Before every ride take 60 seconds:
A little prevention goes a long way...
Brake: Stand on the non-chain side of your bike with both hands on handlebars. Squeeze rear brake lever and move bike forward - rear wheel should skid. Squeeze front brake and move bike forward - front wheel should not move and rear wheel should rise off ground.
Tires: Squeeze side wall between thumb and index finger, inflate if soft, read tire sidewall for recommended pressure. Check both.
Quick Releases: The levers on your wheels can come loose! Ensure they are tight.
Sound: Shake, rattle and roll your bike as you listen for unusual sounds.
Chain: Lubricate as needed to reduce wear on gears.
Every few rides or at least weekly:
Bikes need regular maintenance.
Brake pads: Make sure they are not too worn and square with rims. Check both brakes.
Brake levers: Ensure a finger or two can fit between each lever and handlebar.
Handlebars loose?: Hold front wheel between your knees and try to turn your handlebars. If your bars move, tighten.
Headset loose?: Stand on non-chain side of bike, apply rear brake and with left hand on frame at handlebar stem, rock bike forward and back. If you feel play in the headset with left hand, tighten.
Cranks and pedals: Push each crank towards and away from bike to check for no play in bottom bracket. Check pedals spin freely and are not loose.
Wheels true?: Raise wheel and spin to check wheel is straight. Check other wheel and look out for broken spokes.
Wheel play?: Move wheel sideways to check there is no play.
Tire wear: Check your treads and sidewalls to make sure they are not overly worn.
Cables: Visual check for wear and fraying.
Derailleur lubrication: Check every few weeks depending on usage.
Start of season/Annual maintenance:
A practical idea is to have a bike shop check over, adjust, tighten, and lubricate your bike before the start of the new season. For year-round riders, spring and fall tune-ups are a smart choice. To fully maintain your own bike take a course, read a book or shadow a knowledgeable cycling buddy.