Bicycle Checkup

1. Check all moving parts. If something is broken, loose, or wiggly, have it repaired.

2. Oil the chain and other moving parts with a Teflon-based lubricant at least once a month, more often if you ride in wet weather.

3. Check the brakes. There are two kinds of brakes: coaster brakes and lever brakes. Coaster brakes stop you when you pedal backward. If they don't, have them adjusted. If you squeeze a brake lever and the bike is slow to stop or fails to stop, have the brakes checked by a professional. If your brake lever must be pulled close to the handle grip to stop the bike, your cables are stretched out and need replacing. Also, look for thinning brake pads and wear marks on the sides of your tires. Don't wait for a blowout! Get new pads and tires.

4. Test your headset. This is the "fork" where handlebars and front wheel meet the bike's frame. To check for looseness, hold the handlebars with one hand and the tire with the other. Try to push them in opposite ways. The handlebars and tires should move in the same direction. If they don't, have your headset tightened.

5. Keep air in the tires and check them regularly. Tires are porous and leak air naturally. Keeping air in them saves the rims from damage. How much air? Air pressure is written on the side of a tire. For example, a bike with a twenty-inch wheel will likely have "40 p.s.i." on it. This stands for "40 pounds of air per square inch." Bigger bikes will say "35-65 p.s.i."

6. Keep your bike clean. Sponge with mild soap and water. Rinse with a garden hose or a bucket of water. Dry the bike thoroughly with a towel.  

Riding Safety Steps Before you head out on a bike ride, follow these safety practices to prevent problems on the road.

1. Ask a parent's permission to ride in the street. Before you leave, tell your mom or dad where you're going and about what time you'll be back.

2. Wear a snug-fitting safety helmet.

3. Wear close-fitting clothing with a reflective strip. Avoid loose clothes that can get caught in your bike. 4. Carry identification and spare change for emergency calls.

5. Apply sunblock. Ultraviolet sunrays damage skin.

6. Carry a bottle of water with you, and drink often. Your muscles need plenty of water when they exercise, even if you don't feel thirsty.

7. Use hand signals when you are turning a corner. This will help motorists and other cyclists behind you to know when to slow down.

8. Ride on the right side of the road. Obey traffic signals and the rules of the road.

9. Go with a buddy, not alone.

Cycle hard, and have fun!

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