Whether your bike has been gathering dust in your garden shed or you’ve been putting it through its paces in the run up to RideLondon, it’s crucial to make sure it’s in good shape before heading on a cycling challenge – so here’s what you should be keeping an eye out for…
Inspecting your bike
It’s easy to get into the habit of just jumping straight on your bike, but before every ride, make sure to give it a routine inspection, to help you spot potential problems before they get worse and become potential hazards. Just a quick once-over will work – remember to check your ABCs:
- Air – Check that your tyres are properly inflated
- Brakes – Squeeze the brake levers to make sure that they engage properly
- Chain – Keep the chain lubricated and clean
Maintaining tyre pressure
Tyre pressure has a serious impact on the performance of your bike. If it’s too low, you’ll have to work a lot harder to maintain your speed, and it means that you’re more likely to get a flat tyre. A good-quality floor pump with a pressure gauge is a must-have piece of kit. The tyre pressure depends on where and how you’re cycling, as well as your weight and how wide your tyres are, but there are handy guides to give you a better idea of what the tyre pressure should be.
The first step is to take the dust caps off the valves on your inner tube, and clamp the head of the bike pump over the valve. Pull down the lever to start pumping the tyres, being careful to hold the valve still, and check the gauge to see if it’s at the right pressure. Screw the dust caps back on tightly.
Adjust your brakes
Of course, no matter how fast you’ll be cycling, you’ll need to make sure that you can stop effectively! If you’re finding that when you’re pulling the brake lever down to the handlebar before your bike stops, you’ll need to adjust them.
To do this, you’ll need to tighten the adjusting barrel in the brake lever – tightening the screw moves the brake pads closer to the rim. You might have to unscrew the bolt that’s holding the wire, tighten the wire and then re-screw the bolt – but before you tighten it, twist the adjuster that’s holding the wire to its loosest setting, as this will give you more room to adjust the brakes.
Looking after the chain
If your bike is making a rattling or squeaking sound, chances are it’s your chain! It’s the sound of the metal scraping against the grime, mud and other bike parts. A clean chain means that it’ll be smoother to change gear, and will slow down wear and tear on other parts of your bike.
To clean the chain, you’ll need a chain brush, a cloth, chain cleaner and lubricant – make sure you’re using products that have been designed specifically for use on bikes. Simply use the brush and chain cleaner to scrub the chain clean before rinsing it with water and drying it with a cloth. Next, drip the lubricant into the links of the chain as you slowly turn the pedals backwards, wiping off any of the excess. The more often you clean and lubricate your bike chain, the quicker the process gets!
You should also be mindful of the dozens of nuts and bolts that are holding your bike together – loose bike parts can lead to poor performance and contribute to wear and tear, so make sure you’re maintaining a tight ship by securing any loose nuts and bolts.
If you’re noticing any other issues with your bike, it’s important to get it checked out well in advance of your cycling challenge – there are plenty of places that offer this service! If you have any more concerns in the lead up to RideLondon, get in touch with our team.
We’ve got a video that sums the 6 things to check before you cycle:
As well as how to repair a puncture: