Checking your bike

SAFETY FIRST: Brakes and Steering

Bike are pretty resilient machines, and many will take a lot of abuse before they stop working.

However, you must check the steering and brakes on any bike you've not used before.

  • Check the front brake by squeezing its lever and pushing the bike forwards. It shouldn't move, or at least be very difficult to move forwards.
  • Check the rear brake by squeezing its lever and pushing the bike backwards. Again, it should be impossible or very hard to move.
  • Make sure the handlebars are straight (ie, the bike goes where you point it), and that they're not loose.

If you have any doubts about the safety of your bike, take it to a reputable bike shop.

You can find out more about fixing and looking after your bike in our cycle maintenance section.


  • Check that your tyres are pumped up. Most people under-inflate their tyres, which makes cycling more difficult and increases the risk of punctures.
  • Make sure your tyres are not worn, as worn tyres puncture easily and can be slippery in the wet.


  • Clean your bike, especially the gears and chain, and other moving parts. It's important to oil your chain and any other moving metal parts after cleaning, otherwise your bike won't run smoothly.


Many people have their saddles too low as they like the convenience of being able to put their foot down to steady the bike.

However, having a saddle that’s too low means your knees will be excessively bent and can cause discomfort, and also means the saddle, rather than your legs, carry more of your weight, which is likely to increase saddle discomfort.

Your leg should be straight at the bottom of the pedal stroke, with your heel placed on the pedal.

If you’re not happy starting out without being able to easily touch the ground, start off lower and raise the saddle gradually as your confidence grows.

You can raise or lower your saddle with an allen key or a spanner (unless your saddle is quick release, in which case you won’t need either).

Read more about looking after your bike and look out for Bike Maintenance courses or events near you!


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As a charity we rely on the funds raised from member subscriptions and donations from individuals like you who share our vision of making London the best cycling city in the world. If you share our vision and are able, please help us create safe space for cycling by making a donation.