A bicycle is a mechanical piece of equipment, just like your car, albeit with a few less parts. Nevertheless, faulty brakes on a bike can be just as dangerous as on any other vehicle. Here is a simple maintenance check to ensure that your child’s bike is in good working order. If in doubt about any aspect of the bike's safety, consult a professional mechanic.
Pinch the walls of both tyres with your thumb and forefinger and squeeze firmly. If you feel a firm resistance; good. If it is soft but doesn't give all the way, you may need some air (we can pump it up for you before the course starts). If you can feel the other finger through the tyre, you may have a puncture and will need a new inner tube.
Conduct a visual inspection all the way round the tyre. If there any bits of the rubber loose or flapping, you need to replace the tyre. Check also to see if there are any foreign objects lodged in the tread (stones nails etc). If you find any, remove them and if they have gone through or damaged the rubber in any way, you should replace the tyre.
A bike has 2 wheels, so it needs 2 working brakes. Hold your bike upright, and squeeze the front brake lever (the one on the right) firmly until it stops. Now try to push your bike forward with your weight over the handlebars. If the wheel rotates at all, the brake needs to be adjusted. Repeat the process for the back brake (left lever) but trying to push the bike backwards with your weight over the saddle. Check that there is nothing stuck between the brake blocks and the rim, and that the block is not binding on the wheel when the brake lever is not being applied.
If you are unsure about how to adjust your brakes, consult a qualified mechanic.
Chain and Gears
The chain should be clean and rust free. A regular spray with a proprietary chain lubricant should help to keep it this way. In any gear, check the chain for vertical play by lifting it with your finger (from below). There should be no less than 1 inch and no more than 2 inches of movement. If there is, get your bike checked by a mechanic.
With the back wheel lifted off the ground, rotate the pedals and go through the gears (you may need an extra pair of hands for this). The chain should move freely onto the next cog at each gear change without rubbing on any part of the frame or gearing mechanism.
With the front wheel held firmly between your knees, try to 'wiggle'the handlebars. If the bars move and the wheel doesn't, you need to have your bike checked. With the bike firmly held upright, try to move the saddle. It should not rotate, rise or drop. If it does you need to tighten the clip that holds it in place.
Have the bike held upright and then look down the line of the bike (back to front or vice verca). The wheels and frame should be in a straight line. Now lift each wheel off the ground in turn and spin it freely, observing the wheel alignment. If the wheel appears to be wobbling as it spins, it needs adjusting.
Remember! If you are concerned about any of the above, or any other aspect of your bike's safety, consult a qualified mechanic.