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Before heading out on a bike ride, there are a few things you should do to make sure your bike is safe. Century Cycles, a Medical Mutual customer, recommends doing steps 1 through 3 before every ride and steps 4 through 7 if you have the time (although you can check these periodically).

CC Number 1

Check your tire pressure

Press down on the top of the wheel and observe the feel of the tire and how much it bulges against the ground. This gives a general idea of what your tires should feel like if you need to guess whether you have enough pressure (in an emergency).

Your recommended pressure is usually printed on the side of your tires. It’s measured in PSI (pounds per square inch) and is usually a range (like 40 – 65 PSI). If you’re riding on streets, paved or smooth dirt trails, you want the maximum pressure in your range. If you're riding on rough, off-road trails (like mountain biking), you want the minimum pressure in your range.

Use an air gauge or the built-in gauge of your tire pump. Press down on the wheel again to get a general feel for what your tire feels like when properly inflated. Repeat the above process for the other wheel. Remember to check the outer surface of your tires. Look for excessive wear in the tread, cuts or cracks on the tread or sidewall, exposed threads or wires and bulges. If you see any of these, replace the tire.

CC Number 2

Check wheel quick-releases

If your wheels are held in place with quick-release levers, be sure the levers are closed with the proper tension. If you're not familiar with how to use wheel quick-release levers correctly, ask a trained bike mechanic.

CC Number 3

Check your brakes

Grab the left-hand (front) brake lever firmly and rock the bike forward and backward. The brakes should hold firmly without slipping or squealing. Repeat using the right-hand (rear) brake lever. If either brake doesn’t hold firmly, don’t ride the bike. Have your brakes checked by a trained bike mechanic.

CC Number 4

Check your wheels

With the bike resting on the ground, hold the handlebars with one hand and grab the top of the front wheel with the other hand. Try to rock the wheel side-to-side. There shouldn’t be any "play" or movement.

Lift the front end of the bike and spin the front wheel. As the wheel spins, it should feel and sound smooth. If it makes a crunching or grinding noise, or if the wheel wobbles from side to side as it spins, have it serviced by a trained bike mechanic. Repeat the above process for the rear wheel.

CC Number 5

Check your crank arms and pedals

With the bike resting on the ground, stand on the right side of it. Rotate the cranks (arm the pedal is connected to) so that the arm is pointed up. Grab the crank arm with one hand and tug on it firmly, pulling it toward you and then toward the bike. You should not feel any play or movement. Repeat on the left side of the bike.

CC Number 6

Check stem and headset

The stem is the part that holds the handlebar in place. Stand over the bike with the front wheel between your legs. Grasp the handlebar firmly and try to turn the handlebar without turning the wheel. If the handlebar turns, don’t ride the bike. Have it checked by a trained bike mechanic.

The headset is the group of ball bearings inside the front of the bike (the head tube) that operate the steering. To make sure they are adjusted properly, grab the left-hand (front) brake lever and rock the bike forward and backward while you hold the outside of the bearing areas (at the top and bottom of the frame's head tube). If you feel any play in the bearings, they need to be fixed by a trained bike mechanic.

CC Number 7

Check your chain

Check the chain closely. If there's a little surface rust, you can probably get away with cleaning and re-lubricating it. If it's completely covered with rust, it needs to be replaced.

Spin the cranks backward and see if the chain moves freely over the cogs without any kinking, skipping or binding. It should turn relatively quietly without squealing or grinding. If it makes noise, it should be cleaned and lubricated. If the chain is covered with grease or grime, clean and lubricate it.

Use a chain wear indicator tool to check the condition of the chain. If the tool indicates the chain is worn, it should be replaced.

Learn more about doing a pre-ride safety check by visiting Century Cycle’s website.

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