The “ABC” Bike Safety Checklist

It may not seem like it now but warm weather is right around the corner and that means, for most, bikes will be coming out of hibernation. It would be so easy to just jump on and ride away but you should always do a quick pre-season (or pre-ride) check. Here are a few things you can check to make that first ride of the season safe and fun!

Use this acronym “ABC check” to remember some key things to look for!

A stands for Air

It is not uncommon for tires to lose air over the winter. A simple bike pump can take care of filling up those tires. I always recommend getting a larger shop style pump that is able to fit on the two most common bike tube types (schreader and presta). You can buy one through Bicycle Repair Hub or get something like this.


A good shop style air pump, like this one from Park Tools, is very convenient when you have a bunch of tires to inflate.
There are two types of tube valves you would typically see in North America. The presta valve (left) and the schreader valve (right). Make sure to buy a pump that can fit over both types. If you already have a pump, you can simply buy a “presta to schreader valve” adapter.

A qood question that comes up is “how much air should I put in the tire”. The side of the tire actually gives the max pressure a tire can be inflated to. Make sure to check there as going over the max pressure can cause the tube to rupture (and the sound it makes is LOUD). While you are inflating your tires, check that there are no cracks. Cracked tires should be replaced.

Look for cracks in the side of the tire like the ones shown in the photo. Cracked tires means it is time for replacement!

B stands for Brakes

Always get in the habit of grabbing the brakes when getting on (and off) the bike. This is one way of testing if the brakes are working or not. I heard of a case where someone had their brakes stolen off their bike. They didn’t realized until it was too late and they suffered some serious injuries. The brake lever should NOT pull to the bar before the pads engage. This is personal preference but for the casual rider, the levers should move about half way to the handlebar at which point the brake pads will start to stop the bike. Also make sure the brake pads are installed and tightened properly. I can’t tell you have many times I’ve checked brake pads and can spin them around with just my hand.

If you have hydraulic disc brakes, stand the bike upright on the rear wheel and start pumping the brake levers. If the brake levers start moving more and more towards the handlebar, it means you air in the system and need a brake bleed. A spongy brake lever will also suggest your hydraulic disc brakes need to be serviced.

C stands for “check the quick release and bolts”

Improper use of the quick release skewers borders on a pandemic. The skewer should be flipped into the closed position and not simply screwed tight. For bikes with wheels attached to the frame with nuts,using a torque wrench is best to ensure the proper tightness (260-390 in-lb).

Most entry level bikes will have a variation of a quick release similar to the one in the photo. Make sure you tighten these properly and with enough force.
An axle nut is most commonly seen on department store bike or BMX bike. Tighten these to the appropriate torque spec to ensure they are tightened properly.

Bonus Check

Also check that handlebar/stem and fork is tightened together properly. A simple way to check this is to stand at the front of the bike with the front tire between your legs. Holding the tire firmly with your legs, try to turn the handlebars left and right. You will notice a bit of flex from the wheel but the handlebar should NOT turn independently from the wheel. If it does, DO NOT ride the bike. You will need to either tighten the handlebar stem or have someone do it for you.

These simple tips should help with getting your bike ready for fun this season!!!