As the weather improves and the season nears, it’s time to get your bikes prepared and ready to ride outside. There are some simple maintenance things that can and should be done. Depending on your time and mechanical skills, you may want to drop off your bike at the local shop. Bicycles are becoming increasingly more technical and sophisticated, so if you are not familiar with the inner workings of say, electronic shifting, then definitely talk to your local mechanic.
Whether you choose to use the shop or not, here are some things to be aware of:
- Wheels and tires: Whether you have been riding on an indoor trainer all winter (pat yourself on the back here) or if your bike has been sitting on the corner of the garage collecting dust, you need to look at replacing your tubes, tires and inspect your wheels. Obviously tubes and tires are your first contact with the road. You want to avoid having flats, so think about putting on some new tubes and tires and consider adding some”slime” or puncture sealant as a preventative measure.
While you have the tires off of the wheels, you should true the wheels, check the spokes, look for any possible cracks in the rims, and finally check the rim tape before putting the tires back on.
- Drive Terrain: This is where things can get messy. Ask yourself when the last time your chain and chainrings were replaced. Chains actually stretch. Once this starts happening, this can lead to skipping gears and premature wearing of the teeth on you chainrings and gears. The amount of stretch in your chain can be measured if you have the tool, or your local mechanic can help you. Also, it’s important to inspect your chainrings and gears. It is inevitable that the teeth will wear down. As good as you may be about cleaning your bike, dirt and sand get in between the teeth and each chain length and this friction ends up grinding down the teeth. Bottom line is that if you replace your chain, keep your chainrings and gears clean, and replace your cassette and chainrings when they show significant wear, your bike will feel smooth.
3. Shifting: If you are using electronic shifting, as some bikes are these days, it is important to inspect all of your connections and make sure that your derailleurs are working properly. If you are using mechanical shifting, you should replace your cables and cable housing. At a minimum, cables and housing should be replaced at least once a year (and more often depending on how much you ride). Making minor adjustments and tweaking things so that you bike shifts properly is relatively easy to do. As a matter of fact, sometime all it takes is a quarter of a turn o f your barrel adjustor.
Miscellaneous: From a high level, it is important to clean your bike regularly and while doing so, examine your frame, fork , seat post and seat rails for cracks. Also, look at your brake pads, examine your bike bottle cages, check all of the bolts. Remember that many of the bolts will have recommended torque values so do not over tighten them. Keeping everything tight and replacing broken cages, replacing old cleats on your shoes (bi-annually), etc. will keep you from those annoying creaks, squeaks, and skips.
In general, it’s pretty easy to maintain your bike. Clean it and check it regularly and get it to the shop on a regular basis if you don’t know how to do all of the maintenance yourself. Talk to your local mechanics if you need help and do not be afraid to ask questions. If you get attitude from the shop owners or mechanics, find a new shop.
There is nothing worse than having a mechanical issue mess up a big training day, or even worse, a big race. It is good practice, depending on how often you ride, to do the above maintenance on a regular basis. If you are headed to a race, especially an “A- race” do this maintenance at least a week or two prior to your departure. Ask your coach about specific timing, but usually a good time to do this is during your taper. Remember, this is part of your preparation. Take responsibility for your equipment. Do not save this until the day before you race, it will add to your stress. Realize, if you are traveling to a race, the shop or mechanics at the race site may not have parts for your particular brand of bike. So, in a nutshell, prepare, maintain your bike regularly , and don’t let any preventable “mechanical”, hold you back.