Here is a simple way to remember the basic checks that you should do on your bike periodically or after it’s been out of use for a while.
It’s called the M-Check.
1. Rear wheel: It should be tightly secured and the quick release lever is secure in the closed position. Not all wheels will have quick release levers. If the wheel is not quick release, check that the nuts on both sides of the wheel are secure. Lift the rear of the bike and check that it spins freely.
2. Spokes: Should not be loose. Pluck each spoke with your finger. The sound from each spoke should be similar. Check both wheels.
3. Tyres: Squeezing between you thumb and finger, it should not be possible to compress the tyre. If the tyre is soft, then attach your pump to the valve and pump up. Note: There are two types of valve fitting – Presta (long and thin), and Schrader (thicker and slightly shorter). The recommended tyre pressure will be written somewhere on the tyre.
4. Saddle: Check that your seat post isn’t loose and that you haven’t exceeded the limit marked on the seat post. If needed, use an allen key or spanner to tighten the seat post clamp. Check the seat is secure by giving it another check once you have finished.
5. Chain: It should be clean and lubricated. This is important for the smooth running of your bike. If it needs cleaning, gently grasp it with a rag and turn the pedals backwards to run the chain through the rag. Apply a light oil sparingly on the middle part of the chain.
6. Pedals: Make sure they spin smoothly and that your cranks are on tight, spin smoothly, and don’t creak.
7. Handlebar Stem: Check this by standing in front of the bike, holding the front wheel between your knees, and twisting the handlebars. If there is any movement you will need to carefully re-align the handlebars so that they are perpendicular to the wheel and then tighten the stem fixing and the handlebar clamp with an allen key or spanner.
8. Headset: Check if there is any rocking or clicking in the headset. Perform this check by firmly grasping the head tube with one hand and applying the front brake with the other hand. This will steady the front of the bike so that you can shake the headset to establish any rocking or clicking in the bearings.
9. Brakes: Ensure that the front and rear brakes are working properly. If the brake lever pulls against the handlebar grip, the brake cable needs adjusting. This is done by loosening the brake cable anchor bolt, pulling the cable tighter, and tightening the anchor bolt again. Both sides of the brake mechanism should move when the brake is applied. If this is not happening, turn the small adjustor screw on the stationary side until both sides are moving again.
Most brakes have these adjuster screws. The brake block must pull flat to the wheel rim. If this is not the case, use an allen key to tighten the block in the correct position. This is done whilst applying the brake. Finally, check the front brake by applying the brake and pushing the bike forwards, and check the back brake by applying the brake and pulling the bike backwards.
10. Frame: Look for any cracks or damage. This check requires particular focus on the area where the frame joins the head tube.
11. Front wheel: It should be tightly secured and the quick release lever is secure in the closed position. Not all wheels will have quick release levers. If the wheel is not quick release, check that the nuts on both sides of the wheel are secure. Lift the front of the bike and check that it spins freely. Remember also to check the spokes and tyre as above.
If any of the above gives cause for concern then you should seek advice either from a local bike shop or from one of the many internet resources. You can also contact the London Cycling Campaign advice service at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to Sustrans for the image and the text structure.