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Make your race travel seamless this season with savvy bike know-how.
I always advise my Colorado-based Ironman athletes to target a late-summer goal race, such as Ironman Wisconsin, Canada or Louisville. But before we get to that “A” race, we take a 10-hour team road trip to Lubbock, Texas, for the Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs Lake for some “away game” practice.
In addition to having the chance to test their midseason fitness, there are myriad other reasons for getting a quality travel experience prior to your Ironman or late-season goal race. Here are some tips to help make your race travel go smoothly this season.
RELATED: How to Pack a Bike Box for Travel
Traveling with the bike
Nothing strikes fear into a triathlete’s heart more than the thought of your sleek, sexy tri bike lying disassembled in your hotel room as the deadline for bike drop-off ticks closer and closer. Avoid this stressful scenario by visiting your bike shop for a pre-race tune-up, and when you pick it up, ask the mechanic to show you the simple and effective steps for disassembling and reassembling the bike when using a travel case. Pro tip: Show up with a bag full of freshly baked cookies or a six-pack of good beer, and most shop techs will gladly spend the extra time with you.
Check these five key components to ensure your ride is fully race ready:
Tires: Look for clear signs of wear, like visible threads showing through, and replace them immediately. Consider changing out your tires every 500–700 miles, regardless of wear, as it is definitely an area where it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Bolts: Test and tighten bolts that tend to loosen with road vibration, such as bottle cages and bar- and saddle-mounted accessories. Then ask your shop for some guidance with the more delicate parts such as your stem, handlebars, seat post or anything carbon. Consider carryng an inexpensive tool, such as the Ritchey 5Nm torque wrench ($20, Ritcheylogic.com), to help save several hundred dollars in potential damage due to over-tightening.
Brake pads: Check for signs of wear or ask your shop to check them for you, and replace before you really need to. Be sure to switch out your standard pads, which are likely designed for metal braking surfaces only, whenever using carbon race wheels.
Shifting: Watch an instructional video at Triathlete.com/rearderailleur to see how to adjust your rear derailleur. Most larger races will have a shop tent at both the expo and race venue, and they are usually happy to help dial in a poorly shifting bike due to travel.
Wheels: Nothing will slow you down or annoy you more during the bike leg than a wheel that is out of true. Pick up an $8 Park Tool spoke wrench, and ask your shop for some basic instructions on how to use it for minor adjustments.
Preparing for race day
Your last two pre-race bike workouts should look like this:
3 days out from race day: Warm up for 10 min, then do 3×5 min at race effort and in race position (two min easy between each). Then cool down for 10 min.
Day before the race: Ride for no more than 10–15 min with the simple goal of ensuring the bike is 100 percent sound and ready to go. Run through all the gears, do a bit of hard braking, then do a very short climb out of the saddle, listening for any loud creaking or other concerning noises. Get any mechanical problems addressed immediately, then drop off your bike with confidence.
RELATED: Packing Tips For Your Next Destination Race
Need help packing your bike?
Avoid the need to take your bike apart by using a concierge service like Pro Bike Express (Probikeexpress.com) or TriBike Transport (Tribiketransport.com). They’ll pick your bike up at your local shop, or even your home, and have it fully assembled and ready for you only a few steps away from the transition area. The luxury of handing off your bike after the race and forgetting about it until you get home is worth the fee (typically in the $200–$300 range) for many.
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