There are few things more annoying than discovering there’s something wrong with your bike halfway into a ride. At best, it’s an annoying roadside fix. At worst, it could mean a pricey and inconvenient cab ride and trip to the bike shop. For smiles every mile give your bike what’s called an 'M check' before you set off. If you are in a hurry, then the ABBC pre-ride check will cover the basics.
The E-Bike 'M' Check
The 'M' Check is named for the rough pattern you follow to check the bike – start at the front wheel, move up to the handlebars, down to the cranks (and motor on many ebikes), back up to the saddle then down to the rear wheel.
It’s quick to do and will ensure you don't get caught out by a loose bolt, a battery that runs out of charge or slow puncture when you are mid-ride.
1. Front wheel and tire
Check that the wheel is securely attached and that there is no play in the axle. Particularly if you have just removed and re-fitted your front wheel after eg. travelling.
Check the tire pressure with a pressure gauge and give the wheels a spin to check that they're moving smoothly.
Look at the tire to ensure there isn’t any obvious punctures or signs of damage or wear such as cuts or tears. Also read Find Out How to Avoid Flat Tyres on E-Bikes.
Ensure all the spokes are tightly done up by pinching them together two at a time; if there’s lots of movement, then they’ll need to be tightened. If any are broken, book it in to be repaired or you risk damaging your wheels.
- If you have extra accessories like mudguards or a front carry rack, do a quick wheel spin to check it isn't rubbing. Also check that the fasteners are holding tight.
2. Brakes, handlebars and e-bike display
Ensure the handlebars are done up tightly. You can check by holding the front wheel between your knees and trying to rotate the bars side to side. There shouldn't be any movement in the bars.
Give both brakes a squeeze to make sure they’re working. Have a look at the brake pads – front in particular - to make sure there’s some pad left. If they make a squealing noise when you brake chances are you need new brake pads or you have contaminated the pads. Brake pads wear faster on an electric bike as the brakes are pulling up a bike that is generally heavier, is carrying heavier loads and is travelling at faster average speeds.
Check that your display and remote (if separate) is firmly in place and that the bolts haven’t loosened. If they have, tighten them with an allen key. Turn your ebike on to see it is all working as it should.
3. Battery and cranks
Check that there is enough charge for your trip and that your battery is securely locked in. Test this by removing the key and trying to take it out. Also read How to Keep Your EBike Battery Healthy.
Check that there is no play in your cranks and that your pedals are securely attached and the thread/screw-in is even.
4. Saddle and seatpost
Give your saddle a quick jiggle to make sure it’s on nice and tight, and in the right position.
Check that the seatpost clamp is tight particularly if you have just adjusted your height.
If your seatpost has a shim or telescopic seatpost then check that the shim and posts are fully inserted. Unusual creaking noises indicate that it’s not inserted correctly and you risk cracking your frame if not remedied.
5. Rear wheel, chain and gears
Do the same checks here are similar to those for the front wheel: tyre pressure, puncture check, spoke check, etc
If your gears have been slipping or are a bit crunchy then this is a sign that they need help. Firstly, lube your chain. Check that your chain is clean, and free of any signs of rust. (See more on chains below). Also check that your derailleur hangar is straight and there are no chips of dents in your rear cassette.
- Chain - the chains on ebikes take a lot of pressure due to the extra torque. As a result they wear faster and generally you can expect to be replacing them every 1500km. If you are a heavier rider or tend to ride in high power modes then it can be about every 1000km. The best way to get more life out of your chain though is to lube it regularly. For regular riders this should ideally be done every couple of weeks.
In a hurry? Do the ABBC pre-ride check
If you are in a hurry just go with the ABBC
- A = Air (Are your tyres inflated to the correct pressure?)
- B = Battery (Is it charged? Securely locked in?)
- B = Brakes (Front and rear ok?)
- C = Chain (Have you lubed it recently?)
A bicycle or an electric bicycle is a machine with many moving parts. It needs to be maintained otherwise expect that something at some point is going to need tweaking or fixing.
The M check routine only takes a couple of minutes and you only need a basic toolkit and basic spares to avoid some serious inconvenience. The ABBC check takes even less time.
Nothing beats a regular service though, especially with an ebike, so plan to book your e-bike service in every 6-12 months if you use it regularly.