Bicycles can move you at speeds 20 mph or higher, often alongside cars. It’s absolutely vital that your bike is in as safe a condition as possible. For this reason you should have a professional bike mechanic perform a safety check on the bike you purchased used or from a big-box store.
In my own case, I hadn’t ridden a bike in decades when I decided to buy a Schwinn at Target. This seemed an easy and inexpensive way to see if I still liked biking as much as I did as a kid. Nicknamed Marge because of its color, it successfully reminded me how much I love riding, and I quickly decided to upgrade to something weighing less than 45 pounds.
Who Assembles the Bikes?
What I didn’t think about at the time is who had assembled Marge at the Manassas, Va., Target I bought her from. Was he or she a bike mechanic? Probably not. Would I want to drive in a car assembled by someone other than an expert in assembling cars? That’s a definitive no.
Luckily, Marge had no mechanical issues, and I sold her within months, upgrading to a Trek. But I did ride her for many hours and many miles along main streets — and boy, could she gain real speed going down hills. Knowing what I know now, I’d take her to a bike mechanic for a simple safety check before taking her out.
What Could Go Wrong
Why get a safety check? When working on customer bikes, Frame Up Bikes has seen everything from backward forks to loose brake cables and stems. Even something like an improperly shifting drivetrain can lead to accidents caused by a distracted rider.
Besides wrecks, an improperly assembled bicycle can also cause mechanical issues. And an under-inflated tire or improperly tensioned wheel can result in the kind of damage that requires replacement long before it should.
The same principle applies when purchasing a used bike. How did the former owner store their bicycle: inside, or outside? Are the brake pads dry rotted? Are the tire sidewalls sun-damaged and cracking (which could lead to flats or worse, blowouts)? Is the chain worn to the point of needing replacement but not so worn — yet — that it is harming the other drivetrain components? Replacing a chain for $20 to $40 before it causes damage to the drivetrain is better than spending $100-plus on a new cassette or chainrings.
What Should I Do?
For this reason, we recommend that if you are building your own bike (say, one you purchase off the Internet or for your child), buying a used bike, or purchasing an assembled bike from a store that does not also offer bike repair services, you take your bike to a bike shop for a mechanic to give it a thorough safety check. A good bike shop will offer a free evaluation of the condition and provide you with a quote for a full safety check or repair — if necessary (and it not always is).
A safety check — which is not the same as a tune up — usually consists of:
- Checking all bolts for proper tightness and torque
- Measuring the chain for wear
- Aligning and adjusting the brake pads
- Inflating the tires to proper pressure
- Inspecting and making minor adjustments as needed on the entire drivetrain, including chain, shifters, derailleur and cables
And then there’s just the peace of mind that you’ll get knowing that a professional has looked over your bicycle.
So if you’ve got a new bike in your family, we welcome you to bring it by Frame Up Bikes for a free evaluation. If we determine it is needed, a safety check is $65 and our tune-ups start at $125 (replacement parts not included). For a more complete list of our services, click here
We look forward to helping you make the best out of your new purchase!