Tuesday, May 27, 2014

TriTalk Tuesday - Bike Maintenance

Welcome to another edition of TriTalk Tuesday, my weekly link-up with Cynthia at You Signed Up For What and Courtney at The Trigirl Chronicles.  This week we are tackling a topic pretty near and dear to my heart - how to take care of your bike.  Why do I care so much?  Well, partially because my bikes (yes, plural) are some of my very favorite toys.  As I tell my kids on a near hourly basis, if you want to keep your toys you take care of them.  Growing up in a big biking family, there was always a lot of bike tinkering, bike washing, bike fixing, etc. going on.  At one point in his bachelorhood my older brother had ten bikes (mountain, cyclocross, road, fixer-uppers - they all had a purpose), the combined value of which was more than his car and all of his other worldly possessions.  My family all approved of this.  In fact, over the weekend I had eleven bike in my possession (one road bike and one mountain bike each for me and the Jedi, two too-small kid bikes, two correct-sized kid bikes, 2 trail-a-bikes, and my friend's bike).  I immediately texted my brother to brag that I had beat his record.  Ha!!  Ok but I'm getting off track here....

We teach bike maintenance at a young age

 1.  Keep your bike clean

That doesn't mean don't ride through puddles, etc. (doubly true for a mountain bike where mud is a sign of a bike being well played with).  What that means is make sure that you are washing down your bike on a regular basis.  If you have a bike stand like this one, great.  You can also use the rack of your car.  Hose it down, clean with mild soap and water, let dry.  The chain especially deserves extra attention, as the chain grease tends to trap grit and dust.  A dirty chain makes it hard to shift and is generally no good for the bike.  Soak it in a de-greaser (available at any bike store), let set, wipe off and relube with chain lube (also available at any bike store).  We recently got this little gizmo to clean our chains: the White Lightening Bike Chain Cleaner Kit.  Makes it so easy....  If you do use White Lightening be aware that it actually cleans while it lubricates, so let it dry for about 15-20 before you ride.  It'll flake off the junk as you ride and keep your chain cleaner.  No, I am not a spokesperson for White Lightening I just like it.....

Dirty chain --> White Lightening Cleaner Kit --> Happy Clean Chain!

 2.  Keep your tires properly pumped up

Again - my kids both know how to pump their tires.
We take this bizznus seriously

Another big one.  Riding on flat tires is not only bad for your bike, it's a lot harder on your muscles and can be really dangerous, especially for road and tri bikes.  Yet it amazes me how often riders (myself included) forget to check their tire pressure before heading out.  Know what kind of valves you have (Presta or Schrader), how to use them, make sure you have a standing pump (like the one in the picture above) to pump and measure your PSI, and carry a hand pump or CO2 cartridges.

3.  Don't ride cross-chained.

What that means is don't ride in the largest chain-ring on the front and largest gear on the back (or vice versa), such that your chain is diagonal and rubbing against your derailleur.  You'll hear your bike complaining.  Your bike has lots of gears for a reason - shift to a different one.  In a similar vein, if your bike is clicking away like someone stuck a playing card in your spokes and you are NOT cross chained, it's likely your front or rear derailleur needs to be adjusted back into alignment.  This is often an easy fix - tighten or loosen the screws in the derailleur with your multi-tool enough to move the cage back into alignment so the bike shifts smoothly.  You may need to play with it a little.

Me adjusting Gypsy's front derailleur during a recent ride

4.  Know how to fix a dropped chain BEFORE you get one

A dropped chain is the mechanical problem you're most likely to have in any ride.  It happened to me in my first triathlon and to my very deep embarrassment I had trouble remembering how to address the situation.  (I blame the brain cell that held that info being killed by lack of oxygen on the swim leg).  Check out this quick video then go try it yourself several times so you get the hang of it:

5.  Know how to fix a flat tire BEFORE you get one.

This is probably the second most likely problem to happen to you while out on a ride.  Whether you're in a race or just out on a long ride, it really stinks to have to call it quits.  Call the SAG wagon and have your bike split blown, or call your spouse for the walk of shame pick-up home.  So practice practice practice.  (And girls, if you haven't already done this to avoid ripping holes in your wetsuit, now is the time to cut your nails down short so you don't rip them off doing this).

The Cupcake Triathlete Family's Bike Repair Toolkit:

Italics means I carry it with me in saddlebag during races/training rides

  • Lotsa bikes.  Always want one more.....
  • Saddlebags in various sizes
  • Standing pump with pressure gauge
  • Hand pump for each bike (causal rides)
  • CO2 cartridges and applicator
  • Tire levers
  • Spare tubes, in correct size for bike
  • Patch kit
  • Multitool (we use the Alien brand but there are many)
  • Chain lube
  • Bike stand
  • Chain de-greaser
  • Handbar tape

If you are a family biker like me, I just have to plug that kids are never too young to start learning how to clean their own bikes, help pump tires, and generally take care of their two-wheel toys.  My kids have gone through a lot of bikes already (including the one that was left behind the car and driven over).  But it's a good skill to have.  You'll also get very good at fixing dropped chains while biking with children, and with cleaning chains, as kids will drop their bikes in sand chain-side-down faster than you can inhale to say "no!!!".  You may also become adept at adding streamers, horns, taking IPhone photos while biking (naughty), and keeping your balance while spinning in insanely low gears to pace your kiddo going 4 mph on his one-speed 12 inch bike.  If you're really crazy you will wear your Garmin and heart monitor while doing so and log in Training Peaks.  Dum dee dum dee dum.....  It's worth every mile.  Also, pulling bike trailers and most recently trail-a-bikes is fantastic resistance training.  Especially when your training buddy declines to pedal herself, and instead coasts the whole way and regales you with the full musical score of Frozen on your hour-long family ride.  I love my kids :)

So folks, dive in.  You own it, you ride it, now learn to take care of it.  The Bike Gods will punish you with flats and all other manner of difficulties when you least want them if you neglect your bike, and neglect to learn the skills necessary for basic fixes.  Also remember that your neighborhood bike mechanic is likely to be just about the friendliest guy you've ever met (heck, he works at a bike store of course he's happy!) and will be happy to tune up your ride and teach you anything else you need to know about it.  Don't be shy - get in there and get your hands dirty!

Do you talk triathlon on your blog? Link up with You Signed Up For WHAT?!The Cupcake Triathlete, and The TriGirl Chronicles on Tuesdays for Tri Talk! We’ll discover a new theme each week and talk about triathlon training, tips, and general chatter. Be sure to link to your specific post and not a general link to your blog so that your post can be found in the linkup archives. Links not triathlon-related will be deleted.  Since we all have races this coming weekend, next week's topic will be PRE-RACE JITTERS (COPING STRATEGIES, WHAT HAVE YOU...)


Courtney Fields said...

Awesome advice! I really need to practice fixing a dropped chain. I may have to put that on the training to do list for this weekend. I need all my mechanical know-how ducks in a row before IMCuse.

Anonymous said...

I only just discovered this link-up and am looking forward to joining in in future! I definitely was not going to join in with this one though as my knowledge of bike maintenance is pretty much nil.... fixing a flat, I know how to do it but somehow really struggle to actually get that tyre on and off. Cleaning the bike - I do quite often but never successfully!!! Your post was really helpful and when / if I have kids I'm going to make sure to get them involved!

Looking forward to next week's link-up :)

Cynthia @ You Signed Up For WHAT?! said...

Love all the advice - thanks! I am trying to get more confident with this stuff and need your expertise to rub off on me.

Gabi @ LeanGreenIslandGirl said...

I love that your kids know about bike maintenance! They're probably better at it than I was when I first started! Thanks for the dropped chain video! I always use my hands and get them all dirty, the stick is brilliant! We've been practicing using no more than 2 fingers, but I carry a glove with me too just in case.

Post a Comment