Cycle Maintenance

Good cycle maintenance skills help you make the most of your bike and can also help you in supporting others to get cycling. Here are some essentials.

Why Check Your Bike?

Checking your bike regularly and taking good care of it has great benefits:

  • It will last longer.
  • It will work better. So you or your children will be motivated to cycle more!
  • You will reduce the need for emergency repairs, which can cause hassle, cost and potentially spoil a nice bike ride.
  • Your bike will keep its value better. So when you are ready to upgrade to a new one (or your child is ready for next size up) it will be more sellable… or worth more to any organisation you donate it to (such as Re-Cycle’s Bikes for Africa).
  • Involving your children will encourage and teach them the habit of keeping their bikes in good condition too.
  • Learning how to maintain their bikes gives pupils the chance to learn and practice a new skill outside the classroom and is a good way to draw pupils into an interest in mechanical engineering.
  • Most importantly, maintaining your bike will make you a safer cyclist.


About the ‘M’ Check

The “M check” is recommended as a guide for keeping your bike safe and in good condition.

  • With the “M Check” you start at the back wheel, work up to the saddle area, down to the pedals, up to the handlebars and finish at the front wheel, forming an ‘M’ shape so you don’t forget anything!
  • You will need: a bicycle pump, pressure gauge and a set of allen keys.
  • We’ve given a summary below of the steps but highly recommend you check out the detailed information and tips on Sustrans’ website (especially if you need more info on adjusting the brakes).

Summary of the ‘M’ Check

  • Rear wheel – check it is tightly fitted and the quick release lever is securely closed.
  • Spokes – ping each with your finger to check they sound the same, are not loose and tension is equal.
  • Tyres – check they both have enough air and are not soft. If they are, pump up to the required tyre presure (written on tyre).
  • Saddle – check seat post isn’t loose and is within limit marked on post. Tighten seat post clamp with allen key. Check the saddle is secure.
  • Chain – check clean and oiled. (Not too much oil though!).
  • Pedals – Check they spin smoothly and that your cranks (the bit that joins pedal to bike) are on tight, spin smoothly and don’t creak.
  • Front wheel – Check front wheel and stem do not move independently, and handlebar is clamped tightly:  Stand in front of bike, hold the front wheel between your knees, and twist the handlebars. Prevent any movement by tightening stem bolts and handlebar clamp with an allen key.
  • Headset (the bit between handlebars where it joins main part of bike) – Check for any rocking/clicking in headset:  Firmly grasp the head tube (short extension to frame where headset sits) with one hand and apply the front brake with other hand to steady the front of the bike. Shake headset to check for any rocking or clicking in the bearings.
  • Brakes – Check that the front and rear brakes are working properly. Brake lever should not pull right against handlebar grip. Both sides of brake mechanism should more when brake applied. Brake block must go flat to wheel rim. After any adjustments, test front brake pushing bike forwards and test back brake pushing bike backwards.
  • Frame – Check for cracks or damage, especially where frame joins head tube.
  • Front Wheel – Repeat checks used for rear wheel.

Wheely Good Tips:

bike wheel

Pump up your tyres regularly for a more efficient ride and brighten your wheels with spoke reflectors.

Initiative Tip:

Youthworks CIC Cycle mainentance course workshop

Look out for cycle maintenance courses where you live. Youthworks CIC in Kettering offers training for teens.

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