Q: I just got a new bike, and I’m not very mechanically inclined. Is there a checklist of things to check before my first ride?
A: Any time I get a new bike, whether it’s been ridden by someone else or not, I always check a few things. First
is the headset, and ensure it is correctly tensioned.
Number two is all of the stem bolts. Make sure the stem is straight, and the bars are at the appropriate position, then use a torque wrench to set them. Remember not to torque just one bolt down and then the next; do a little on each back and forth until the correct torque is achieved.
Number three is the hoods. Like the stem, ensure they are in the correct positions and torque them down so they don’t move on the bar. This is one that people forget often, and if you have a cable-actuated drivetrain, if the hood moves, it will affect your shifting. For Shimano Di2 users, this can cause the shifter to come unplugged at the hood and stop working as well, so make sure you check this.
Number four are thru-axles or quick releases. Make sure they are tight and secure the wheels. If your bike has quick releases, also make sure the wheel is in the dropout all the way, as well as tight.
The last thing I check is the brakes. For disc brakes, I ensure the correct rotor size is used and that the pad is contacting the rotor completely, as well as correctly aligned and tight. For rim brakes, check that the pads and the holder are tight and aligned correctly.
If anything is not correct, then you might want to head back to your local shop and have them do a safety check. If you built the bike yourself, then a tune-up that goes over the gears is a good idea, too. There are a lot of other things you can check on, but these are the minimum for me. Also, make your first test ride a slow one. Go through the gears, shake the bike around (to feel for anything loose), and think about the overall fit, which is a whole other story for another day.