Archive Website of the UK government

Please note that this website has a UK government accesskeys system.

Public services all in one place

Main menu

Tuesday, 2 October 2023

Getting your bike ready to ride

If your bike is too big, or the saddle or handlebars are in the wrong position, you won't be able to control it properly. You should also regularly check your bike to be sure it's in good working order. Get advice on making sure your bike is ready to ride.

Choose a bike that is the right size

You need to be comfortable and able to stop safely on your bike so make sure it's the right size for you. Try standing over the frame of the bike. If it's the right size, you should be able to:

  • have both your feet flat on the ground
  • get on and off the bike easily
  • comfortably lift the front wheel at least 5 centimetres off the ground

Saddle and handlebars height

Your saddle (seat) and handlebars should be set at a height that's comfortable for you. Try placing one heel on the pedal. Your leg should just straighten when the pedal is furthest from the saddle. Make sure you don't raise the saddle high enough to see the height limit mark on the seatpost. If the saddle needs to be this high for you to sit comfortably, your bike is probably too small.

Check your bike is fit to ride

Do the following checks on your bike regularly to make sure it's in good working order.

Front tyre and wheels

Lift the front end of the bike by the handlebar stem and then:

  • give the top of the wheel a bang with your hand to check that it doesn't fall out of the forks or move from side to side
  • check the wheel doesn't move from side to side when you try to wobble it - to be sure the bearings aren't worn
  • spin the front wheel - the brakes shouldn't rub on the wheel rim
  • squeeze the sides of the tyre - inflate it if it feels soft
  • look for gaps, cuts or bulges on the tyres - these are signs that the tyres are worn and need to be replaced

If you have a front mudguard, there should be at least 5 millimetres between the front mudguards and the tyre. Remove the mudguard if it rubs against the tip of your shoe when you pedal.

Lift the rear of the bike by the saddle and go through the same checks for the back wheels.


Apply the front brakes. Check that the:

  • brakes work - try pushing the bike forward with the brakes on
  • brake pads sit evenly on the wheel rim - they shouldn't touch at one end and not the other
  • cables inside the brake levers aren't frayed
  • brake levers and handgrips are tight on the handlebars, all the nuts and screws are attached and the ends of the handlebar tube are covered

Apply the back brake and go through the same checks. The back tyre should slide, not roll, when you apply the brakes and push the bike forward.

Handlebars and steering

All the parts on the handlebars should be tight and you should be able to steer freely. Release the brakes, stand in front of the front wheel and grip it between your knees. Then make sure nothing is loose when you try to:

  • turn the handlebars from side to side
  • apply the brakes and try to rotate the handlebars


Move towards the rear of the bike and hold the saddle tightly. Check that you can't move it up and down or from side to side. If it moves, tighten it.

Chain, gears and pedals

Ask someone to work the pedals by hand while you hold the rear wheel off the ground by the saddle. Then:

  • shift through all the gears on the back sprocket and front gear changer to check the chain stays on and moves smoothly
  • wobble each pedal from side to side to check they don’t move too much - if they do, the bearings in the bottom bracket need replacing

Make sure the chain isn't hanging off, broken or rusty. Lubricate the chain with some oil if necessary.

If you're unsure about making adjustments to your bike

If you need help maintaining your bike, visit your local cycle shop for advice. You'll also learn how to do a bike check if you get some cycle training.

Get some good quality locks

To keep your bike secure you'll need two different locks, like a strong D lock and a sturdy chain lock. For advice on what to look for when choosing a lock and how to secure your bike, follow the link below. Or watch a video from the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) about how not to lock your bike.

Additional links

THINK! road safety advice

Find out how to stay safe on the roads with THINK! facts and stats, adverts and games

Simpler, Clearer, Faster

Try GOV.UK now

From 17 October, GOV.UK will be the best place to find government services and information

Plan your cycle route

Use the journey planner to find a cycle route in local areas

Access keys