Get Your Bike or Ebike Ready to Ride – Bike Inspection Checklist

Person inspecting their bike

No matter what type of rider you are, giving your bike a little attention before you ride will help keep it in good shape and might help you spot any issues before they become real problems. No one wants to be stuck on the side of a trail because of something that could have easily been avoided! Watch our video to be guided, step-by-step, on how to do this so there are no unexpected snafus on your next ride!

We’re here to help you keep your bike out of the shop and out on the trails! And, if you do need to visit the shop, all of our ERIK’S stores feature a Full-Service Repair Department with trained expert technicians ready to fix your bike!

Pre-Ride Bike Inspection Checklist

If at any point you don’t feel comfortable performing any of these steps and/or your bike is not performing as described, simply bring your bike into your favorite ERIK’S shop and we’ll help you out!

1. WHEELS

First thing’s first, let’s make sure that your wheels are on safe and tight! If your bike uses a quick-release lever, it should look like this with the lever towards the bike and you should be able to read “close” or “closed”, whichever is stamped on your levers. If not, loosen the lever a bit. Then, hold the lever at 90° from the ground and tighten the nut on the other side until you start to feel a bit of tension. Using the palm of your hand, push the lever in until it is nice and snug. You should see a slight impression on your palm when everything is said and done, and things should be safe.

From time to time it is a good idea to check your quick release, even if they seem fine. To do this, balance the bike upright and open the quick release. This will allow the wheel to self-center itself if it’s slightly crooked, which can happen. Then, tighten the lever again as described above, and the wheel should be centered. 

If your bike uses a thru-axle it’s even more simple. All you need to do is make sure it’s tight. Some use a wrench; some have a lever. Either way, get it snug and you’re done!

2. TIRES

Now it’s time to get your tires topped off with air! If you don’t have a puncture, why would your tires go flat? Well, this video can tell you all about it! Take a look at the sidewall of your tires for your pressure range and grab your floor pump. Fill your tires to your desired pressure, at the top of the pressure range for smooth paved surfaces, at the bottom for loose, unpaved surfaces, and right in the middle for a mixture. Give the tires a spin and look for any cuts, bulges, or wobbles in the tire, and if any of those are present, you should probably visit one of our repair departments for assistance! If not, head out for your ride! 

3. ELIMINATE NOISES

Have you ever listened while you are riding and heard a weird jingling or buzzing noise and wondered “what was that? Well, something is probably loose so let’s make sure all of the bits and pieces that are attached to your bike are snug and tight. A super easy way to check this is to pick up the bike so that the wheels are just off of the ground and let it fall, keeping the bike upright. Listen for any weird, rattling noises. If you hear anything, find it! It could do tons of things, but this little test may help you find it faster. While you’re at it, be sure that your kickstand and water bottle holders are tight and check for any loose straps or bungees that could find their way into spokes or chains!

4. BRAKES

Grab your brake lever and give it a squeeze. Do the brakes make contact with the braking surface before the lever hits the handlebars? If so, GREAT! If not, most cable brakes have this sweet little barrel adjuster. Give it a few spins to see if that helps. You’re good to keep spinning until the brake pads are so close to the braking surface that they rub. If they rub, back it off a bit. 

If that simple barrel adjuster doesn’t get things stopping again, or, if you have hydraulic disc brakes, it’s time to head to your local ERIK’S location because, well, brakes are kind of important.  

Now, take a look at the brake pads. If you have rim brakes, do they contact the braking surface, or do they overlap the bottom or top of the rim? If they need to be adjusted and you’re not comfortable doing that on your now, we can help.

Is there enough material? Some pads have markings telling you when they’ve had enough. Disc brake pads take a little more eye power. Do you see that little metal spring in there? That little bugger is about ½ the thickness of the minimum thickness of brake pad material that you should have. If you have about double that thickness, you should be good! Sometimes you can just tell that they’re worn out and need to be replaced. Swing by one of our Service Departments with your bike if that’s the case.

Next, and you may have noticed this when you were trying to adjust those brakes, spin your wheels to be sure that they are straight and true. A little wobble can have a big impact on rim brakes and is the start of a bigger issue. If your wheels are out of true, it’s time for a visit to your local ERIK’S.

5. DERAILLEUR HANGER

This next one is quite common and folks usually find out that they have an issue when it’s too late and their derailleur is tangled up into their wheel!

Rear Derailleur Hanger on a Bike

Take a look at the rear derailleur and, specifically, this little piece called the derailleur hanger. On most bikes, this is a separate aluminum piece that is actually designed to bend so that the bike frame doesn’t. And, these little buggers get bent all the time in bike racks, on bike carriers, when the bike tips over in the garage, wherever, without the rider knowing, again, until it’s too late. 

If you stand the bike upright, the rear derailleur should be perfectly straight. Keep your eye on the two pulley wheels and the cogs of your rear gears. If all three of those things aren’t in alignment, something is bent! A ruler or other straight edge can also help with this. If you notice that the derailleur points towards or away from the bike or, if it’s twisted, it’s time to have your bike serviced at ERIK’S to get that hanger straightened or, probably better yet, replaced. If not, you run the risk of shifting into your easiest gear and sending the derailleur into your wheel. 

6. GEARS

Now that you have determined that your derailleur hanger is straight, it’s time to check your gears. If you have a way to hold the rear wheel off the ground, awesome! If not, just go for a short, slow ride down the driveway and around the neighborhood and shift through all of your gear combinations. Make sure that the chain moves smoothly and safely through all of the gears.

7. STEM AND HANDLEBARS

Speaking of straight, let’s make sure that our stem is tight and the handlebars are straight. First, take a ruler and hold it against the back of your fork. Stand over the handlebars and look down. If your handlebars are parallel with the ruler, you’re good to go!

Now, let’s make sure that the stem is tight! Hold the front wheel between your knees and try to move the handlebars. If they move, that’s not good! 

Now that we mention tight, let’s check to be sure that your headset is snug. Start by holding your front brake and rocking the bike back and forth. If you feel movement, your headset likely needs to be adjusted. Visit us if you’re not comfortable doing that yourself.

8. CHAIN

While you are test riding the bike, pay attention to the chain. Is it quiet or does it squeak like there’s a cricket living in your bike? If you can hear that squeak, or if you just can’t remember when you last did it, it’s time to lube your chain, which is super easy! Just apply lube to the chain while pedaling the bike backward and then wipe off the excess. If your chain is still grinding or any of the links are bent or super stuck, it’s time for a tune-up at ERIK’S.

9. Battery

This step is more specifically for an ebike. If you followed our steps on Electric Bike Battery Storage and Winter Care, you will need to get your e-bike out and ready. Along with following the other steps above, you will want to make sure your battery is fully charged and ready to go.

ebike battery

You did it! Your bike has been fully looked over and is ready for a ride! 

Once your ride is over, it’s tempting to just put the bike away until the next ride. NOT SO FAST! Now is the perfect time to give the bike a quick wipe-down and inspection and then walk through your pre-ride checklist ONE MORE TIME to catch anything that may have happened during the ride so that you can get it addressed. And remember, if you encounter anything going on with your bike that you’re unsure of, we’re here for you! Our expert mechanics service all styles and brands of bikes!