Bike Checks

Earlier this week, Pat and I were about to take a short ride in the neighborhood. While I waited with the bikes in the driveway as she finished putting on her shoes, I glanced down at the rear wheel of the bike — and I was stunned by what I saw.

The left-side brake pad was sitting at a right angle to the wheel rim. I put my fingers on it, and it was very loose. If I had ridden the bike that way, I would have had no stopping power in the rear brakes — and could have been in for a serious on-road problem.

I grabbed my Allen wrench set from the garage and quickly put the brake pad in place and made sure it was tightened down. Then I did a careful inspection — as careful as I could given the few minutes available — to make sure no other bolts were loose, and that everything was working as it should.

What bothers me about this incident is that I’m pretty good at doing the ABC Quick Check. I hadn’t done it yet this day, but would have before Pat came out. But on the previous ride I did, I didn’t catch the loose brake pad. Maybe it didn’t come loose until the end of the ride. Maybe something caused it to come loose while it was sitting in the garage for two days without being ridden (yeah, right). Maybe I had done last Sunday’s club ride with a loose brake pad. I get shivers just thinking about it.

But although I do the ABC Quick Check, I am negligent at doing a more careful inspection of the bike at a regular interval. Things like my tires, for instance. I know I should check them after every ride to make sure nothing got caught in the tread that could lead to a puncture, or if I have any new cuts or gashes in the tire. But I don’t. I check them when I think about it. I just don’t think about it near enough.

Since that experience with the brake, I’ve been over-diligent about checking out the bike. I suppose that’s a natural overreaction, but over time, I’ll ease up on doing it. Instead, I found a nifty little bike checklist, courtesy the folks at, that I’ve printed out and tacked to the garage wall near the bike. Now, I’ll have an ever-present reminder of the kinds of checks I need to do on the bike to prevent any other easily-detected problems from cropping up.

How about you? Do you have a bike inspection routine you normally use? Share it with our readers.


  1. says

    Pre-ride I rely on something similar to the ABC Quick Check. As a fledgling mechanic I listen to my bike during the rides. And then there is the Malcolm Reynolds theory:

  2. Steven King says

    On a recent training week I had issues with my front brake jamming on, usually at rather inconvenient times (travelling in a group on a rough roundabout, steep descents, …). The problem? A loose brake hood, sliding slowly forwards and tightening the brake along with it.

    At least I can now brake hard with confidence, although preferably only when I choose to do so!

  3. Brandon says

    Before I leave, I always check tire pressure and brakes, visual chain inspection and a quick spin of the tire to make sure the true isn’t terribly off.

    While riding, I’m constantly feeling and listening for anything abnormal from the bike. Any kind of rough shift, wobble, spongy brake, etc. gets attention as soon as possible, if not immediately during the ride.

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