If you’ve ever trained for a cycling race you understand the importance of preparation. Planning for a race requires you to pay careful attention to your diet, fitness and recovery schedule for weeks, if not months, in advance. Likewise, race preparation also requires you to pay close attention to the condition of your bike. Just like your body, a bike that’s in great shape is a bike that’s ready to rise to the challenge on race day.
As a rule, run-of-the-mill bike maintenance saves time and money in the long run. But there’s nothing run-of-the-mill about racing. So, we designed our 9 Point Bike Maintenance Checklist for Racing to keep your bike in racing shape.
A clean bike looks good. But a clean bike is about a lot more than looking good. The purpose of cleaning your bike is to ensure optimal performance and safety. First, check for grease buildup on cogs, derailleur pulleys and chainrings. If your drivetrain is greasy, spray on a degreaser and let it stand for a few minutes. Then, wash with warm, soapy water. Unless it’s really dirty, you can generally leave the wheels on when you wash your bike.
2. Tighten Bolts and Screws
Use a torque wrench to make sure all bolts are tight, but don’t over do it. Check your headsets to make sure they’re tight too. A loose headset on a steel or aluminum frame can lead to an ovalized head tube. Next, spend some time making sure your front and rear derailleurs are well-adjusted. A limiter screw on the rear derailleur will also help ensure the chain doesn’t come loose. You should check the front derailleur to make sure the chain isn’t able to fall off the chainrings on either side. Lastly, consider installing a chain-catcher to avoid any damage if something wiggles loose during a ride.
3. Wear and Tear
As time wears on, so does your bike’s cabling. For your safety, both shift and brake cables should be checked before you ride. Go ahead and replace them if you notice any damage or fraying. The same goes for cable housing.
4. Wheels and Tires
Take a close look at your tires. Remove any pebbles that have gotten stuck in the treads and be on the lookout for signs of wear. If you can see bulges or threads it’s time to replace your tires. You’ll also want to take a look at the spokes to make sure they’re properly tightened. If you do find a loose spoke, increase the tension with a spoke wrench in half-turn increments.
Before heading out for a ride, it’s wise to take a lap around the block to make sure everything is in working order. During your test ride, hit the brakes—hard. If your bike doesn’t stop as quickly as it used to, or is letting out a high-pitched squeal, you’ll need to adjust your brakes. Possible brake issues could include something stuck in the pad, the pads could be positioned incorrectly, or it could be time to replace the pads. If you’re riding a MTB, cyclocross or high-end road bike with disk brakes you won’t need to worry about replacing pads. However, you’ll still want to make sure your rotors are clean and free of grease.
6. Oil the Chain
There is some controversy in the cycling world about how often you should oil the chain. Some people swear by cleaning the chain with a dry rag every so often, but we advise using a wax-based lube on your chain for every 100 miles of riding in dry weather. If you race cyclocross, mountain bike or expect your chain to get wet, you should opt for a lubricant that won’t wash off with water.
7. Change Fluids and Replace Equipment
Many bike parts can be changed out as you start to notice wear and tear. However, there are a few exceptions. Consider changing the hydraulic fluid, chain, cassettes and chainrings after reaching certain milestones. A good rule of thumb is to bleed your brake hydraulics about every 10,000 miles and replace the chain every 3,000 miles. About every fourth chain replacement also consider replacing your cassettes. And roughly every fourth cassette change, plan to replace chainrings.
8. Special Occasions
There are a few special occasions when it makes sense to go above and beyond in your bike maintenance checks. For example, when you’ve traveled with your bike, or if your bike has been in a wreck. After a crash, always have a mechanic do a thorough inspection to make sure your bike is safe to ride.
Whenever you ship a bike to a race, you’ll need to inspect it for damage once it arrives. Many cyclists ship directly to a local bike shop for a pre-race inspection. Depending on your event location, you may also find it most convenient to schedule an on-site inspection with a mobile bike shop like Velofix.
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