Bike Safety - What Every Cyclist Should Do Before They Ride

A quick pre-ride bicycle check can make your ride more enjoyable and much safer

Pre-ride bike safety
Pre-ride bike safety. (c) Thomas Northcut / Getty Images

How To Check Your Bicycle and Your Gear Before Every Ride

If cycling is a part of your workout routine, you may have a pre-ride routine that includes pumping your tires filling your water bottles and packing a couple of energy bars or having a bite to eat. But it's not a bad idea to get into a habit of doing a quick safety check to make sure your bike is in good condition as well.

Bikes, although pretty simple, can be finicky machines to maintain.

Minor wear and tear can add up and over time it could cause a mechanical failure. To avoid having a breakdown out in the middle of nowhere (or somewhere you'd rather not be) take a minute to run through a quick pre-ride checklist  and make sure you have what you need for a safe and enjoyable ride. These are a few of the items you should consider taking on a long bike ride.

Most emergency gear will fit easily in a special bag that attaches under your bicycle seat. These bags are sold at bike shops and come in a variety of sizes and styles.

Safety and Emergency Repair Checklist

  • Properly fitting helmet
  • Sunglasses or other eye protection
  • Pump (consider a pump frame that attaches to bike)
  • Patch kit or spare tube
  • Toolkit for basic repairs, including wrenches that fit your bicycle
  • Rain gear
  • Your driver's license or other ID, plus an emergency contact person and medical information
  • First aid kit
  • Reflectors and flashing rear safety light
  • Brightly-colored clothing to improve visibility
  • A few dollars for emergencies

Make sure you know how to repair a flat tire and practice at home before you need to do it on the road. Most bike shops offer classes on basic bike repair.

Biking Comfort and Clothing Checklist

  • Padded gloves to reduce pressure and "road shock," which can cause numb or tingling fingers
  • Bike shoes with firm soles make pedaling more efficient.
  • Bike shorts with a padded lining eliminate seams and make cycling more comfortable.
  • Anatomic bike seat. Bicycle seats (saddles) come in a variety of shapes and sizes. To find the best one for you, try several types.
  • Jacket to block wind and rain.
  • Arm warmers, leg warmers, extra clothing as appropriate
  • Clothing that wicks moisture will keep you dry and comfortable.
  • Sunscreen
  • lip balm with sun protection

Many cyclists use clipless pedals that allow cycling shoes to lock into place. A simple twist of the foot releases the shoe from the pedal. Clipless pedals allow cyclists to pull up as well as push down on the pedals and create a much more efficient pedal stroke and faster speeds.

Other Essentials Checklist

  • Map or cue sheet or good directions
  • Energy foods, snacks or extra cash
  • Adequate water and water bottle cage or hydration pack

Pre-Ride Safety Inspection

Before each ride, perform a safety check of your bicycle. This only needs to take a minute or two, but will help prevent avoidable accidents.

  • Check the tires for proper inflation (marked on the side of the tire). Check the tire treads for excessive wear or other damage, such as embedded glass or other objects.
  • Check the brakes. Spin the wheels to check for rubbing and then apply the brakes to ensure they stop the bike smoothly and evenly. Check the brake pads for excessive wear.
  • Check the cables and housing to make sure there is no fraying or splitting.
  • Check the wheel quick release levers to ensure they are secure.
  • Check for any loose parts or other mechanical problems.
  • Do a slow-speed ride and inspect bicycle, brakes, and shifting before you leave your driveway.

Following these guidelines will go a long way to enjoying your bike rides and will often help you prevent unexpected incidents or a long walk home. Next, check out the 10 Training Tips for Better Cycling.

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