25 Nov 2015


Whether you ride road, dirt, triathlon or cyclocross, if you don’t want your bike to let you down you need to keep it tight. The ‘M-Check’ is the best way to be quick but thorough too.

It’s simple. Follow the shape of an ‘M’ by starting at the rear axle, moving up to the saddle, down to the cranks, up to the bars and finally down to the front axle.

It’s a good idea to wash and lube your bike after every ride, as that’s a great time to spot problems before they escalate.

It’s good advice to wash and lube your bike after every ride – and it makes your M-Check a more peasant experience.

Rear End

Check the axle is tight, then run your fingers around the spokes feeling for loose or broken ones. Spin the wheel to make sure it turns freely, then pull the wheel side to side to check for play in the bearings.

Look for thorns/nails in the tread and splits in the tire walls. Pinch the tire to check they’re still up to pressure, and ensure the brake pads have life left. If you have discs, check for fluid leaks and that the caliper/disc bolts are tight; these can rattle loose.

If you have rear suspension, bounce it, looking for smooth, unhindered action, and pull laterally on the rear triangle/shock linkage to check for loose bolts – it’s another area where things can rattle and twist loose.


Twist the saddle up and down, side to side – it shouldn’t move! If it does, loosen off, remove and clean the seatpost and apply the appropriate grease or compound, before straightening, checking the seat height and tightening to the specified torque. Any MTN riders who run a dropper post, ensure it works without fouling any cables or hoses.


Make sure the pedals are tight – loose threads can trash cranks and cause crashes. Wrench the cranks from side to side to check for play in the BB, and look for chainring wear (hooked teeth) or damage. Work the front shifter while spinning the cranks, and look/listen for stiff links as the chain runs round. FSA’s full range of cranks can be found here.


With the front wheel between your knees, attempt to twist and rotate the bars to make sure the stem clamp and faceplate are tight. Next, while holding the front brake on, rock the bike back and forth while feeling for play in the headset. Lift the front and turn the steering, making sure it moves freely without trapping or pulling cables or hoses. Ensure the rear brake and shifter works.

Front End

Check the axle is secure, and that there’s no lateral play in the bearings (pull the wheel from side to side). Are the brake pads serviceable? If you have hydraulics, run a finger over the disc to check for oil that can indicate a burst seal. Check the wheel for loose spokes, missing disc bolts, tire damage and appropriate pressures.

Look carefully at rigid forks for hairline cracks or crash damage, and on MTBs with suspension forks, check the seals for leaks (black tidelines on the stanchions are a giveaway). Bounce forks to check for unhindered travel and appropriate air pressures.

All this only takes a couple of minutes, and avoids nasty scenes while miles from home. And the final thing? Get on and enjoy the ride!

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