Check that your bike (or your child's bike) is safe before riding.
A safety check should be carried out before you use a bike for the first time, after it hasn't been used for a while, and each month if you are using it regularly.
Brakes and tyres
Check that your:
- brake blocks are not worn out
- brake blocks contact the centre of the rim when the brake lever is squeezed
- brake cables are not starting to fray
- levers and brake assembly have no loose nuts or bolts
- levers have minimal play – the brake blocks begin to move as soon as you squeeze on the lever
- brakes lock the wheel completely before the levers have reached their maximum position.
Brakes stop the wheel rotating but will not stop the bike if the tyres are poor and the wheels skid too easily. You need to make sure that your:
- tyres have sufficient tread
- tyres are inflated correctly – you should be able to just make a dint in the tyre with the force of your thumb.
Note: Narrow-tyred racing bikes need higher pressure and the broad tyres used by off-road bikes need less. The recommended pressure for tyres is often indicated on the side wall and pressure can be checked with a tyre pressure gauge.
Lighting and visibility
Lights and reflectors are essential for you to be seen by other road users.
For road safety:
- check the headlight and tail-light work and are sufficiently bright
- ensure the surfaces of the headlight, tail-light and all reflectors are clean.
There is additional information in the cycling at night section.
Steering should not be too tight or too loose. Make sure that:
- There is no rocking between the bike frame and the handlebar and wheel assembly. When you lift the bike by the handlebars the frame should lift at the same time.
- The wheel doesn't move left or right independently of the handlebars.
- The steering isn't too tight (the handlebars take an effort to turn) or too loose (the handlebars feel unstable).
The bike will be stable and will not fall to pieces if the nuts and bolts remain tight. As vibration can cause the nuts and bolts on a bike to work loose, check that they are all tight, and remember that some of the bolts have a head that needs an allen key.
Perform a drop test: lift the bike a short way (5 cm) off the ground and allow it to drop landing lightly on its tyres. Check any rattle you hear when the bike drops.
Quick-release wheels are frequently disassembled and might not be tight. Lift the bike off the ground and punch the tyre. If the wheel doesn't fall out (or feel as though it might) the quick release is correctly fitted.
Correct spoke tension can be checked by lifting the bike off the ground, spinning the wheel and checking for alignment as the rim moves past the brake blocks. The rim should remain the same distance from the brake blocks as the wheel rotates. The centre of the rim should also not move above or below the centre of the brake blocks.
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