The Mountain Biking Pre-Ride Checklist

August 12th, 2014
If you're new to mountain biking, you may not know how to recognize problems with your bike, and if they happen during a ride they may result in a broken bike and/or a long walk back to the trailhead (and if you've been riding a long time, you may not even bother to do a quick pre-ride check - you should).
You should inspect your bike before every ride to avoid potential problems on the trail. Use the following quick checklist before each ride to improve riding efficiency while maximizing safety.

6 Mountain Biking Pre-Ride Tips

1. Let your bike fall. Pick your bike up 5-6 inches off the ground and let it drop. Investigate any rattling or odd noises when it hits the ground. They could be signs of loose parts. 
2. Test the brakes. Engage the brake levers to make sure they are functioning properly. They should snap back into position after letting go. Test out your lever-reach (how far you need to squeeze your brakes before then engage with the brake pads), and adjust them if needed. This is usually done through a dial on the lever body, or on older models, with a small Allen key.
3. Tires OK? Make sure the tires are inflated according to the specifications on the side wall of each tire. Check for cuts, tears, and rips and replace if necessary. This step only takes a minute, but it is one of the most important steps you should take to ensure safety and efficiency before every ride.
4. Spin the wheel. It should spin freely without wobbling and there should be no contact between with the brake pads.
5. Secure the wheel. Most mountain bikes have quick release levers, which are levers located at the hub (center of the wheel) that allow for easy removal or adjustment of the wheel without using a tool. These should be securely tightened.
6. Secure the headset. The headset is the set of bearings within the headtube (short tube located at the front of the bike connecting the forks and the bike frame). Your handlebars slip into this tube, which pivots to allow steering. To test if the headset is secure, apply the front brakes while gently tilting the bike forward and back (your rear tire should raise up and down). Listen for clicking, which is a sign of a loose headset. Tighten if necessary.
Have any other tips to suggest? Add them in the comments below!