By Tommy Noyes
Kauaʻi is blessed with mild weather year round, and there are many opportunities to travel through the coastal and inland sections of our beautiful island home by bicycle. When the time comes for you to roll your bicycle out of the garage and head out for a pedal powered adventure, take a moment for this simple ABC Quick Check and you’ll prevent mechanical problems that could spoil your ride.
A is for Air: Press the tires with your thumb—the tires should feel hard. If a tire feels at all soft, it needs more air and should be inflated. Look closely on the sidewall of the tire and you’ll find the printed inflation rating. If a range of pressures is listed, inflate to the lower pressure setting if you’ll be riding on rough surfaces, the higher pressure setting for more efficient rolling on smooth pavement, and somewhere in the middle if you’ll be on a variety of surfaces. Make sure the rims aren’t warped and that the tires are not cracked, cut, or worn out.
B is for Brakes: Check to make sure coaster brakes will stop the bike by spinning the back wheel and applying the brake. If the bike has hand brakes check to see that the levers don’t butt against the handlebars when squeezed. When you squeeze the hand brake as far as it will go, there should still be about the width of your thumb between the handlebar grip and the lever. If necessary, twist the barrel adjuster to tighten or loosen brake cables. Lift one tire up at a time and spin it; squeeze the levers to see if the tire stops. The brake pads should be clean, straight and contact the rims properly. If the brakes are not working properly, the bike is unsafe and should not be ridden until the problem has been fixed.
C is for Cranks, Chain, and Cogs: Grab the crank arms and try to wiggle side to side. There should be no movement. Spin the pedals and cranks to see if the chain smoothly drives the rear wheel. The chain should look like metal, not rust or black gunk. If the bike has gears check to make sure the gear levers and derailleurs (gear-changing mechanisms) work to shift the chain between all the gears.
Quick Refers to the Quick Releases: Some bikes have quick releases on the wheels or the seat post. Check to make sure they are tight and closed properly.
Check: After making sure the seat and handlebars are tight and the proper height, ride the bicycle around an empty parking lot and check that everything works well.
Kauaʻi Path organizes free group bicycle rides for cyclists of all ages and abilities, conducts bicycle safety classes for children and adults periodically, and advocates for better walking and bicycling systems.
- Tommy Noyes works for the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health’s Public Health Preparedness branch, serves on Kauaʻi Path’s board of directors, and is a League of American Bicyclists certified instructor.
Bicycling with a tire this under-inflated is a bad idea that could easily result in a flat tire or loss of control. Pump up your tires to the inflation rating printed on the sidewall.