Although it’s only the start of February, there are little signs that spring is just around the corner. The daffodils and snowdrops are peeking through, and your thoughts have turned to the cycling goals that you happily agreed to, whilst enjoying a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve!!
To point you in the right direction we have enlisted the help of Kerry Bircher, cycling coach with Revolution Cycling. Following on from her training plan for your first 100 Kerry addresses the need to ensure your bike is up to scratch:
Hopefully you are feeling motivated to start training. You may been lucky enough to secure a place in Prudential Ride London, have just downloaded the TWC 100 Mile Cyclosportive training plan and taken your bike out of the shed.
For short journeys, any good working bike will do - you might have an old 10-speed racer, a shopping bike or a bargain mountain bike, but if you are embarking on a long distance training programme then you will need a well maintained and serviced bike. If your bike has genuinely been gathering dust consider having it serviced at a specialist bike shop to ensure it’s roadworthy.
However, you should also get into the habit of checking your bike regularly yourself using the ‘M’ Check. This involves conducting a safety check of all the main working parts on the bike tracing an ‘M’ shape and with practice, should take no more that between one and two minutes.
The M-check should be done each week, and when you get used to it, it won’t take longer than a few minutes to do.
Step 1: The Front Wheel
Let’s start at the front wheel:
- Wheels - Check quick release skewer is firmly closed or that axle nuts are fully tightened.
- Tyre wear – Visually inspect that tyres are not split or cracked and that there is tread remaining to aid grip.
- Tyre pressure – Inflate your tyres to the recommended pressure on the tyre wall (usually expressed in BAR or PSI).
- Hub bearings - Grip the wheel rim and rock back and forth to feel for loose bearings; spin wheel to check for over-tight bearings.
- Rims and spokes – Is the rim surface flat and not concave, with no visual hairline cracks? Run your fingers over the spokes to make sure they are tight, and spin the wheel to check that it runs true (doesn’t wobble).
Step 2: Front Brakes
Then look at your front brakes:
- Brakes - Check the angle of your levers and make sure that they can be comfortably reached.
- Brake blocks – Take a look at the brake are correctly positioned on the rim and not worn beyond the wear indicators.
- Brake cables - Cables are not frayed or heavily corroded.
- Squeeze your brake levers and push the bike forwards, hopefully it won’t roll forwards.
Step 3: Check your stem and headset
- Handlebar stem alignment - Hold front tyre between knees and turn gently to ensure that the handlebar stem is correctly aligned with the front wheel and tightened. If the bars move without the wheel moving then the stem needs tightening.
- Handlebar alignment – The handlebars should be centred, correctly aligned and secured by the stem.
- Headset bearings - Apply brakes and rock the bike back and for to feel for loose headset bearings.
- Have you got bar end plugs at the end of your handlebars ? If not, replace them.
Step 4: Examine your frame
Look out for hairline cracks in the frame at the joins (particularly relevant for carbon bikes). If you are using a second hand bike, feel the underside of the down tube – if the paintwork is blistered then it’s likely to have been in an accident. Never ride a bike with a cracked frame, no matter how small – take it to your bike shop for advice and a second opinion.
Step 5: Follow the ‘M’ towards the bottom bracket
- Take a firm grip on the cranks (arms that the pedals attach onto) and wiggle from side to side: if there is any movement, the bearings may be loose or your cranks may need tightening.
- Spin your pedals and check they are in good condition.
- Is the chain clean and lubricated, not heavily rusted or particularly long?
- Check that the cogs where the chain sits are not overly worn with flat teeth.
Step 6: The Saddle
Trace the ‘M’ shape up the seatpost towards the saddle. Hold the saddle firmly and try to rock it in different directions to check that it is fitted securely; visually ensure that saddle is straight and level.
Move towards the rear of the bike and down towards the rear transmission ensuring that the rear derailleur is straight and does not foul the spokes. Then inspect your back brakes and wheels as with the front.
Last but not least, take a good look at all of your additional items such as lights, mudguards, racks and bike computers are firmly secured and do not foul moving parts.
The ‘M’ check is a quick, intuitive and easy to remember routine for ensuring that your bike is in good working order and is safe before every ride but also help you become more familiar with the parts and workings of your bike.
Admittedly, this may not be the sexiest and most enthralling of topics. Yet, if you follow the list above on a regular basis, it could save you money, time and your pride, instead of standing on the side of the road, miles from home with an allan key in your hand!
Kerry Bircher is a coach with Revolution Cycling and has been resposible for helping many women realise their goals no matter how big or how small they may seem. Check out the Revolution Cycling website to find out more.