Today on TriTalkTuesday we’ll be discussing bike maintenance something that could easily be a review for alot of long time bikers or an area that strikes fear into the heart of newbies. The bike is the most complicated piece of equipment a triathlete owns and many a race and PR have been lost due to mechanical problems that sometimes can be avoided. This and safety are the two main reasons to know and care about maintaining your bike.
Before continuing, the best, easiest and most important thing you can do for your bike is to keep it clean. Wash it down after every ride. Use an old toothbrush to clean the derailleurs and the hard to reach places. Make sure the gunk is out of all the moving parts and its dry when you store it. Rust will kill a bike.
Now, this post could be super long and technical or super basic and top line. I’m going to opt for the latter as this area has been covered all over the internet and executed much better than I ever could. Instead I’ll go over the big line items that are easy to do and should be done the most often.
Alot of the work you do on your bike will be based on your comfort and experience level. The most helpful and easiest advice I can give is to find a LBS (local bike store) you trust and rely on them for anything that you can’t handle. They can be hit and miss as far as friendliness and professionalism so try a few and make sure they treat you with respect and patience.
The 3 main areas that most bike owners are comfortable fiddling with are Brakes, Wheels and Drivetrain. Coincidentally these need the most attention as you put miles on your ride. We’ll go in order.
For safety, there is no more important aspect of your bike than your brakes. Whatever you do, make sure these are in good working order and adjusted properly. They should never rub. They also wear out over time so check the brake surface to make sure there are still grooves there and pay attention to any squealing that develops. When the handle is squeezed the brakes should engage immediately and confidently. There should be very little space between the brake pad and the rim when installed properly. Make sure the cables are routing through the bike well and and there is no rust developing. The brake calipers should be cleaned greased often (I use soap and then WD-40)
This is the fastest way to cost you precious minutes during the race and during every event you see at least a few people pulled over changing tires. While this is sometimes unavoidable, you can take steps to prepare yourself as best you can for tough terrain. First things first is learning how to change a tire both in the comfort of your home and on the road. The Cupcake Triathlete found a great video of this:
For racing, you want to carry as little as possible and so I use a CO2 kit
But its a bit tricky to use, so here is a video
Tire choice is very important and there is a tradeoff between fast/light and sturdy. You should have some lighter tires dedicated to racing and some stronger more durable ones for training. My commuter bike has Continental Gatorskins (Nothing else withstands NYC streets, believe me I’ve tried)
Lastly, you should periodically check your rims to make sure they are spinning straight. Occasionally, with enough pounding, some spokes may become loose (or tighter) and pull the wheel out of alignment. You’ll know this if you start hearing a “tic” as your tire spins and makes one point of contact with your brake pads. When you fix this its called “true-ing” the wheel. Unless you have a truing stand and have been taught, this is best left to your LBS and dosen’t cost alot.
The one last easy piece of maintenance you can do is to keep your chain clean and greased. Wiping is down quickly after rides with a simple paper towel and re applying chain lube every few rides is generally all you need to keep your chain healthy. Once a season you can deep clean it with a chain cleaning kit (I’ve never done this, but probably should have)
Pay attention to these three areas and the majority of your bike work will be complete. A professional can fill in the rest of the gaps or you can experiment on your own. But again, the best maintenance you can do for you bike is to keep it clean. Its also the easiest.