by Nick Di Cristofaro
So you just got yourself a brand new bike, which can be a very exciting experience for the novice cyclist and even the seasoned veteran. There’s something about a shiny new ride that can make most people anxious to get out there, even though they should stop to take some precautions before clipping in for the first time. While your bike might be brand new, it should still be checked over before you set out on its first journey.
Any reputable bike shop should perform a safety check and tune-up of your bike before you take full possession of it. When a bike is assembled by a manufacturer, it rarely gets the attention it needs to run perfectly. Throughout the years, I found many issues with new bikes right out of the shipping box.
What to check before your first ride
1. Bike fit is probably the most important thing. Most good shops will offer a fitting with the purchase of a new bike. You must be comfortable on your bike or else you will not want to ride it for very long. Make sure your saddle height is set and levers are adjusted to where you want them. Choose the correct pedals and always have their threads greased before installing.
2. Make sure the wheels are tightened properly by giving them a tug to the side. Check quick releases and/or thru axles. Spin and check for true.
3. Check tire pressure and set it to the recommended specification for the type of tire and terrain.
4. Adjust and set up your suspension if you have it. Set air pressure and rebound to the manufacturer’s recommended specifications.
5. Stand to the side of the bike and grab the brake levers. Make sure they stop the bike. You don’t want to find out the brakes don’t work as you’re riding. Make sure the pads contact the rims evenly and don’t touch the tires.
6. With disc brakes, make sure there is no rubbing or friction between the discs and the calipers. Lift each wheel off of the ground and give it a spin.
7. Pull in the front brake lever and rock the bike back and forth. If you feel any movement or play in the front end, adjust the headset and make sure the front wheel is tight. I have found many new bikes with a loose or improperly installed compression plugs in their steerer tubes. A good rule of thumb is to always remove the top cap and inspect.
“Bike fit is probably the most important thing.”
8. Turn the handlebars side to side. Make sure they turn smoothly and that cables don’t snag. Ensure cable housings are the correct length and have a smooth radius when the handle bars are rotated.
9. Grab the crankarms and rock them back and forth. There should be no play. Check the torque of fastening bolt(s).
10. Last but not least, clip in and ride around very slowly for a minute to ensure the gears shift crisply and brakes stop safely. If anything feels out of the ordinary and you can’t fix it yourself, do get the help of a qualified mechanic. Do not risk your safety.
Also, keep in mind that most bikes with traditional cable systems will need a tune-up after the first few weeks of riding. New cables stretch, which they do mostly within the first few weeks. (Owners of bikes with hydraulic braking and electronic shifting have it easier here.) With most modern bikes having internal cabling, prestretching can be difficult so this first tune-up is even more necessary with most internal-cabled bikes. A reputable shop will sometimes offer a free first tune-up on a new bike.