Before Your Ride: The ABC Quick Check*

by Bonnie McClun

So... you're going for a bike ride. Your body will get a workout, and so will your bike. Have you checked your bike for mechanical safety? Timely bicycle maintenance can prevent a serious accident. Here is the "ABC Quick Check", which you should do every time you ride.

A is for Air.

Check Mark
  • Check tire pressure. Tires should be inflated to the rated pressure noted on the sidewall (pounds/square inch). Use a gauge to verify you have reached the recommended rate.
  • Check for damage to the tire sidewalls and/or tread. Sidewall damage is common if the brakes aren't adjusted properly. If the bands of the tire are showing below the surface, you need a new tire -- now!

B is for Brakes.

  • Check the brakes for paid wear and adjustment. Visually check the brake-block pad. If less than 1/8" of rubber shows at any place, replace the brake-block/pad assembly. Make sure the brake blocks are parallel to and aligned with the side of the rim when applied.
  • Check cables and housing. Cables need to travel smoothly. If the cables stick, apply lubrication at the ends of the housing and work it in by applying the brakes several times. Frayed cables should be replaced.

C is for Crank Set.

  • Check the crank set. The crank set consists of the bottom bracket, the crank arms, and chainrings. To do this check, take the left and right crank arms in your hands and attempt to move them sideways. If both move, you have a problem with the bottom bracket. If only one moves, the individual crank arm is loose and must be secured. A loose crank arm should never be ridden.

Quick is for Quick Releases.

  • Quick-release hubs need to be tight, but not too tight. The proper pressure is obtained by pushing on the quick-release lever so it leaves an impression on the palm of your hand. The closed lever should face up and back to minimize the chance of catching on anything while you ride.
  • Quick-release brakes, which are opened when removing or installing wheels, need to be in the closed position. When closed, check to make sure the brake pads aren't rubbing the rims.
  • (Quick-release seat clamps, on mountain bikes and some hybrid bikes, need to be in the closed position. Check to be sure your seat is at the correct height. - ed.)

Check is for a brief, slow ride to check that your derailleurs and shift levers are working properly.

Many items of the ABC Quick Check can be done visually; others require just a brief physical check. If you find that your bike needs adjustments beyond your ability, enlist the professional mechanics at your local bike shop.

*The ABC Quick Check was developed by Gene Miller, Kirby Beck, Allan Howard, and Stuart Bracken for the International Police Mountain Bike Association's Police Cycling Program.

Reprinted from "Bicycle USA", magazine of the League of American Bicyclists, Jul/Aug 1995. Effective CyclingTM.
For more information about the League of American Bicyclists, visit their web site,, or e-mail them at

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