Fitting Your Bike and Pre-Ride Checks

From our guest contributor Margaret Beltrami:

Today, we are going to look at what a properly fitted bike looks like and how to complete bike checks before every ride to make sure your bike is functioning properly and that you will have a safe, smooth ride. 

A few things to keep in mind to ensure a good bike fit:

Make sure you have the correct frame size:
To help test this, stand over your bike with both feet on the floor. With a top tube that is straight across and parallel to the ground, you should have about one inch of clearance from the bike to your crotch. If you have a sloping tube (more common with mountain bikes) you should haveabout two or three inches. 

Have a good body position:
Aim for a slight bend in your arms while youare riding so you can comfortably reach the brakes.

Seat height:
Your seat should line up with your hip bone when you areoff and standing next to your bike. At the bottom of each pedal stroke you should have a slight bend in your knee.

The bottom line:
Bike fit is all about comfort. You will not want to ride your bike if you do not feel comfortable, so make sure you feel great while riding your bike!

Fitting kids’ bikes:
With any top-tube style, the stand over height should have about two to four inches of clearance. Many kids’ bikes are made so the kids can ride in a more upright position. That being said, they should feel comfortable on their bike, grip the handlebars with a slight bend in their elbows, and be able to easily reach their brakes. Their legs should also slightly bend at the bottom of the pedal stroke.

Safety checks:
Before each ride you should conduct a short bike safety checklist to make sure your bike is working properly. Doing this will help your bike have a longer life, and will help prevent problems during your rides. 

Follow these steps before every ride: 

Air: Ensure your ties are inflated enough. If you are unsure what pressure to pump your pedals to, check the sidewall of your tire, which should tell you the range you should be in. The images below are examples of tire pressure maximums/ranges on tires.

Brakes: Squeeze your front and rear brakes to make sure they are engaging and functioning properly. 

Chain: Check your chain and all of your gears. Make sure your chain is not rusted, if it is it needs to be replaced. Clean your chain if there is a lot of dirt and filth. Spin your pedals backwards when you are off your bike and listen for any abnormal noises. Your chain should easily move over the cogs without skipping, squealing, or grinding. Keeping your chain lubricated will also help it last longer and help you shift gears easier. 

Wheels: Hold the handlebars of your bike in one hand and grab the front wheel in your other hand. Try to move the wheel side-to-side. There should not be any movement in this direction. Next, spin the front wheel. The wheel should look smooth, and should not wobble or make a grinding noise. If it does, do not ride your bike and have it looked at by a bicycle mechanic. Repeat this on your back wheel. 

Stem: The stem is located at the front, where the handlebarsconnect to the bike. To ensure that it is secure and functioning properly, stand at the front of the bike with the front wheel between your legs. Hold on to the handlebars and try and move them side-to-side without moving your wheel. If the handlebar moves, do not ride your bike, and have it looked at by a bicycle mechanic.

Pumping your tires:
Pumping your tires is essential for bikes! That being said, it can be difficult to know how to inflate your tires properly, so here are some outlined steps to help:
Before you begin pumping up your tires you need to know what pressure to pump to. This information is usually located on the side of your tire. There should be a range, for example 75-90 PSI (pounds per square inch). Inflate your tires towards the higher end of the range when you are riding on paved paths, the road, or smooth trails. Inflate them towards the lower end when you are riding on rough and bumpy roads or paths (i.e. mountain biking).

To begin pumping up your tires, locate the valve (on the inside of your wheel frame), and take off the plastic cap. Then, unscrew the small nut on the top.

Attach your bike pump to your bike and ensure that it is attached correctly. You should not hear any leaking air, and if you do, take off the pump head and attach it again.

Pump your bike to your desired tire pressure. There should be a built-in gauge on your bike pump that you can use.

When you are done, take off the pump head, screw in the tiny nuty back tightly, and place the plastic cap back on.

Repeat on your other tire.  

And that’s it for this week’s post! As always, stay tuned for next week’s post which will be all about what to bring on bike rides, biking in the dark, and hand signals.

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