The Sprinter's Guide to Cycling Volume 5: Bike Maintenance

Volume 5: The Sprinter’s Guide to Bike Maintenance “It’s the rider not the bike” – Mike Walden

Roadies obsess over their equipment and view it as an ally in their route to success. Sprinters view the bike as a necessary evil. A great roadie finish includes references to how the bike and rider have “become one” – Lance Armstrong’s famous quote - “no chain man - no chain.”

Roadies and sprinters part ways when it comes to bicycle maintenance, sprinters win despite their equipment. Before a race, the toolio roadie is waxing his chain, rebuilding his bottom bracket and putting ceramic bearings in his derailleur wheelies. The sprinter hopes he remembers to put air in his tires.

A quick inventory of my own equipment proves my genetics - below was the current state of my bike (upon this writing), and some typical sprinter solutions:

Issue #1: Rust. Recently I noticed a squeaking sound than intruded over the volume of my ipod headphones. To my chagrin I noticed after the ride that my chain, and cog were rusty after a winter of disuse.  

Solution #1: Lube. I didn’t have any expensive “roadie lube” handy, but figured oil is oil so I dumped some 10W40 motor oil from my car onto my chain. Problem solved – look, you can barely see the rust in the “after” picture (sadly my Blackberry self destructed and I lost this wonderful archive of photos of dumping a quart of motor oil on my chain in a Target parking lot in South Barrington)

Issue #2: Brakes.  Again, a foreign sound recently intruded over my headphones (I usually ride on a bike path w/ no cars and hence can listen to music) – this time it was the grating of metal on metal. Sure enough my front brakes had managed to wear themselves out.

Solution #2: Adjust. Right hand = rear brakes. Enough said. (Hear is a picture of the offending pads)

Issue #3: Cracked Seat. I didn’t even notice this problem until someone pointed it out to me. My immediate thought was, “what’s all that extra material on the back part of the seat for? - clearly not necessary” However, over the past weeks, the crack has continued to grow…

Solution #3: Adjust. Sit a little more forward – a typical sprinter move – in a match sprint on the track you end up riding the nose of the saddle anyway…

Issue #4: Threadbare Tires: I only noticed this one because I was taking off my rear wheel to put it in the trunk of my car – apparently if you ride them enough, tires wear out.

Solution #4: Keep riding back to the car – I ride “run flat” heavy tubes on my training wheels, so no big deal if I get a flat.

Issue #5: A month or two ago I received an email from Ray Dybowski about inspecting your bike, and in particular, your cleats. A month later and in putting together this inventory, I actually looked at the bottom of my shoes and discovered this – half a cleat.

Solution #5: In this case, I was forced to admit that actual maintenance was required and I replaced this cleat. (As an aside, during the mid 90’s one of my shoes had a slightly loose cleat with stripped screws, and like a good sprinter I kept my pedal tension very tight.) The solution here was to leave my left shoe clipped to the pedal – in fact it stayed  on the bike for a 4 year period – until I replaced the bike.

Issue #6: Lately, when I’m in the big ring, but using a smaller gear, if I get out of the saddle, my chain will drop to the small ring without shifting. I used to think this was my bike flexing, but now, after experience with this, I realize it means my chain is worn out. Last season I broke two chains – one during a race.

Solution #6: I’ll have to replace the chain soon… and likely that will require a new cassette as well… instead, considering all these issues stacking up, there really is only one solution: a new bike.

My new Trek Madone 6.5 arrived a few weeks after I wrote this (last spring): complete with a new chain, cogs, seat, brakepads, and whatever else was about to go bad on my 5 year old Colnago. Problem solved.

Next Up: The Sprinter's Guide to "Kits" (that's Roadie for bike shorts/jerseys)

The Sprinter's Guide to Cycling Volume 4: Cold Weather Riding

Volume 4: The Sprinter’s Guide to Cold Weather Riding “I love to ride – as long as it is sunny, downhill and with a tailwind” – anonymous sprinter

Today in Chicago it was 53 degrees when I left work… and windy… and cloudy. Despite my bike being in the trunk and a reasonable departure time from work, I went straight home. No ride.

Machismo aside, lets face it, when it comes to riding in poor weather, sprinters are pansies. Here’s one sprinter’s guide to riding in less-than-optimal weather organized by temperature:

  • <20 degrees = no riding. I hate balaclavas and other than using chemical heating pads I’ve not found shoe insulators that would keep my toes warm below 20... in the sun. Spin bike in the basement here I come. Clothes: bike shorts, no shirt in the 50 degree basement
  • 20-32 degrees: Must be both of the following: sunny and no wind
  • Clothes: two cycling caps – one w/ ear covers, warm “3 finger” gloves, wicking t-shirt, thin under-armour type long underwear – tops and bottoms, full heavy bibs and heavy long sleeve jersey. Start w/ windbreaker and remove after 20 minutes.
  • 32 – 43 degrees: Must be at least one of the following – either sunny, or no wind
  • Clothes: Same as above if either cloudy or windy. If sunny and calm, same as above but no vest, only one hat, and no t-shirt.
  • 44 – 55 degrees: Can be cloudy and windy but I won’t like itClothes: Same as above if both cloudy or windy. If sunny and calm, knickers and long sleeve jersey, hat and light gloves. Remove hat after 20 minutes.
  • 55+ degrees: Riding in most conditions… except rain

Rain Rules: Never start a ride when it is raining. Turn around if it rains in the first 5 minutes. However, once warmed up, continue riding regardless of conditions (even thunderstorms, hail, tornados). For racing, if rain is 100% assured, just don’t go. If traveling less than 45 minutes, don’t register if it starts raining – go home. Otherwise, if you’ve traveled more than 45 minutes, or if it starts after you’ve registered, (grudgingly) race in the rain and complain bitterly after...

Next up: The Sprinter’s Guide to bike maintenance