The Basics of Bike Maintenance for Triathletes
Triathletes spend endless hours and dollars on their bodies, but sometimes neglect equipment basics. The bike however, is the most sophisticated apparatus in a triathlete’s arsenal and as such, knowing how to address issues as they arise can make a world of difference between an incredible split and precious time wasted. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of the four essentials every athlete should know how to do on their bike.
The chain essentially acts as the heart of the drivetrain on a bike. It works in motion while under pressure from your bodyweight. All athletes should lube their chain on race morning as a part of their final preparation as a dry chain can cause premature wear or even catastrophic failure.
How to: Bottles of chain lubricant usually provide instructions. Lubricants are often placed into several different categories such as dry, ceramic, etc. I personally like to use a combination of lubes for different purposes and in doing so I like to keep track of them using various apps I find on this nifty website called Tech-recipes.com. In addition, always remember to wipe off any excess lube from the chain with a rag.
Fix a Flat
Race day is not the best time to practice changing a tire for the first time. You can learn to sharpen your tire-swapping skills using several different sessions long before race day. Grab a group of friends and head into the garage for a ‘fix-a-flat’ session. After several rounds of practice, you can up the ante with a friendly competition, the last one to successfully change a tire buys the first round of post-race brew.
How to: Remove the wheel from the bike. Remove the tube from the tire using a tire lever to pry the tire off the rim. Slowly run your fingers through the tire to check for any object that might cause a flat. Install the new tube and remount the tire. Inflate the tube using a pump or CO2 cartridge. Reinstall the wheel on the bike and give it a spin to make sure it’s straight, with no rubbing from the brakes.
Knowledge of the Valve Stems
It doesn’t matter how good you are at changing a tire if you don’t have the right tube or valve stem for the wheels you are riding. In many cases, athletes use a special set of wheels during race day only and as such if you fall into this category it is important to be familiar with the length of the valve stem and whether a valve stem extender is a necessity to fix a flat.
How to: Read the specifications before leaving the bike shop where you purchase or rent your wheels. By knowing the correct size, you’ll be able to purchase the proper back-up tube and or valve extender.
Remount Dropped Chain
Far too many riders, particularly in Ironman events across North America are left stranded on the side of the road with a simple situation of a dropped chain. While it may seem like an easy fix, being self-sufficient in handling the problem will get you back on the road quickly.
How to: Grab the chain and place it back on the chain ring. Freewheel the chain to ensure movement flows in a normal rhythm before mounting your bike.
While keeping in tip top shape is the most important factor for a triathlete, being armed with basic mechanic knowledge of your equipment goes some distance in helping you to have a successful race day.