It’s common to spend months preparing for a long charity bike ride. With everything from training to soliciting donations to attending pre-ride events keeping you busy, it’s easy to overlook something as simple as your bike—but it’s just as important that your bike performs well on the big day as you. Before hitting the road on a long charity ride, take some time to make sure your bike is ready to roll.

EMS’s John Flynn and his century ride crew at Cycle the Seacoast

Prevention is Better Than a Cure

Benjamin Franklin famously said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” However, when it comes to a long charity bike ride, perhaps Groucho Marx said it better: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of bandages and adhesive tape.” The fact is, you want to roll to the starting line of your big ride with a well-functioning bicycle.

If you’re not comfortable or inclined to work on your bike, bring it to a shop a few weeks before the ride. This provides the shop’s service department plenty of time to make any required repairs and order any needed parts. A good strategy is to bring your bike into the shop three or four weeks in advance of your ride for a full tune—generally, nothing major should go wrong over a few weeks—and bring it back for a quick safety check a few days before your ride.

Many charity rides have mechanics on site to help make quick fixes and adjustments. But don’t show up expecting them to fully overhaul your bike right before the ride.

ABC Bike Check

If you want to work on your own bike, there are a handful of levels of work. Tackle what you can and farm the rest out to your local bike shop. The ABC Bike Check—air, brakes, and chain—is a great starting point for home bike maintenance.


One of the best and easiest things you can do for your bike is check the inflation pressure of your tires, as tires lose pressure over time. Road bike tires are typically inflated to between 80 and 120 psi, though your tire should have a recommended, tire-specific psi range printed or stamped on its sidewall.

A good rule of thumb is that riders around 150/160 pounds should aim for an inflation pressure in the middle of the range. Lighter riders can typically shoot for inflation pressures lower in the range, while heavier riders will want to add more air to their tires.


Not to state the obvious, but it’s important that your bike can stop. Before every ride, give your brakes a test to ensure they’re in working order. First, spin the wheels to make sure the brakes aren’t rubbing. If they are, you’ll want to resolve the issue before your big ride, as rubbing will increase wear and slow you down (costing you valuable energy in the process).

Next spin the wheels again, this time pulling the brake to confirm that it stops the wheel. The brakes should engage smoothly and you shouldn’t have to pull the lever all the way to the bar for them to activate.

There are a variety of types of brakes; consequently, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to brake issues. YouTube is a great resource for do-it-yourselfers—Park Tool and GCN Tech are favorites. When in doubt, bring your bike into your local shop and let a pro look at it (especially when working on something as essential as brakes).


Get in the habit of regularly cleaning and lubing your chain. Every few rides, give it a good wash using a bike-specific degreaser and brush. And don’t just scrub your chain—take the time to clean your derailleurs and jockey wheels (the small wheels the chain runs over near the rear derailleur) as well. Let your chain dry and then lube it up.

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing when it comes to lube—overdue it and the excess attracts dirt and grime. Aim to lube every link of the chain and use a shop rag to wipe off any extra.


We like to add one more C to the ABCs: clean. The cleaner you keep your bike—not just your chain—the better it performs and the less wear and tear it’s subjected to. Keeping your bike clean also lets you spot issues ranging from major, like cracks in the frame, to potentially problematic, such as frayed cables.

Realistically, you don’t have to do a deep clean after every ride, but get in the habit of giving your bike a quick post-ride wipe down and periodically take the time to give it a full bath.

satisfaction after finishing a long charity ride
Credit: Tim Peck

The M Bike Check

The M Check is an easy-to-remember method for ensuring your bike is safe before heading out for a ride. The M Check takes its name from the pattern it follows, progressing from the front wheel to the cockpit to the cranks to the saddle to the rear wheel.

Front Wheel

Check that the front wheel is properly attached—that is, the thru-axle is tight or the quick release is securely closed. Next, apply the brake and wiggle the wheel; you shouldn’t feel any side-to-side movement. Lastly, inspect the rims for any big dings or dents and squeeze the spokes to ensure they’re tight. If your rim is damaged or the spokes are especially loose, it’s a good idea to take it to the shop and have a pro look at it—the last thing you want is a wheel failure while you’re bombing down a big descent.

If you haven’t done it already, incorporate the “A” of the ABC Bike Check into the M Check by ensuring your front tire is properly inflated.


Stand over your bike and make sure the handlebars are straight. Next, pull the front brake, rock the bike forward and backward, and ensure there’s no movement in the front of the bike. If there is play, tighten the headset or bring your bike to your local shop. Are the brakes and shifters in a comfortable position? If not, adjust them accordingly.

Lastly, incorporate the “B” of the ABC Bike Check by pulling the brake levers to make sure they smoothly activate the brakes.


Rock the cranks toward the bike frame; any play is a sign of a potential problem. Next, make sure your pedals are functioning properly by giving them a spin—they should rotate freely. If you’re riding clipless pedals, test to make sure the cleat on the bottom of your shoe isn’t overly worn and you can competently click in and out of the pedals.


Examine the seat bolts to ensure they are tight and there isn’t any excess play in the saddle. Also, check that the seat post is secure. A few weeks before the ride is the ideal time to make any adjustments to your seat height or position. However, avoid making any last-minute tweaks before your big ride—you don’t want to make a change only to discover it causes discomfort a few miles into a century.

Rear Wheel

Similar to the front wheel, make sure the rear wheel is securely attached to the bike, the tire is properly inflated, and the rear brake is working. Just as you did for the front wheel, check the condition of the rim and the tightness of the spokes, and address any issues. If you’re running tube tires, it’s a good idea to make sure your spare tube is in good shape. If you don’t have a spare, add one to your kit. Cyclists using tubeless tires will want to make sure to pack a plug kit.

All smiles before a long charity ride
Credit: Tim Peck

While you’re at the rear of the bike, knock out the “C” of the ABC Bike Check by cleaning and lubing your drivetrain.

Have Fun

Charity rides are fun, but they can be stressful, especially for those not accustomed to logging a lot of mileage. Relieve some of the anxiety and take a step toward a great ride by making sure your bike is as ready as you are for a long day in the saddle.