Avoiding the dreaded “JRA”

By Nathan Falls

You checked the weather. You inspected the kit you are wearing, filled water bottles, grabbed some energy bars, and strapped on your cycling shoes. After spending all that time getting ready, nobody wants to spend another 5 minutes to check their bike over. When asked to do a quick write up of a pre-ride bike checklist all I could think about was that feeling of “I just want to go ride!”

You get the bike out and give the tires a squeeze for pressure. Do you know what the range of PSI for the tire is (PROTIP: It’s printed or set in raised lettering on the side of every tire)? Tire pressure could be a blog in itself but for now making sure you know the range is important, and the max pressure is not always the recommended. Checking the quick releases or thru axles is a great next step. No one wants a wheel coming off during a ride. Grab each wheel and try to rock it from side to side. This will let you know if the axle is tight or if you have a loose hub.

Next up, grab the bars and while squeezing the front brake rock the bars, feeling for any play. This could mean you have a loose headset or stem. Put a hand on each crank arm and try the same side to side rocking motion to ensure the bottom bracket, crank arms, and pedals are not loose.

JRA

Yup, just riding along

Grab both brakes to ensure they are moving smoothly and pads are opening back up freely. Give the chain and good visual inspection, and if you have a geared bike, stand behind the bike looking at the derailleur hanger. Does the chain line up in a straight line from cassette down to both pulley wheels? If the rear derailleur is not straight this could likely be the culprit of poor shifting or a more serious mechanical failure during a ride. If everything looks good, shift through the gears a few times to make sure the shift cables are moving freely.

I know this sounds a bit like one of the many checklists we all do each day. But keep this in mind. Almost every time I am checking over a bike repair I hear, “I was just riding along.” The few minutes before a ride giving the bike a good once over can be the difference between a good ride and having the problem that means you are walking home. No special bike shop tools are needed, just a few minutes to make sure your bike is as ready as you are.

Nathan is our lead service writer here at Alger Bikes.