Bicycle safety checklist: A series of quick steps to take before every bike ride to help ensure a safe trip
What to do before every bike ride
Bicycling is a popular and effective form of exercise and recreation. For all the benefits, however, it does offer some risks. By taking these simple steps before each ride it is possible to reduce those risks much further.
Before going anywhere on your bicycle it is a good idea to make a quick check of its condition. Let’s face it, once you’re riding on the road it’s harder to correct any minor issues than it would have been while at home with access to your full tool set. At best, the slight faults will detract from your enjoyment of your ride, and at worst they may contribute to accidents and injury. A little effort now will help you have a more enjoyable ride, and a safer one.
Begin by checking the pressure in your tires, and filling them back up to the recommended pressure if they’re low. Just like with an automobile, you use less energy to make your bike move when your tires are fully inflated, and for many of the lighter alloy wheels, the relatively high recommended pressure in the tires helps protect the rims from being damaged by any irregularities you may ride over.
Then check your seat and handlebars for being secure, and unable to twist out of alignment. This is a simple matter of control. If your handlebars aren’t secure and in proper alignment you won’t be able to steer properly. If your seat is misaligned you’ll be dealing with the discomfort through your entire ride. It’s a minor point, admittedly, but it will cause a distraction, and you don’t need that – any distraction may prove dangerous at the wrong moment; why not take a minute or two to make sure it’s not an issue.
Next verify your brakes and brake pads are properly aligned and work well. This means that your pads should be parallel to your rims, and maybe a millimeter or so out from them. The cables connecting them to the hand brakes should be tight and in good working order. Make sure that you’re not ‘bottoming out’ when you apply the brakes, that is that the lever isn’t hitting the handlebars when you try to brake the wheels. Since your brakes are a vital system for safe operation, you want to ensure they’re working at their full potential.
Finally, check your chain and derailer. You want to make sure that your chain is well greased, just as a standard maintenance issue. For your derailers make sure that they’re still properly aligned and moving smoothly. This is just a quick check, minimizing the chances of having to replace your chain during your ride.
Depending on your specific needs there are some other things you might want to check. For example, if you’re biking at night make sure your lights are working well, and that your batteries are sufficient for your needs. Make sure your road kit for repairs is also on your bike, in case you do need it. Once you’ve gone over your bike, grab your helmet and enjoy your ride!