You’ve got your races planned out. You’ve been training hard and are ready to go….but is your bike? We often get wrapped up in our training schedules, work schedules, and vacation schedules and sometimes forget to take care of our bike. Our shop does mechanical support for several big rides each year. And at each event I see things that would have ruined the ride had we not been there with a van full of parts on the side of the road….so please, read on!
Cleats are a big one that people forget to check periodically. Take those smelly shoes of yours and turn them over and give those cleats some attention for once. Look for signs of your cleats wearing out. Better yet, take them to your bike shop and let them look at your cleats with you. Look at the heads of your screws. If they are thin (this mostly occurs on Speedplay cleats), they might break off under a heavy load which means you’re most likely coming out of the pedal at that point. If the plastic edges of your cleats are worn thin (mostly on Shimano or Look style cleats), then you might have trouble clipping in. The thin plastic will bend and fold over instead of clipping in. You might also come unclipped as the thin plastic gives way. Even if your cleats aren’t worn out….there’s an overwhelming chance that one of your screws is loose. Check them…I dare you. See what you find. Please be careful when checking Speedplay cleats for loose screws…..they are designed to not be tightened down as a traditional screw would be….if you’re not knowledgeable on them, please have your shop check them with you.
Tires are often overlooked as well. In a perfect world I would have all my customers look their tires over carefully before each ride. I realize that probably isn’t going to happen, but it should happen before a big event! Just slowly rotate each wheel around and look the tread over closely for large cuts or thread-bare patches. It doesn’t hurt to check the sidewalls for tears as well. I’m amazed at how many people come in to the shop for something simple and how often I find their back tire is worn to the threads and they have no idea. It won’t take you but a minute or two to look them over. Tiny cuts and holes aren’t necessarily bad, but big ones are! If you are questioning, put a new one on and save the old one for your trainer in the winter.
Cables are probably one of the harder problems to spot. A cable that has been shifted a bunch (I don’t really have a good scientifically produced number….I’m guessing several hundred times if not a thousand) have a tendency to fray inside the shifter and eventually sever entirely. If this happens, it will probably leave you in your hardest gear and with a mess of small cable fragments inside your shifter (an event that is about as exciting as a nose bleed in a white shirt). We try and check the rear shift cable (the rear shift cable gets used grossly more than the front) inside the shifter on bikes that come in for repair. This involves creating slack in the cable and exposing the head of the cable so we can see the first inch of the cable where it is most likely to break. If you ride a good bit and you haven’t had that checked in a year or more….you should. This goes for traditional road bike shifters as well as time-trial bikes.
Rims often have cracks in them that are waiting to break open as well. This isn’t nearly as common, but it wouldn’t hurt to look your back wheel over near the nipple eyelets to look for tiny cracks. The back wheel has all your weight on it and receives most of the punishment, but the front is seldom damaged. You’ve been putting in lots of time training. You’ve probably paid money to do these events. Don’t let a little bit of neglect ruin all that. Take your bike in and have your shop look it over with you. If you can’t trust your shop to go over the bike and give you an honest evaluation, then you should find a different shop. It is very hard to catch all of these things all the time, but if you and they are on the look-out, then you’ll be better prepared. Most shops will do a free estimate/evaluation with you and then you can decide what you want done. Don’t put all that training and time you’ve invested at risk by not looking after your trusty steed! Try and be proactive and don’t wait to the last minute to have your bike looked at. Shops during the Spring and Summer are often booked out 1 to 3 weeks.
Chet Johnson is the Service Manager at abike store in Columbus, Ohio. Chet specializes in performance bikes and triathlon bikes.