invisible bike

About to go for a ride, eh? Well hold on there, because there's some important checks you need to do. It can be easy to think your bike will never fail you, and then one day a crank goes flying into a passing pedestrian and you have to send them a card (not that this has ever happened to us... ahem).

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So before you get ahead of yourself, just take a moment to check over your steed and your supplies. Do you really have everything you need for the ride ahead?

Woman Fixing Her Bike

Do your tyres feel firm?

If not, inflate them to the pressure listed on the side wall of tyre. Soft tyres make you work harder and make it more likely you'll get a pinch puncture.

If you're not confident with inflating your tyres, read our Beginners: How to pump up your bicycle tyres article.

Are the tyres in good shape?

Look out for pieces of debris that have become lodged in the rubber. Remove these to prevent future punctures.

Check your nuts and quick release

Make sure everything is tightly fastened: insecure wheels are incredibly dangerous.

bicycle brakes

Give 'em a squeeze

Do your brakes stop your bike? It sounds basic, but make sure sure of this before going anywhere. Even the most seasoned cyclists can forget to hook them back up after maintenance.

If the braking is less immediate than usual, use the barrel adjuster to take up a little of the slack (anti-clockwise for tension). Consider if anything else could be effecting your brakes: are you cables in good shape?

Brake pads

Ensure that your brake pads are hitting the rim squarely to prevent tyre wear and, of course, you going over the handlebars.

Are the pads looking worn? Many have a wear-indicator to show whether they will last your ride. Replace them if things aren't looking good.

And remember, don't mess with your brakes if you aren't confident. Get yourself to a mechanic.


Tight is right

Check that all your main bits are totally secure on your bike.

There should be no movement in your cranks.

Check for movement in the headset bearings by pulling the front brake and rocking the bike back and forth.

How are the stem bolts and handlebars? If there's any movement, tighten.

In all of these cases, tighten things if you feel confident. But be careful of more advanced fixes when it comes to your bottom bracket and your headset. Always seek professional advice: never say "it'll be fine".

dirty bicycle chain

Chain of command

Your chain can get pretty gross. Clean it regularly and lube it up: if it's too dry it wears the chain faster.

How to: Clean your chain in 5 easy steps

On that note, it may be a good idea to check the state of the chain using a chain wear indicator.

Gearing up

Check the shifting between gears. This action should be smooth. If there's rattling, or the chain skips between cogs, try making small anti-clockwise turns of the barrel adjuster until the chain shifts correctly. Double check that shifting is now smoother. Go to a pro if you're not confident.

Shimano SH-56

Nothing is worse than have your cleats disengage from your pedals in the middle of a ride. It's likely to hurt you somehow, and it's dangerous for all road-users.

Get into the habit of regularly checking them. If your cleats are worn, replace them!

Total Women's Cycling Weather

Check the weather

It might sound obvious, but someone forgetting to check the weather has foiled many cyclists! Make sure you have a good look at what the forecast is so you don't get caught in a thunderstorm with merely a summer jersey.

If it's going to rain, bring a coat

Again, we don't mean to insult your intelligence here. But it can happen to the best of us. We've all looked at the forecast, decided to ignore it, and returned home looking damp. Consider a cycling jacket that's packable. Here's our pick of the most stylish, most reflective, and most value for money waterproof jackets.

bicycle route planning

Do a search

A quick search of where your headed to before you head out doesn't do any harm, especially when phone signal can always fail mid-ride. Best to have a rough idea of your route and not to rely on tech exclusively.

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As for the mapping process itself, Google Maps is getting better when it comes to cycling: you can now check out if there's any hills on the way to your destination and it's now smarter when it comes to quiet routes. If you're a Londoner, TFL have their own route planner.

Route specifics

Will you be travelling through any parts of town famous for getting water-logged in bad weather? Any paths that are often strewn with broken glass? Think through your route and bring any appropriate tools and clothing.

Birzman Roadster I saddlebag (Pic: George Scott/Factory Media)

You may feel confident with your tool kit at home, but do you have what you need in your saddle bag (or rucksack, or panniers, or your jersey pocket)?

Here's a list of what you should be checking you have with you before you leave for a ride:

Mountain Bike Repair

Having skills is just as important as making sure you've got everything you need for a ride! Make sure you read our Cycling Emergencies: Roadside maintenance tips and advice article so you're confident you'll be able to make it home, not matter what happens during your ride.