It's race season! Our clients know that the condition of their bike is as important to race day as their training. We spent a great deal of time in March ensuring that our Tri-Active Endurance triathletes turn up for the upcoming 2017 Lavaman Triathlon with a bike that is as ready to perform as they are. For those who are just starting to think about it, follow these 5 steps to a race day free of mechanical issues:
1. Get Your Bike Properly Serviced: If you can do this yourself, just do it rather than talk about doing it. If it's not really in your wheelhouse, then find a qualified mechanic who can. Have your bike inspected thoroughly and tuned to its peak performance ability. Be sure to replace worn tires (you know, the ones you killed on the indoor trainer...), "stretched" chains, worn brake pads, and "gunky" cables that might limit your shifting - these components are consumables - it means nothing that they were replaced the year prior. All bolts should be torqued and checked for tightness.
2. Clean Your Bike: Nothing says "race ready" like a clean bike. At CyTECHS, we spend an inordinate amount of time detailing bikes but for the average bike owner, using warm soapy water and a sponge is good start. Avoid harsh chemicals and high-pressure water. Scrub the chain, cassette and chain rings with a light de-greaser. If you don’t have a cog brush, use a soft nail-scrubbing brush to get all the sand, grit and old grease out of the chain. Rinse the drivetrain thoroughly and run the chain through a rag until it is absolutely dry, or even better, blow it out with compressed air. With some light good-quality bicycle lube, apply a single drop to each link in the chain. Once the oil is on the chain, run the chain backwards through the drive train to work the lube into internals of the chain and then run the chain through a clean rag until you have removed nearly all the lube on the outside. The chain should be shiny clean with just a hint of lube through the links. Aside from looking good, a clean chain with light lube reduces friction and reduces that annoying squeak.
3. Fit Your Race Wheels: If you have a pair of aero or extra lightweight wheels that you've been saving for race day, well, now is the time to install them. Fitting your race wheels is best accomplished as a part of your pre-race bike service. The wheels are likely a different width than your training wheels, have the braking surface in a slightly different spot and will usually require re-tuning. No two wheels are dished exactly the same, so failure to get your race wheels properly set up can translate to a race-ending mechanical failure. Fit carbon pads. Do not mix your carbon pads with your alloy pads. Ever. Also, make sure to transfer your rear cassette to the race wheel. If the race wheel already has a cassette mounted, make sure the gear ratio is similar to the training wheel. Either way, the rear derailleur may still need a minor adjustment for smooth and consistent shifting.
4. Bar Tape & Accessories: If you've trained sufficiently or ride on a regular basis, you'll need to change your bar tape at least every six months (three is better). Bar tape is like clothing, it sits next to your skin and gets dirty. Also be sure to attach all of the other race-day bike accessories now (front-mounted bottle cage with straw, rear-mounted duo bottle hydration unit, spare tubes and cartridges, etc.).
5. Work out the Rattles: A quiet bike is a happy bike. Gently bounce the bike on the ground and go for a test ride. Make sure there are no unusual or nasty rattles from all the accessories you’ve attached to the bike.