What Things on the Bike Should Every Cyclist Check Before They Ride?

Video Transcription:

Jim Dodson: Morning, it's Jim Dodson, the Florida Bike Guy. Welcome to our livestream. We're joined this morning by Ian from Chainwheel Drive in Clearwater of the Drew Street location, and we're gonna do a little walkthrough on what we need to remember and check your bike before you take off on your ride. You know, we're getting to that time of year where some people have maybe had their bike in the garage for the summer, you wanna get out and ride again, and it's amazing the little things that can cause an issue on a ride and just kinda take the edge off having a great time if you haven't looked at it, and inspected your bike adequately before you left. So, Ian, why don't you just walk us through what you guys at the shop consider a basic safety check for someone who's going out for a ride.

Ian Tottle Sure. So, first and foremost we wanna look over our tires, and make sure that there's no visible damage to them, any big cuts, any lacerations, anything that could let the tube bubble out and burst. While we're doing that, just simply pick up the rear of the bike and follow it by the front, and you can spin it around and just kind of use your fingers to check the tire as well as the tire pressure, so you're really doing two things at once. Shouldn't take more than a moment. Once you've got that taken care of, if you move to the skewers, so the collapsing mechanism that holds the wheel into the frame, just double check that they're good and snug. General rule of thumb is that if an infant can open it, it's not tight enough. So we wanna make sure that that's tight enough.

Jim Dodson: The skewers are on the front and rear correct?

Ian Tottle: Correct, yup.

Jim Dodson: And they're holding, on a bike like this they're holding the frame snugly to the wheel.

Ian Tottle: Absolutely. So once you've gotten through those two steps, we wanna try to recount the last time that we lubricated the chain. It'll make crazy sounds if it's not properly lubricated. So a little bit of chain lube, even cable lube at this point would be better than nothing at all if it's been a season or two since you've gone out for a ride.

Jim Dodson: Walk somebody through a basic chain lube. 'cause I think most of us think we need more oil on the chain than we do, and that we need it in the wrong places. So where do we really need it?

Ian Tottle: Absolutely. If you look down at the chain, you really only need it on the top of the rollers. The faceplate doesn't really do a whole lot of heavy lifting, it's just kinda there to guide the rollers over the chain rings in the cassette. So less is actually more, it doesn't need to be saturated. It shouldn't be dripping off, it's gonna pull a lot of road debris and grime up into it.

Jim Dodson: Gonna get under your leg, it's gonna splatter upon the frame of the bike.

Ian Tottle: You're gonna ruin your favorite shorts. You're gonna have grease all over your brand new kit.

Jim Dodson: So how do ya actually do it? Somebody who wants to lube but they don't feel comfortable doing it, what would they do?

Ian Tottle: A bike stand is ideal, but if you've got, you know, just yourself and your own two hands, you can kinda just hold the bike up with your pelvis and lean over it, and if you spin the cranks backwards, you can just drip a little bit of lubricant in between each chain link and just go around until it's a little bit here and there, and then just tidy it up with your fingers, by just running your fingers back and forth. And as you pull it backwards, you can move your fingers forward, and of course you're gonna pick up a little bit of nonsense, but that's what soap and water's for, so we can clean our hands when we're done, but that ensures a much more smooth shifting system.

Jim Dodson: Yes, and really, not having a properly lubed chain can dramatically impact how much fun you're gonna have on the bike that day.

Ian Tottle: Absolutely.

Jim Dodson: If they sit around for half the season and you're not using it, it can rust and it's gonna make a lot of chain noise 'cause it's not gonna shift properly. You have all kinds of issues.

Ian Tottle: Yeah, a clean bike and a well lubricated bike is a happy bike. So, now that we've kinda covered the basic maintenance facets of the pre-bike check, we really wanna make sure that our contact points are snug and secure. If you just give your saddle a little bit of a twist, if it's not moving at all, the likelihood that the bolt is tensioned correctly is pretty good. With the handlebars, along the same lines, if you just put a little bit of your body weight over the handlebars. Even with a flat bar you can put your hands on the break levers, the drop bars a little bit easier to do. Just give it a good stress, that way we're making sure it's not slipping in the stem. Alternatively, if you come around the front of the bike, you can double check that the stem on the back side of the handlebar is snugged securely, and everything seems to be in order here. And then certainly not least, but lights. Even during the day, you wanna be as visible as possible.

Jim Dodson: And what would they... I'm gonna talk about the lights in a second. Address the brake issue for a second, what are they looking for in terms of brake pad and especially on a rim-type brake, one that's rubber against the rim of the tire.

Ian Tottle: So both rim brakes and disc brakes have wear indicators on them. The rim brake is quite simply that there's a line etched in to the top of the brake pad itself. If you can still see that, the likelihood that you're in good shape is pretty good. The other immediate tell is if you can't pull your brake lever all the way to the handlebar, you're probably pretty good.

Jim Dodson: Right, okay, all right.

Ian Tottle: The brake check also, since you mentioned it, would probably also include making sure that the pads collapse on the rim at the exact same time. That way you're not over braking one side of the wheel and causing it to push over one direction or other.

Jim Dodson: Right, and what's the proper braking ratio between front and rear brake. You don't wanna, nobody wants to use the front brake exclusively, it's a danger.

Ian Tottle: I always start with just rear, and apply the appropriate amount of pressure of the front to make sure I stop where I want to.

Jim Dodson: All right, that's a good rule to keep in mind because you can have a terrible accident hitting the front brake with full force. Bike's gonna stop and you're not.

Ian Tottle: Absolutely. Front's for the bars as they say.

Jim Dodson: Yeah, the wood bars. Anything else from your standpoint?

Ian Tottle: Make sure your water bottles have topped up. So, water bottles, make sure you have your roadside assistance kit, make sure your helmet's within three to five years - the EVA foam does break down. If you haven't bought a helmet recently, there's a lot of brand new really phenomenal technology that came out.

Jim Dodson: So I'm wearing, this is actually a Bontrager

Ian Tottle: Wavecel.

Jim Dodson: Wavecel technology. I also have the MIPS technology, Specialized makes them, their brand, everybody makes them now. I wouldn't get on a bicycle anymore without Wavecel or MIPS, it's just the safest thing to do. It's gonna give you that extra edge you need to keep yourself safe. Address the mirror issue, if you would, Ian.

Ian Tottle: Yeah, absolutely. So, we ride with traffic, so we ride on the right-hand side.

Jim Dodson: Never ride against traffic.

Ian Tottle: Never ride against traffic. So having a side view mirror is a lot more of a confidence thing. You can see what's going on behind you. It's more predictable turning if you're going left. You're able to kinda see the pace line behind you if you are riding in a group ride. But even as a more casual endeavor, having a mirror, you can just get that 360 view.

Jim Dodson: Yeah, and you can get a clip-on that goes on your helmet. I don't like, me personally, like anything on my helmet, that close to my face, so I use a mirror that goes on the end of my handlebar there and I really have had this mirror, actually a friend gave it to me, it works great and I've had it for years. It's a great confidence builder, as Ian said.

Ian Tottle: So we've got it right here on the non-drive side handlebar.

Jim Dodson: Here you see through the gist you can move it around while you're riding, you get down on the drop some times you wanna move it so you get a better view of the... And I keep it so I'm seeing just to my left, what's in the lane immediately to my left, and somewhat behind me in case somebody's coming up close. That's my personal setting. This bike's equipped with a computer, and that's definitely optional, but it's fun to know exactly how far you've gone, and quite frankly, if you're ever involved in a bike crash, the first thing we always wanna get hold of, is the GPS data from your computer, because this tracks where you are, it tracks you on the road. You can overlay this on a map, you can tell where you were in relation to a stop sign, or the through lane or the bike lane - it's critical data to reconstruct a bike crash, and so there's a lot of inexpensive computers out there that just give you speed that are not gonna give you, you know, where you are GPS-wise. So I recommend having a GPS computer, just in case the unexpected happens. It's made a huge difference in cases of ours. So a couple things that Ian and I were gonna talk about. First is visibility. You know, obviously we have this well logo-ed Jim Dodson Law jersey, which we give away in the contests and what have you but, you know, the data shows that if you're wearing a highly visible fluorescent colored jersey, there's a lot of data... There's a Denmark study that showed that your odds of being hit went down by 50%. They used a yellow jacket in the Denmark study. People need to distinguish you from the surrounding background. I always wear fluorescent socks. You can add shoes to that as well, I've got the same color shoes, not on me right now, but the movement of your feet when you're pedaling identifies you as a person on a bicycle to an approaching motorist, and wearing the socks, believe it or not, is just as important, the data shows, as wearing the fluorescent top. Quite frankly I see a lot of people dressed in very cool looking dark black, blue outfits, on dark bikes, and they look good, but they can't be seen in my view. Remember, we're trying to attract the attention of where we are in the relationship of someone seeing us, who's making a split decision about making a turn or coming into your lane. You've got to distinguish yourself from all of the visual clutter that's in their visual field. So highly visible clothing is a must in my view. I've purposely bought the Wavecel because of the color of the helmet. It's just another edge for being seen. Communication wise, we have the, our Jim Dodson Law jerseys, jersey bin, which is actually just a waterproof phone case, goes right in the back of my jersey, keep my phone with me. In my situation I always carry 20 bucks, I have some ID in here, I have my drivers license in here, and some people wanna put a credit card in there, for whatever you need. So this is a good idea to keep with you and it's always handy for you. When you talk about lighting, I'm a big proponent of not only lighting, but bright lighting. There's a big study, Trek has something on their website, I'm not sure if Specialized does, on the ABC's of lighting.

Ian Tottle: Yep.

Jim Dodson: Most everybody does. But the big thing for me is, this is not a place where you wanna save 10 bucks. You need a light which is gonna be visible. It's gotta be visible to a motorist hundreds of yards ahead of you, and they've gotta pick you out during the day as a cyclist, so get the brightest blinking tail light that you can get. The same applies to the headlight. This is a NiteRider 650 I think it is, or 550. So this is a NiteRider 550, I did a program on this last week. Put it on the blinking mode. The data is so strong that a blinking headlight is what you need to ride during the day, to separate you from the surrounding visual clutter. I don't particularly like riding at night. I like the NiteRider. We did a program on that recently, but there's a lot of great technology on bike lights right now, and they're not expensive. These lights are usually around 50 bucks.

Ian Tottle: Yeah, they're getting cheaper and brighter by the day.

Jim Dodson: Yeah, they are. So, I think we've covered it. Oh, spare tire.

Ian Tottle: Yeah, absolutely.

Jim Dodson: So this isn't attached to my bike here, this is a saddlebag. Goes under the rear seat in my situation, they have saddlebags that go on here, they go under the top tube, so tell 'em what you need in there Ian.

Ian Tottle: Definitely a spare tube, just in case you run over a nail or something pops the tube. I carry a single dollar bill, but you're ahead of me, by about 19. You can use the dollar bill to boot the tire, that way if you do run over a piece of glass or a sharp rock or something that lacerates the tire, you can actually use the dollar bill as a placeholder for the rubber that's missing, that way the tube doesn't bubble up and pop. Also in there is gonna be the tire levers. It's the easiest way to get the tire off the rim to do the repair job in a timely fashion. And then, in addition to that, you've got a CO2 cartridge and an inflator. Some people prefer shock or frame pumps that will mount somewhere under the bottle cages. Some of them are compact enough to fit in jersey pockets. But if something does happen, having the stuff, even if you don't know how to use it, is half the battle. Needing it and not having it is the problem. Different people run different depth wheels, so not everyone is gonna ride past you with the same valve length. But more importantly than all that, get out of the sun, find some shade, otherwise you're gonna burn through your hydration, freaking out about your tube.

Jim Dodson: Cyclists are really considerate, they stop and help one another, so if you have a flat you can always Google it. They'll walk you through how to change a front tire, they'll walk you through how to change a rear tire. So even if you've never done a flat repair, you can get by on the side of the road with your phone. So, I think we've covered it this morning Ian. I wanna thank Ian from Chainwheel Drive. This has been a great walkthrough on what we need to remember before we get out and start our ride each week. If you have questions or concerns that you want to address to us, feel free to call us and... So this is Jim Dodson, The Florida Bike Guy. Kati's gonna post an offer for our free bike light, I mean our report on bike lights. So if we can help in any way, be in touch. Jim Dodson, be good out there, be safe. Bye.

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Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.