Rookie In Training: Bike Maintenance

You keep your cycling kit clean, right? And your helmet and sunglasses? Shoes? Your bike, however, is a different story.

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Every Wednesday in “Rookie in Training,” beginner triathlete Jason Devaney will share training advice he learns as he trains for his first half-Ironman.

You keep your cycling kit clean, right? And your helmet and sunglasses? Shoes?

Most likely, your answers to these questions are yes. Your bike, however, is a different story.

It’s amazing how many dirty bikes I see when I’m out on the road. Whether it’s a $6,000 road bike, a top-end triathlon rig or an entry-level setup, there’s a common theme out there: A grimy chain and drivetrain, dead bugs on the frame (and sometimes the cassette, especially if your bike travels on top of your car), and that squeaking noise that means your chain is in dire need of some lube.

Believe me, I used to be one of those guys: The one with a filthy bike and a chain that would always leave a black temporary tattoo on my right calf.

Not only does it look amateur, it’s bad for your bike. And that, in turn, is bad for your performance.

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Having a clean drivetrain is very important. When there’s dirt and gunk stuck in your chain, on the gears and on your derailleurs, things don’t run as smoothly. It’s also harder to turn over the pedals. The bike won’t shift as smoothly and the chain will wear quicker.

Once a week or so, I scrub my bike completely clean. If you have a workstand, set it up outside. If you don’t have one of those, two climbing blocks work well—just be sure to keep an eye (and a hand) on the bike, as the scrubbing could knock it over.

Here’s a good video that shows exactly what to do. Hose everything down, use some type of brush and degreaser to clean the chain, gears and derailleurs (don’t forget the pulley wheels on the rear one), rinse again, scrub the entire bike with soap and water, rinse again, dry and then re-lube the chain.

This will keep your bike looking and feeling new. And you won’t get those annoying chain tattoos anymore.

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If you don’t already, always fill your tires before every ride. The tires and/or tubes will naturally lose air. And if you ride clincher tires and your air pressure is lower than it should be, this could lead to a pinch flat.

Here’s my pre-ride routine when it comes to my tires: Open up the valve, let out a quick burst of air, hook up the pump, and start filling. Tire pressure varies from person to person depending on your comfort level. I fill my tires on the higher end, about 115 PSI.

Your tires will naturally wear as you ride, so have your bike shop look at them before the start of each season to make sure they’re in good shape.

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A few other things to keep in mind when it comes to maintaining your bike:

– Brake and shifter cables will wear out, and sometimes break. My fiancé learned this the hard way last weekend. We were on a ride with a friend of ours when she yelled to us that she couldn’t shift. We pulled off the road and a closer inspection revealed a broken rear shifter cable. Luckily we were able to save the shifter so all that was needed was a new cable. The lesson: Have your cables replaced once a year, at the end of each season. If one breaks in the middle of your race, your day is probably over.

– Brake pads also wear out. The last thing you want to happen is having your brake pads fail on a fast descent. Stay ahead of it by keeping an eye on their thickness. When they start to get thin, have your local shop take a look and replace the pads as needed.

– Replace your bar tape once in a while; this is one of the best ways to make your bike feel new. I recently had a new wrap put on my bike and the difference is incredible.

Follow these simple guidelines and your bike will ride like new … and, more importantly, it will look better than everyone else’s.

Jason Devaney is a freelance contributor to, and A resident of Virginia, he spends way too much of his free time training. When he’s working, he’s typically dressed in either sweatpants or a cycling kit. Follow him on Twitter @jason_devaney1.

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