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Pre-ride safety check--what do you look for?

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Pre-ride safety check--what do you look for?

Old 12-17-19, 09:14 PM
  #1  
pbass
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Pre-ride safety check--what do you look for?

Title says it all. I'm an experienced cyclist but a noob mechanic. I do give things a quick once-over as a rule, but sometimes....not so much. In my case, I'm talking gravel/adventure in SoCal, so, steel bike, no suspension, taking a pounding...
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Old 12-17-19, 10:13 PM
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A few ideas:
Safety Checks On New Bikes
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Old 12-18-19, 06:13 AM
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Before every ride on the road bike:
- I inflate tires to the correct pressure.
- I check the tires aren't damaged (I don't want a blowout on a tire running at 7bar on a fast descent).
- Check the brakes are working.
- I check if the drivetrain needs lube and apply it if needed.

Before every ride on the mountain bike:
- I check the tire pressure by feel and inflate them if needed.
- I check the brakes.
- I check the fork and lockout are working ok.
- I check if the drivetrain needs cleaning, and clean if needed.
- I lube the chain.

Once a month on the road bike:
- I check there's no headset, hub or BB play.
- I check brake pad and rotor wear.
- I check rims are centered.
- I check shift cables and BB guide for damage
- I check hydraulic brake lines for damage.
- I check tire wear.

Once a month on the mountain bike:
- I check there's no headset, hub or BB play.
- I check brake pad and rotor wear.
- I check rims are centered.
- I check shift cables for damage.
- I check hydraulic brake lines for damage.
- I measure chain stretch and replace it if needed.
- I check tire wear.

Depending on the usage (usually 3 to 5 months), on the mountain bike:
- I replace the fork oil bath.
- I check the fork air piston and lube it if needed.
- I check the pedal axles and bearings and lube them if needed.
- I check chainrings, jockey wheels and sprockets for wear.

Once a year on the mountain bike:
- I check the rebound cartridge and replace oil if needed.
- I remove the BB and clean the crap inside the frame (if you didn't know, there's usually a drain on the BB to let water out).

As you can see, the road bike needs a lot less maintenance to keep it running smoothly, there are things that last so much in it that I almost never care to look them unless I feel something wrong while riding.

The mountain bike, on the other hand, requires constant maintenance to keep it running like new. It tends to chew up drivetrains for breakfast, especially in winter, and fork progressively looses smoothness if I don't pamper it (and it does it in a way that you can't almost notice until you do the maintenace and BAM! you find it feels like a different beast). Rear hub also tends to develop play and have to adjust the bearing preload sometimes.
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Old 12-18-19, 06:59 AM
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Amt0571's list is pretty good but I do not see "Verify QR skewer or axle nuts security" which is my first inspection item while checking/adjusting tire pressures.
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Old 12-18-19, 07:08 AM
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not much I can add to the above but those are excellent lists. A pilot always does a walk around check before take off.

One of the things I do is lock the brakes and wiggle the bike back and forth, to confirm brake authority and nothing is loose (headset, wheel QRs, etc.)

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Old 12-18-19, 07:15 AM
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It's a bicycle, not an airplane. If the bike was operating fine the last time you rode it, check the tires and go. Once a month or when you clean your ride, is fine for a detailed equipment check.
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Old 12-18-19, 07:16 AM
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Originally Posted by dsbrantjr View Post
Amt0571's list is pretty good but I do not see "Verify QR skewer or axle nuts security" which is my first inspection item while checking/adjusting tire pressures.
All my bikes use thru-axles which are noticeably safer and way more difficult to get loose. Anyway, I double check them everytime I remove a wheel, and when I check for hub play, if there was anything wrong with the axle I'd notice it.

I also do more thorough checks and maintenance if rain has caught me riding for a significant length of time. Rain is pretty bad on bike components.
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Old 12-18-19, 07:23 AM
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Originally Posted by 02Giant View Post
It's a bicycle, not an airplane. If the bike was operating fine the last time you rode it, check the tires and go. Once a month or when you clean your ride, is fine for a detailed equipment check.
The bike was operating perfectly the last time you rode it, and you ride it straight away, picking speed on a nice downhill.

Suddenly, you discover that an air bubble made its way in the front brake line and somehow it managed to get somewhere where it hinders normal brake operation. Of course, you're not going to know this happened, since you'll probably end up smashed to a tree.

One of my bikes, with Magura HS11 brakes developed a brake line leak after being parked for a month. The brake did not work when I wanted to use the bike again. It's a simple as this. Things like this can happen. So I'd rather not risk it.

Currently, my road bike rear shifter cable, for example is starting to fray, and the bottom bracket cable guide has developed a crack One day I found the damage and didn't know when or how it happened. I'm still riding it this way until I have time to repair (I already have the parts), but this is nothing saftey critical. If it was a brake cable, for example, I would replace it ASAP. Currently, since I know about the damage and it's not critical, I'm just monitoring it every few rides to avoid something breaking and leaving me stranded, and probably are going to replace both cables and BB guide on January.

I also know of someone whose handlebars came loose while riding, and another one who lost the rear wheel on a descent. A bike may not be a plane, but it's also not a car, where you service it once a year, pump the tires up every 3 months, and nothing happens. Bikes are quite fragile, especially if they're light, IMHO.

Last edited by Amt0571; 12-18-19 at 07:37 AM.
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Old 12-18-19, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by 02Giant View Post
It's a bicycle, not an airplane. If the bike was operating fine the last time you rode it, check the tires and go. Once a month or when you clean your ride, is fine for a detailed equipment check.
I have found safety issues on sailplanes I preflighted right after someone else just landed them. I have found loose skewers on a bike which had been recently ridden.

"It was working fine the last time I flew it" Military pilots disdainfully call this a "civilian preflight".

I'm never in too big a hurry to skip a basic safety check. YMMV.
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Old 12-18-19, 10:02 AM
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The list here is pretty comprehensive. To add, I always make mental note of whatever anomoly occured on the ride & get addressed & prioritized before the next ride.

That bottom bracket klunk under hard load may not be a big deal now, but in 3 months it might be. An unusual squeak or ticking may indicate trouble like a loose chainring bolt or similar. That wheel wobble may be a loose spoke. It may be a lot of loose spokes. Either is something I would prioritize much higher than a bottom bracket klunk. (It was, in fact, 28 loose spokes, & 3 that completely untheaded from the nipples by the time I got home )

I once had a 5 mile walk because I failed to address a "tire wobble" that I knew about. It was in actuality a pinched tube in the tire bead. I got off easy with a 5 mile walk; That same mistake cost a prominant race organizer his life on a high-speed descent over a cliff during the last major group ride I went on. (The 2019 Big Dam Bridge Century out of Little Rock, Arkansas)

I guess the thing is simply just to know your machine, test the brakes, check the tires, & show concern for the ongoing general welfare of your equipment & carry on accordingly. It is afterall you that will pay the price in oneway or another.

Last edited by base2; 12-18-19 at 10:05 AM.
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Old 12-18-19, 10:06 AM
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Its not a passenger jet :-)

All I ever do is check to see if it brakes all right after a wash. Discs are very susceptible to contamination with just about anything. Thats all.

Other than that you be fine if you take care of the bike on a regular basis.
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Old 12-18-19, 11:29 AM
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I pull on each brake pad to see if it's going to twist at the rim.

I tug on each canti straddle cable to see if it feels abnormal.

I roll stop with front brake alone, then with rear alone.

I should make sure the axles are seated, but don't.

Then I climb on for a short test in the 'hood. The world is to the left out of the driveway, so I turn right and go up a hill a little ways, working out the drivetrain, then turn and descend to zoom on outta there.
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Old 12-18-19, 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Amt0571 View Post
The bike was operating perfectly the last time you rode it, and you ride it straight away, picking speed on a nice downhill.

Suddenly, you discover that an air bubble made its way in the front brake line and somehow it managed to get somewhere where it hinders normal brake operation. Of course, you're not going to know this happened, since you'll probably end up smashed to a tree.

One of my bikes, with Magura HS11 brakes developed a brake line leak after being parked for a month. The brake did not work when I wanted to use the bike again. It's a simple as this. Things like this can happen. So I'd rather not risk it.

Currently, my road bike rear shifter cable, for example is starting to fray, and the bottom bracket cable guide has developed a crack One day I found the damage and didn't know when or how it happened. I'm still riding it this way until I have time to repair (I already have the parts), but this is nothing saftey critical. If it was a brake cable, for example, I would replace it ASAP. Currently, since I know about the damage and it's not critical, I'm just monitoring it every few rides to avoid something breaking and leaving me stranded, and probably are going to replace both cables and BB guide on January.

I also know of someone whose handlebars came loose while riding, and another one who lost the rear wheel on a descent. A bike may not be a plane, but it's also not a car, where you service it once a year, pump the tires up every 3 months, and nothing happens. Bikes are quite fragile, especially if they're light, IMHO.
Lack of maintenance is what brings about sudden, "unexpected" failures, not lack of an extensive pre ride flight check.
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Old 12-18-19, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Racing Dan View Post
Lack of maintenance is what brings about sudden, "unexpected" failures, not lack of an extensive pre ride flight check.
And how do you know what needs maintenance if you never check it?

This is not a car with preset maintenance intervals, so you either check if everything is OK, or wait until something fails and hope for the best.
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Old 12-18-19, 02:51 PM
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lately I've been checking the location of my hone & co2 cartridges cuz the gas doesn't work well when very cold & my phone dies when it gets cold, even with a decent charge
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Old 12-18-19, 03:51 PM
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I try to check tire rolling surfaces after rides to see if they picked up anything during the ride so that I won't be surprised on the next ride. Routine maintenance happens somewhat intermittently but it does get done.
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Old 12-18-19, 04:20 PM
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Also try to check tires for cuts/imbedded stuff.

Brake check during the 1st 50 yards of ride- usually from home.
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Old 12-18-19, 04:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Amt0571 View Post
And how do you know what needs maintenance if you never check it?

This is not a car with preset maintenance intervals, so you either check if everything is OK, or wait until something fails and hope for the best.
No one has suggested "never" checking maintenance items.
It is completely unnecessary to go through a thorough maintenance list before every ride, unless you ride junk.
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Old 12-18-19, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by 02Giant View Post
No one has suggested "never" checking maintenance items.
It is completely unnecessary to go through a thorough maintenance list before every ride, unless you ride junk.
I specified in my post what I check and when. As you can see, every ride I only check the bare minimums: tires, brakes, drivetrain (and fork on the mountain bike).

I think that's more than reasonable. And, as I specified in my post, I also think that it's reasonable to do more through checks periodically, depending on how much you ride.

Some of the people I ride with are professional maintenance avoiders. And I've seen everything from them: brake pads that finally wear out the first day of a multi-day adventure (and they didn't carry spares, of course), cables snapping in the middle of nowhere, forks found with little or no pressure just before a ride... and I could go on and on.

I may be a bit paranoid if you want, but in the last 13 years I can only remember one time when I had to abort a ride and call someone to pick me up, and the cause was that I got sick and started to throw up. The bike was perfect, as usual.
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Old 12-18-19, 10:27 PM
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Thanks for all the replies. I'm apparently fairly thorough, as a rule.....

Lots of good info here!
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Old 12-19-19, 08:09 AM
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Being mostly a commuter the first thing I do is look in the garage and make sure it isn't stolen.
Load up and get my butt to work. During the ride I listen and feel the bike's operation. If there seems like an issue I'll do required repairs/maintenance at work or when I get back home.
Any issues I encounter normally are addressed after a ride not before.
When the tires start "feeling soft" or I'm performing other maintenance I'll air them up.

I'll pull the chain, clean & lube. Clean & lube derailleurs, check cables, brakes etc on a regular basis.
After rain rides hose it down and clean braking surfaces.
Every year or two, depending on mileage, I'll do a complete tear down over winter. On the 10s Ultegra STI bike I'll replace the RD inner cable yearly.
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Old 12-19-19, 09:27 AM
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Old 12-19-19, 10:59 AM
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I do it the other way around.

Every time that I ride I make a mental list of anything I want to do or fix before taking that bike out again. That's pretty much all of the maintenance that I do.
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Old 12-19-19, 11:41 AM
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I like to look directly ahead of my bike, to make sure there are no farm animals in my path. 🙄😉 At least I plan to start doing that, after a rooster got in my way this morning, while it was still dark out. 😲😁
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Old 12-19-19, 12:49 PM
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I just completed an International Police Mountain Bike Association course and they teach the "ABC Quick Check" - A for Air, B for Brakes and cables, C for Crank arms, Quick for Quick releases and Check for Check derailleurs.

As a self-sufficient home mechanic all my life I've never had cranks come loose but now that I'm working security I've found that, for some reason, it is a common problem on "police" bikes. 3 of the bikes where I work had wobbly crank arms when I started.
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