Nery Guardado’s long tenure in the sport has given him a wealth of knowledge and valuable tips that he passes along from behind the service desk.

The veteran bike mechanic at Triathlon Lab shares his top tips.

Many pros and age-groupers alike come to Triathlon Lab in Redondo Beach, Calif., to see one man: Nery Guardado. In his 28-year career as a bike mechanic, Guardado has personally built and serviced bikes for road cycling legends Greg Lemond and Eddy Merckx as well as tri stars like Hillary Biscay, Terenzo Bozzone, Emma-Kate Lidbury and Chris McCormack. His expertise is so trusted, pros have been known to call him from overseas for crucial mechanical advice before a big race. Guardado’s long tenure in the sport has given him a wealth of knowledge and valuable tips that he passes along from behind the service desk.

Don’t neglect the (right) details. “So many people complain that their shifting is bad and needs adjusting, but usually it’s a lack of chain lube,” says Guardado, who only uses the brand Squirt Lube on his chains. “So many people use WD-40, which dries up very fast and doesn’t work well at all.” Guardado warns that while a poorly maintained or rarely replaced chain can easily break and end a racer’s day, he still sees triathletes worrying more about their Garmin recording accurate splits than maintaining their bikes.

Understand that fast bikes can be high maintenance. “The hardest bike I’ve ever built was a Cannondale Slice RS,” recalls Guardado of the bike that was eventually recalled by Cannondale for brake assembly issues. “The rear brake was incredibly high, and it was not a friendly bike for mechanics at all.” Guardado also warns that while proprietary brakes, integrated bars and stems can be aero, they take a very special touch to service—often impossible for even experienced home mechanics.

Keep it clean, folks. “Men are the worst about leaving their bikes disgusting when they bring them in,” admits Guardado, who often has to don surgical gloves for the task. “Women usually wipe them down.” Aside from grossing out the mechanic, he warns that drippy aero drink bottles and other nutritional remnants can severely impact steering and braking. Guardado’s secret to removing funky top tube gunk? “I use ProGold bike wash mixed with warm water on a rag.” For the worst cases, he recommends letting the rag soak on the offending grime for an hour.

Think outside the box. “I had a customer who was in a motorcycle accident and didn’t have much strength in his left hand, so he asked to put both shifters/brake levers on the right side of his road bike,” Guardado remembers. “We put one STI hood where it normally goes and the other one a few inches down on the same side of the drop bars.” Though it looked strange, Guardado says the customer was thrilled with the result, proving that a great mechanic can do almost anything.