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Cycling Safely - Bike Maintenance

Every cyclist needs to know how to tell when their bicycle is unsafe to ride and needs repair.

Do a detailed inspection of your bike at least once a year. Visit your local Durham bike shop if you aren’t comfortable inspecting your bike yourself.

Each time before you ride, do a safety check of your bike. Try using CAN-Bike’s method of the “ABCs” to make sure all the parts are working properly and your bike is safe to ride.

Tune up



Check the tires and wheels:

  • Are the tires inflated? You’ll find air pumps at your local gas station or bike shop if you need to fill your tires.
  • Is the tube valve sticking straight out of the rim?
  • Are the wheels “true” (spinning without wobbling)? If the wheels wobble, check for loose or broken spokes or looseness in the bearings of the hub.
  • Hold the wheel and try to move it from side to side. Is the tread or sidewall of the tire badly worn?

Brakes and bars

Check the brakes and handlebars:

  • Are the brake levers far enough from the handlebars? There should be at least two finger-widths between the bar and brakes, when pulled.
  • Are the brake pads touching only the rim of the wheel? Do the brake pads grab the rim effectively or are they too worn?
  • Are the brake cables worn or frayed?
    • To check the front brake: stand beside the bike, squeeze only the front brake and push forward on bike. The front wheel should lock, and the back wheel should leave the ground.
    • To check the back brake: squeeze only the back brake and walk forward. The back wheel should lock and skid along the ground.
  • Is the handlebar headset loose?
    • To check, apply the brakes, and rock the bike back and forth. Hold the front wheel between your knees and try to twist the handlebars side to side, and up and down. If the handlebars twist, they are too loose.

Chain and crank

Check the chain and crank:

 Bicycle wheel, chain
  • Is the chain on properly and lubricated? Either over-lubricating or under-lubricating the chain can reduce the lifespan of the drive train components. If you’re unsure, visit your local bike shop.
  • Do the pedals spin freely?
  • Is each gear derailleur (gear-shifting mechanism) in the correct position? Change the gears to see if you hear a clicking sound.
  • Is there looseness in the bottom bracket?


Can’t remember the ABCs? Use this “Quick Check” to make sure all the parts are working properly and your bike is safe to ride, according to the League of American Bicyclists.


Check quick release levers and other parts for position and tightness:

  • Is the quick release lever positioned flush to the forks (so nothing catches on them)?
  • Are the nuts or levers that clamp the wheel axles to the forks on tight?


Check for loose parts:

  • Listen closely as you lift the bike several inches off the ground and drop it. Did you hear any clinking, jingling or rattling that might indicate broken or loose parts?