Lyndsey Brandon and Mark Trzeciak try to free a seized seatpost.
This bike was in serious need of pre-race attention.
It's the Wednesday before the big race.
You've put in the long rides and runs, honed your nutrition
plan, made your hotel reservations and bought your plane
ticket. You've done the taper and now you're ready to
Race day comes and half way through the
bike you're right where you want to be. Heart rate low,
weather good, all your food is going down well and you
feel strong. It's all coming together. This is it; it's
your day. You're finally going to pull off the big one.
Then you get a flat. After fifteen
minutes of struggling you manage to get it changed and
you're back on the road. Then your gears start to act
up. Your bike doesn't want to shift. It feels like it's
slipping. For every three shifts you make it's only shifting
once. Then your derailleur lets go and shifts all the
way down to your hardest cog. On a hill.
This fork broke after a customer failed to notice a small
Close inspection after washing is critical not only to perfromance
but also safety.
Your race is over. For want of a $35 tire,
a $35 chain and a $4 derailleur cable you've wasted hours
of training, weekends of long rides, hundreds (even thousands)
on air fare and hotels.
Frayed cable ends like this contribute to mysterious shifting
prblems and can slip during a race.
For the price of a $4 cable, housing and installation your
race can be saved.
If only you had your bike tuned up before
the big race. Really tuned up.
During the Tour de France mechanics lavish
mechanical care on the bikes. Lance Armstrong's bike gets
new tires every two days and a new chain every five days.
His handlebar tape is replaced daily by USPS Team mechanics.
Every single day his bike is washed and inspected, degreased
and re-lubed. His bike is maintained like a high end Formula
One car. That's the way it should be, and your bike should
be close to that.
Cuts in tire casings are often difficult to find but can
result in flats during a race.
It pays to race onfresh tires and tubes. It's cheap insurance.
While it isn't necessary to replace a chain every week
or tires every two days, after a long summer of training
your bike is in desperate need of serious maintenance.
Ironically, after preparation for the fall Ironman season
athletes' bikes are generally in the worst condition they
have been all year. Components like brake pads, wheels,
chains, tires, rim strips, bar tape, brake and derailleur
cables are heavily worn and in need of replacement. Drivetrains
are caked with dirty lubricants and dirt has found its
way into everything. You know that gritty feeling you
have on your skin when you return from a long ride? It
goes away on you after you shower. On your bike it just
gets dragged into your cables and housing, increasing
wear and slowing cable actuation.
Bike frames are optimized for ultra-light weight, not durability.
Small cracks can begin on the inside and spread rapidly
We've been doing pre-race maintenance on
triathlon and racing bicycles for 18 years in the U.S.
and around the world. Our guys have maintained thousands
of bikes for hundreds of Ironman competitors. We've serviced
bikes for the World Championships- many of them, the Olympic
Triathlon, National Championships, and local events. We've
done on-site tech support for triathlons and seen first
hand what athletes' bikes need before race day and what
to look for in bikes that have had a hard summer racing
and getting ready for the big one.
This is what you need to do, and what we
do for a pre race tune-up:
Inspect the Bike.
While the bike is still dirty we examine entry and exit
points for all cables. We look at the parts of the frame
and fork where cracks can start. Check the tires for cuts
and wear, the brakes for alignment and the overall condition
of the cables. We look at accumulation of sports drink
residue (it can be corrosive) at frame joints and cable
Wash the Bike.
One of the most critical parts of pre-race maintenance.
The bike needs to start the tune-up absolutely spotless.
After applying biodegradable degreaser we wash the entire
bike. Following the wash we expel the water from cables
and drivetrain by cycling the bike through its gears and
taking it for a quick ride. This also serves as a diagnosis
for shifting and braking. It is not unusual for th bike
to perform worse after being washed. Once the sticky,
adhesive residue of dirty lubricant is removed from the
drivetrain it often doesn't hold gears well and the chain
may skip forward or from cog to cog under pedal force.
Bottom brackets and cranks can suddenly become noisy and
make creaking sounds.
Biodegradeable degreaser loosens caked-on sports drink residue
and contaminated chain lube.
The importance of washing a bike before
a pre-race tune-up is that it reveals hidden mechanical
problems, including frame and rim cracks. Every year we
discover potentially serious safety hazards on frames
that customers though were safe to ride. Remember; racing
equipment is optimized to be as light as possible. Remember
when you bought your bike and you kept asking, "How
light is this?" Bikes are built to be light, there
is no extra material. When small cracks start they spread
rapidly, sometimes from the inside out. Failures occur
suddenly and with no warning. They can not only end your
race but result in serious injury or worse.
Scrubbing braking surfaces with a Scotch-Brite pad improves
braking performance even in wet weather.
Once the mechanic completes the bike wash
and drivetrain degrease they can see exactly what they
are dealing with.
This is when we can really see what we are dealing with.
Mechanics examine the entire frame and fork, top and bottom,
rims, wheels, tires, brake pads, chain, cogs, chainrings,
cables, cable stops, housings, saddle rails, seatpost
clamps and all weight bearing components.
Worn components are replaced.
If tires are suspect they are replaced and internal rim
strips are inspected. When brake pads are more than 50%
worn they are replaced. Tires with cuts are replaced.
Inner tubes and rim strips are inspected. Cogs and chains
may need to be replaced. Cables with frayed ends are replaced
and housings are cleaned and lubed or completely replaced.
New cable housings are cut to precise length (including
flight case packing length). Interiors of cable housings
are lubed and exterior of cables are lubed. Cable housing
ends are throated, ground perpendicular and smooth and
throated again for perfect fit and minimal compression.
We avoid using Gore Ride-On, Teflon coated or other "slick"
cables since they can break down more easily inside housings
and ruin shifting and braking. We recommend genuine Shimano,
Campagnolo or Quality brand stainless steel inner cables
and only Shimano compressionless, Campagnolo or Quality
brand derailleur and brake cable housings. The cost of
replacement parts can range from $30-$50 or more depending
on what is required. Once all wear components are replaced
then the bike is:
Completely tuned up.
When all the worn out equipment is replaced and the new
cables, chain, tires and cogs are in place the bike can
be tuned. Limit screws for derailleurs are checked so
shifters will not push the derailleurs into the spokes
off the easy cog or between the cassette and the frame
dropouts. Dirt being washed from limit screws can frequently
change their adjustment. Cable lengths are check and cable
tension is established. New tires are brought up to race
pressure and double checked to confirm they will hold
air. Valve stems are checked to be sure the tires can
be aired before the race. Shifting and braking are checked
Depending on what kind of race it is, where it is and
what the weather is likely to be we may use different
lubes. On bikes we prepared for the Raid Gauloises in
Vietnam we used a thick, tenacious lubricant that would
not easily wash off. On bikes for the Hawaii Ironman we
use a lighter lube that can still withstand air transport
(cold temperatures) and a sudden, drenching tropical rain.
For events like Ironman Lake Placid or Ironman Wisconsin
we are using a lighter lubricant that allows the chain
to move easily and rapidly from cog to cog since there
will be a lot of shifting and most of our customers do
not have to travel far to reach these events. The inside
of the chain links are lubricated at the bottom of the
rotation, not the outside- so centrifugal force drives
the chain lube into the chain, not splatters it all over
the rest of the bike. Excess lube is carefully removed
after all metal on metal contact points are lubed.
Dirty, caked on lubricants cause sticky shifting and accelerated
This drivetrain is filthy and needs to be degreased, cleaned
Even if the bike is being disassembled for flight-casing
it is checklisted prior to disassembly. For bikes that
travel to the race intact inside a vehicle (hopefully
never on a car rack outside the vehicle) this is also
critical. Every bolt is checked for adequate torque. This
is especially important on weight bearing components such
as seatpost binder bolt, handlebar stem and steer tube
clamp bolts, crank bolts, pedals and chainring bolts.
Front derailleur problems are often the result of loose
crank bolts or chainring bolts that have vibrated loose
during long training rides.
Small tears and cracks in metal surfaces can mean big problems
on race day.
In the 1986 Hawaii Ironman I broke a spoke at mile 108 on
The bike is checklisted from to back in
the stand before it goes to the next step.
Since we have all raced at Bikesport we know what is expected
of a bike during an event. We test ride the bike on the
flats and up a steep hill (the four story parking garage
ramp behind our store is an excellent test track). We
cycle the bike through every possible gear combination
including crossover gears. We try to drop the chain. We
try to get it mis-shift. We pound the cranks to get the
creaking noise. Once everything is perfect the mechanic
signs off on the bike and now it is ready to race.
Perspiration and sports drink residue are highly corrosive
and can cause bolts to strip and fail without warning.
Everything on the bike needs to be cleaned and inspected.
Pre race Tune-ups start at $75 not
including parts and parts installation. A 6% shop fee
covers degreaser, shop towels, lube, sponges and other
cleaning supplies. Pleas allow adequate time for pre-race