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Learn the ABC’s of Bicycling

Author: Jared Long

Beginning to work on your bike from home can be daunting and confusing. Where do you begin? Although it might be best to leave the difficult repairs to mechanics at FixMyBike, maintaining your bike from home can save you time, money and a trip to the bike shop.

Whether you commute, ride for fun, or both, making sure your bike is ready to ride is essential to your safety. Before you ride, remember your ABC’s: Air, Brakes, and Chain. These areas of the bike can be checked without tools, so prepare to get your hands a little dirty.

Air: First, check the air in your tires. Make sure the tires are inflated enough for your ride. To check the air without a pump, it’s a little bit of a guessing game but it can be done. Using your thumb and forefinger, squeeze the sides of the tire; you should be able to barely pinch the tire inward. The tire should squeeze inward roughly the width of a quarter. If it squeezes further, the tire likely needs more air. If the tire does not compress at all, release some air from the valve until a light squeeze is possible. If you have a pump, this is the most accurate way to check as you can look at the gauge and match it to the recommended pressure on the side of the tire.

Brakes: Next, let’s check the brakes.This one requires some balance, so here’s your chance to practice your act for the circus. First let's check the back wheel. Lift up the back of the bike and spin the back wheel. As it’s spinning, reach and grab the brake lever to make sure the rear wheel stops. Now let’s check the front wheel by repeating the steps above but this time with the front wheel lifted; lift the front of your bike, spin the wheel, and grab the brake lever. You know your brakes are working if both wheels stopped immediately during your check.

Chain: Third, check the chain to make sure it goes around smoothly in a circular motion. Sometimes bikes may unintentionally be put out of gear, which can happen if you shift without pedaling. Spin your pedals backwards. They should spin backwards with ease. If they seem like they are getting caught in place, spin the pedals forward. This will put your bike chain back into gear. Do another backward spin test and you should be good to go!
*If you have coaster brakes (pedal backwards brakes) on a single-speed bike, such as a child’s bike or a hipster bike, this check does not apply to you as your chain cannot get shifted out of place.

And now you know your ABC’s! Enjoy your ride!