An Autumn Check-up for your Bike and Gear

Bike Maintenance 5-Point Checklist

An Autumn Check-up for your Bike and Gear

Fall is a wonderful time of year not only for deep cleaning and maintaining our homes, but also for cleaning up and checking that our bikes and gear are in working order. It’s time to pull your bikes and gear from the closet, basement or garage and dust off the cobwebs for a closer inspection. Been riding all Summer long? It’s recommended that you take the time to perform a basic safety check on your bicycle at least once a week and before any long-distance ride.

1. Inspect Your Helmet

Top of the list, it’s a great time to replace your bike helmet if necessary. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), it’s recommended that we replace our bicycle helmet every five to 10 years. If you’ve had a helmet for several years that’s in good condition, you may still want to upgrade to a newer helmet offering more protective technology. If you’ve had a crash, that helmet needs to be replaced immediately. Even if you’re not in the market for a new helmet, look it over for any cracks and wear.

  • Are the chin straps frayed?

  • Does the chin buckle work to keep a secure and comfortable fit?

  • How about the interior helmet foam, does it look compressed or is there still enough in place to protect your most precious organ?

Any cracks in the helmet or damages to the interior and straps are a sign you need to replace your bike helmet as these features together are essential for a secure fit. reports that helmet-wearing is associated with lowering the risk of serious head injury by nearly 70 percent in bicycling crashes. Don’t skimp on this basic piece of cycling gear, it will save your life.

Ready to upgrade your helmet? Here are some of our favorites. 

Tires are essential to a safe and fun ride. On the regular you should check your tires for any cuts or holes before you head out for each ride to help prevent flats. Tires also receive the most wear and tear when riding regularly, from rough gravel and bumpy paths, wheelies and jumps to rolling over everyday junk on the street. Tires should be checked regularly and replaced more often than we’d like. Save yourself the frustration of a flat by looking for these signs of a worn-out tire on the verge of ruining your adventure.

  • Worn down tread. The absence of any remaining tread is a good indicator that it’s time to replace your tire.

  • Is the center of your tire looking worn flat? For road tires without a tread pattern, you’ll find wear down the center of the tire. Worn tread makes it difficult to reach and maintain top speed and will affect overall bike performance.

  • Do you see any cracks in the rubber on your bike tire? Older bikes or bikes out in the heat will show signs of distress with cracks in the rubber. If you notice any cracks on the sidewalls, it’s definitely time to replace your tires.

If you do need to replace your tires, be sure to recycle both the tire and the inner tubes. This is a service typically provided by the retailer you buy your new tires from, but if not, find your local bike shop or waste management provider and they’ll be happy to support your efforts to prevent them deep diving into a landfill for the rest of time.

According to CalRecycle, “California generates more than 40 million scrap tires every year. While nearly 75 percent of used tires are recycled, the rest still end up in landfills or illegal stockpiles. If not managed properly, scrap tires are a potential threat to both California’s environment and public health and safety. Illegally stockpiled tires also pose a fire risk and are attractive habitats for rodents and insects.”

The California government funded department’s Green Roads program, CalRecycle, works to reduce the number of tires disposed in California’s landfills by putting waste tires to new use. This includes all tires, not limited to bike tires.

Did you know tires can be recycled for Tire-Derived Aggregate (TDA) which is a cost-effective alternative to conventional aggregate for use in various civil engineering projects. What is that, you ask? Basically, the recycled rubber is taking the place of sand, gravel, crushed stone, recycled concrete, and more when used in construction.

Here’s a fun repurpose, Rubberized Asphalt Concrete (RAC). The CalRecycle website describes RAC as a road paving material made from ground scrap tires mixed with asphalt concrete. RAC is more durable, safer and quieter than traditional asphalt roads — and uses thousands of scrap tires per paved mile. You can learn more about this program here.


3. Check Your PSI (Pound Per Square Inch – aka Air Pressure)

    Having the right PSI for your bike tires can make or break your ride depending on your individual riding needs and type of bike. Proper tire inflation improves optimal performance.
    • Bike tires typically have a recommended PSI printed on the side near the bike rim. You’ll find a range recommended specific to the type of bike and size of bike. If your tires don’t indicate a recommended pressure, go ahead and pump them until they're firm yet allowing for some give when you squeeze. Here are some suggested ranges by bike type:

      • Kids bike tires range 20 to 40 PSI

      • Off-Road Mountain Bikes range around 30 PSI

      • On-Road Mountain Bikes range around 50 PSI

      • Road Bikes are in the 80 to 130 PSI range

      • Hybrid Bikes range 50 to 70 PSI

    • Weight is an additional factor to consider when checking your bike tire pressure. The higher the rider’s weight, the higher the PSI to accommodate.

    • Temperature is another factor that affects air tire pressure. If you live in a hotter climate, you’ll require a higher PSI, living farther north where it stays much cooler, you’ll decrease your PSI.

    To check your air pressure and fill your tires, use either a floor pump or a hand pump. Pro’s tend to prefer floor pumps because they’re easier and faster to handle, and often come with gauges to eliminate the PSI guesswork. You can also check the PSI using a standalone tire gauge. View our collection of tried-and-true bike pumps.

    Hand pumps take a little more time and a little more work but are great to have when you’re out on the trail, for long distance rides, or bike camping trips. Transportable hand pumps are a great addition to your biking gear kit. Here are a few of our favorite portable pump kits.

    Bicycle Warehouse Bike Pumps


    4. STOP… Check Your Brakes!

      Check your mountain bike brakes

      The most important part of your bike (the stopping system) absolutely needs a good once over before you head out and ride. See that they’re clean, in good condition and properly adjusted. A basic check involves ensuring the brake components are correctly positioned and work properly. Most Mountain Bikes use disk brakes which use calipers mounted to the fork in front and the frame in back, and rotors or discs mounted to the wheel hubs.

      Check these by squeezing the brake levers and watching the brake pads inside the calipers squeeze the discs to slow the wheels.

      • Do a visual inspection of the front and the rear calipers and make sure the rotors are centered between the brake pads. When the break is engaged, the brake pads should make full contact with the rotor.

      • Off-center or unaligned brakes cause the brakes to make lopsided contact with the rotor, hitting one side before the other side, resulting in poor braking power and noise. To re-adjust, loosen the bolts and move the caliper slightly from side to side to place it properly.

      • Tighten the bolts on the rotors and calipers for snug fit to avoid noise when braking.

      • Clean brake pads, rotors and brake levers and check to see that the disc brake pads haven’t worn down. Worn pads lead to slower brake response times and requires more effort on your part to engage your brakes. For a closer pad inspection, remove the wheel and investigate the space where the rotor spins. If the pads are less than 3mm thick, including their metal holder, they need to be replaced. If they’re glazed over, you can take them off and scrape the gunk away with a piece of sandpaper.

      • Pro tip: Disc brake pads can be ruined by oil, including oil from your skin. Try to minimize contact with the braking surface with your bare skin. If you touch the pads, clean them with rubbing alcohol or a brake cleaning solution. Again, for this, you can lightly rough the pads with sandpaper.

      If you have hydraulic disc brakes, check the hoses and fittings for leaks. If you find a leak, take your bike to a shop. Mechanical disc brakes use cables that can fray, rust and weaken over time which can slow response time and the flexible cable housings can break, corrode, clog up or fray over time leaving the cables exposed.

      Cables should move easily through all cable housings and the guides that hold them in place. If you find any issues during your inspection, this is one for the professionals. For service and a more in-depth brake inspection take your bike to a local bicycle shop to let the professionals do what they do best.

      5. Check Your Chains for Signs of Wear

      Just like the bike components we’ve already covered; chains also wear with use. With a worn chain, friction increases, and your shifting gets tricky. A worn chain can quickly wear out other drivetrain components. Changing your chain at the right time will save you money and keep your ride shifting freely. How can you tell when it’s time for a new chain?

      • Let’s talk lube. Have you consistently cared for your chain with a good chain lube recommended by your bike retailer? It makes a difference. If you haven’t kept up with this simple solution to extend the life of your chain, you’ve likely experienced faster wear. Here’s a list of bike lubes and grease that we carry.

      • With wear, the chain’s overall length grows and is often referred to as ‘chain stretch,’ even though the metal doesn’t stretch. What we’re experiencing is the wear located in the chain’s pins and inner links which causes the pitch or length of each link to extend.

      • Perform a manual check by shifting your gears so that your chain is in the big ring and smallest gear on the cassette. Pull the chain at the front of the chainring, if the chain lifts off the top and/or the bottom of where it sits on the chainring teeth, this means your chain is beginning to wear or is worn.

      • Use a chain tool. This tool will quickly give you a gauge on your chain wear.

      Keep in mind, chains rarely wear evenly across their entire length. Be sure to gauge your chain across a few separate sections and use the highest measurement.

      Ultimately, whether it’s time to replace your chain depends on your riding style, choice of chain lube, the chain, riding conditions, shifting habits and the terrain.

      This 5-point Fall bike maintenance checklist is just a start but should be enough to get you up and rolling safely on your next adventure. It’s Your World, Ride It!

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