An M check on a bike is a quick, methodical and easily remembered routine to check your bike is safe and in good working order.
The M check on the bike is named for the rough pattern you follow when checking the bike – start at the front wheel, move up to the handlebars, down to the bottom bracket, 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 bearing, dodgy spoke or slow puncture when you’re mid-ride.
To perform the M check on your bike first begin at the front wheel of the bike.
Check that the wheel is securely attached and that the axle is in good working order: apply the front brake and try to move the wheel side to side.
There may be a little give if you’ve got suspension forks, but there shouldn’t be movement in the axle.
Check the tire pressure with a pressure gauge (around 22psi front and 28psi rear) and give the wheels a spin to check that they're moving smoothly.
Look at the tire to ensure there aren’t any obvious punctures or signs of damage.
Apply the front brake to make sure it’s working properly and have a look at the brake pads to make sure there’s some pad left, and they haven’t worn down to the metal.
If you look through the calipers along the same plane as the brake disc, you’ll be able to see this.
Moving around the wheel, 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.
Next look at the handlebars.
Ensure the handlebars are done up tightly and are straight.
You can check how tight they are by holding the front wheel between your knees and attempting to rotate the bars side to side.
Your handlebars shouldn't turn when your wheel is fixed between your legs – if they do, you'll need to tighten the Allen bolt more.
To check how straight they are, look directly down from above the bars and see if they line up with the fork crown.
Check that the brake and gear levers are in a comfortable position you like when riding and done up tight enough that they won’t move in use, and that you can reach them comfortably without stretching your hands.
Give both brakes a squeeze to make sure they’re working and that the levers move a similar amount.
If you find yourself stretching, or if the levers reach the bars, you can usually dial them in or out quite easily; some brakes have a dial, others require a small Allen key tool.
Make sure the forks are working and are set up correctly.
If you haven’t already done this, there’s plenty of advice online.
Bottom bracket and cranks
Even with care and attention, bottom brackets do eventually wear out.
If you’ve noticed any noise, that can be an indication, as can ‘play’ or movement in this area.
A quick way to check your bracket is in working order is to put the pedals in the ‘12.30’ position (one vertically up, the other vertically down), apply the brakes, and push down on one of the pedals and under the bike.
If the cranks and bottom bracket move, then it might be time for some maintenance.
Check that your pedals are securely attached and spinning freely.
If they aren’t, they might need a service which will give them a new lease of life.
If you ride with clips, make sure the mechanism is clean and working well.
If you prefer flats, check that any pins are still grippy enough to give you the traction you need.
Now check the Saddle and bearings
If you have a dropper seat post, make sure it’s moving smoothly up and down so that you can make any necessary alterations mid-ride.
Give the saddle a quick jiggle to make sure it’s on nice and tight, and in the right position.
The bearings on a full-suspension bike can work themselves loose over time and if they do they’ll need to be tightened up.
To check, gently lift the bike by the saddle and observe each of the bearings, to see if they’ve got play in them.
If so, it’s time to break out the tools.
Tightening them up is a fairly simple job, but if they keep coming loose it might be time to get them replaced.
Now check the rear wheel of the bike.
The checks here are similar to those for the front wheel: tire pressure, puncture check, spoke check, etc.
You’ll also need to check the gears and chain.
Both should be clean, well lubricated and free of any signs of rust.
If your chain looks dirty, get your cleaning kit out!
To check your gears, lift the rear wheel, spin the pedals and move up and down through the gears to ensure they’re shifting smoothly.