Garage Files – How To Inspect Your Bike After A Crash

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It’s been said by many of the world’s fastest riders that if you’re not crashing at least every once in a while, you’re not riding fast enough. We ride for many reasons, most of which are incredibly healthy. We ride for fitness, camaraderie and to escape the daily grind: however, we also ride for the adrenaline rush we get when shredding down a fast descent, and when that plan to stoke the endorphins eventually but inevitably goes awry, it means the dreaded dark side of our sport. “Stacked it up,” “tossed the biscuits” or “failed to keep the rubber side down,” whatever you call it in the glorious retelling of the saga to your buddies, the long and short of it is, you crashed. Once the bumps, bruises and road rash are healed, it’s time to face the other reality of crashing. It’s tough on equipment. Riding damaged equipment not only increases the risk of another crash, it can also do serious damage to your wallet. We’ve laid it over in the dirt enough times to know what to look for after a crash. This is our favorite post-crash checklist.


Garage-1This is the most heart-wrenching sight for a rider. Damage to the upper tubes of a fork will cause premature seal wear and simultaneously kills the resale value of a fork. This will lead to oil loss and eventually cause severe damage to the internals of the fork.

Garage-1bFortunately, though, this doesn’t have to mean the end of the service life for your fork. If the damage is not too severe, it can be sanded down with very fine grit sandpaper (2000+ wet sand paper) and then touched up with clear nail polish. It may not be pretty, but will ultimately be a fairly permanent solution. If you wrecked the stanchions, it will be time for a new crown/steerer/ upper assembly or new fork at some point, though.

Garage-2Check both shifter and brake lines for damage. This bike suffered a frayed shifter housing in the crash. If this had been the hydraulic brake hose instead, our test rider would have been in for a wild, wacky and potentially very dangerous ride without any way to slow down. This bike will require a new shifter cable and housing.

Garage-3Check your grips while you’re at it. If you’ve lost a bar plug during the crash, your next crash could involve a dangerous core sample of your body.

Garage-4Okay, it’s cosmetic, but taking care of paint scratches shows you care about the bike you ride. The best bet for finding touch-up paint is an automotive store. Most any bike color is easily matched by the mini touch-up bottles.

Garage-5Our bike so closely matched Chrysler’s Intense Blue Pearl that, when touched up, the scratches were hardly noticeable.

Garage-7A twisted stem is easy to overlook in the adrenaline rush after a good pile-up. Check for this when you get home. While you’re at it, check the bolt torque on all stem fasteners, and readjust your headset. Start by loosening both stem bolts.

Garage-7bNow, with the stem bolts loose, snug the top cap to preload the headset bearings. Don’t over-tighten; just a little snugging will do.

Garage-7cAlign the stem as much as possible. It’s easiest to use the center knobs on the front tire as a guide.

Garage-7dNow re-torque the stem bolts. Typically these bolts need between 4–6 newton meters of torque, which is surprisingly not much. A torque wrench should be used if you’re running super-lightweight carbon components.

Garage-LeversWhen you jumped on after the pile-up, did something feel different? Tough to put your finger on what it is? Check for bent or misaligned brake and shift levers. If you ride with these misaligned for too long you will just get used to it. You may not realize how off your setup is until you actually get off the bike and look at it. An angle finder can be useful for this. If you don’t have one, sit up on the bike while in the saddle and compare lever height to the handlebar.

Garage-6Most every derailleur hanger is tweaked a little if it’s been ridden a while. If you’re noticing poor shifting right after a hard wipeout, this is the most likely culprit. Check by standing behind the bike to ensure that the derailleur pulleys are parallel to the cassette cogs. Typically, derailleur hangers can be straightened once. After that the material is weakened and it will be time for a fresh one.

Garage-8If your crash involved a flat tire, you need to check for damaged tire sidewalls. This rider double flatted with only one spare tube. He had to ride out on a flat rear tire. He also got to buy a new tire.

Garage-11Take time to clean the dust and dirt from the rims to inspect for dents, especially if you’re running a tubeless tire setup. If you’re an aggressive rider, you might be surprised at how many you find.

Garage-12If you happen to have drivetrain issues that caused the crash, check to ensure your chain is still in good shape by visually inspecting each link. Twisted links like this one are more common than you’d expect. While it may not have been caused by a crash, it’s always good practice to check this periodically.

Garage-10Check your wheels. They oftentimes will have dents, loose spokes or may have come out of true.

Garage-CarbonCarbon parts can be compromised with damage to the fibers. We’ve seen plenty of examples of damage that appeared to be no more than scratches in the clear coating. Any doubt here, though, and it’s best to play it safe and replace the part. If damaged, carbon tends to fail quickly and without warning. This applies to frames as well as components, like the handlebar and seatpost.

Garage-13Check chainrings and rotors for alignment. There’s a good chance that if any of these were impacted during a crash they will need a little attention. Both can be straightened, but most often it’s best to replace. Word of warning here: keep your fingers away from the rotors when inspecting brakes. This member of the wrecking crew ended up on the injured reserve after a spinning rotor filleted his finger.


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