’s missing so that the tube doesn’t bubble up and pop. Also carry tire levers to get the tire off the rim for a timely repair. It’s good to have a CO2 cartridge and an inflator. Some riders prefer shock or frame pumps that mount under the bottle cages. If you need to do a bike repair while on a ride, first pull over to a safe, shady spot and stay hydrated while doing it.