Essential pre-ride checks

If you’re new to cycling, you may often be bemused by the sheer amount of advice out there about our lovely sport. Road Cyclist is no different. The site is full of useful information about cycling and always will be. However, not all of it is suitable for everyone. If you’re just starting out, you may benefit from sticking to the basics and building up from there.

One cycling fundamental that everyone should be familiar with is the pre-ride bike check.

The pre-ride check should become an ironclad habit that you never ignore. As you cycle further and further out into the wilds, it may just save your life. More importantly, it could save your ride. Head out into the country and houses become few and far between and mobile signals become spotty at best. It is at these times that a pre-ride check earns its money as a mechanical in the middle of nowhere can really spoil your day!

So what do you check and how?


Your tyres are the only part of the bike that (should ever) touch the ground. Making sure they are in good condition not only helps prevent punctures but can also have a significant effect on your safety.

Check the general condition of the tyre and look for splits, cracks and anything caught in the tread. Then check the pressure. Use a digital pressure gauge or track pump with a gauge. If you run clinchers (tyres with inner tubes) you have select an appropriate tyre pressure for the roads. See our article on tyre pressure for more information.


If you clean your bike after every ride, there should be no issue with debris caught in the brake or on the brake track on the wheel. A quick check to ensure cables are taut and that there is no brake rub is all you really need to do here. Make sure there is enough pad left to last the ride and that nothing squeaks when you apply the brake.

Disc brakes need the same kind of checks. Check the disc for wear and debris and give it a wipe down with a clean cloth. If you have hydraulic discs, give the brakes a good squeeze and watch the cable from end to end to make sure there are no leaks. Leaks are rare but can be a showstopper when they appear.


Giving the chain and chainset a quick once over is good practice too. Check that the chain is clean, free of sand, dirt and debris and has been lubed enough for the conditions and with the right lube for the weather. Make sure everything is tight and runs smoothly.

Nuts and bolts

If you have a carbon bike or carbon parts, a quick check to make sure the bolts are tight is definitely worth a minute of your time. Metal fastenings against carbon parts will loosen faster than metal on metal. Spending a few seconds checking stem, steerer, bars and seat post could save a painful incident while on the road.

While these pre-ride checks seem a lot of work, once you have done them a few times, it should take less than five minutes. Five minutes spend under cover, with your tools around you is much better than an hour at the side of the road trying to work with a multitool!


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