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Basic Bike Maintenance

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

As a triathlete, there are 1 million things to learn. 3 different sports, nutrition, products, gear, training and more! One of the biggest investments most athletes will make is in their bike. These bikes are extremely complex machines that have hundreds of little parts that all must work together perfectly in order for it to work. Keeping your bike up and running can be hard to do, but in this article we will cover some basic maintenance that you can do to keep it up and running!

Athletes practicing Bike Maintenance

Clean your drivetrain

When you are riding with your buddy, but you can't hold a conversation because the drivetrain on your bike is so loud, or your TV volume has to be on 50 just to hear your show, think back to the last time you cleaned or lubricated your chain. A lot of riders will bring their bikes in to the shop when it is making a ton of noise, but typically you just need to clean your drivetrain! This noise is not only annoying, but is actually wearing out your parts faster than they should be wearing out. You should be cleaning your drivetrain at least once a month, but it really depends upon where you ride, riding conditions, weather, etc. If your chain and cassette are losing their silver shine and starting to look black, it is time to clean!

What you need:

  • Rag

  • Toothbrush or bike brush

  • Bike chain cleaner / degreaser (could use dawn dish soap and water)

  • Appropriate bike chain lubricant (covered in next section)

First off, make sure you are not on your favorite light colored carpet for this. Outdoors or on a tile floor are the best places to clean your chain. If you must do it on a carpet, lay down a bunch of towels. You do not want to get bike grease on your carpets. Start by spraying down your chain, cassette, and chainrings with the degreaser. Take your toothbrush or bike brush and scrub both sides of the components. I start with the chain and scrub it section by section, then the cassette tooth by tooth, and then the chainring. Use plenty of degreaser. Once it is all scrubbed, use the rags to wipe off the grease. Spray off all of the degreaser with a hose or some water and scrub the remaining grease off the components. Allow the drivetrain to completely dry before the final and most important step, lubricating the chain.

Use the right lubricant for your riding conditions

There are so many lubes to choose from, so which one is right for your bike? While any lube is better than nothing, certain lubricants will last longer and be better on your components than others. The less friction you have in your drivetrain, the faster you ride and the longer your parts last! If you are planning on using an oil based lubricant, you want to choose a lubricant that matches your climate. For a dry climate, pick a dry lubricant. For a humid or wet climate, use a standard lubricant. Another option that tends to work better, but will be more expensive, is a wax-based lubricant. Wax will hold up better in all climates and last longer than a majority of the oil lubricants.

Personally, I use Squirt lubricant for day to day riding. It works for all conditions, and holds up for a few long rides before the need to reapply. For race days, Ceramicspeed makes a UFO Drip wax lubricant that does an incredible job of reducing friction and lasting for a long time, however, it comes at an extremely high price.

A few recommendations on brands and Lubricants:

Dry Lube: Muc Off C3 Ceramic Dry Lube

Wet Lube: Rock-N-Roll Gold

Wax: Squirt or squirt e-bike lube for wet conditions

Oil: Dumondetec

Race: Ceramicspeed UFO

How to apply: Put one drop on the inside of each chain roller. Go around the entire chain and let it dry. If it has been a while, I would go around again and apply a second coat. The bottle will specify if they want you to wipe off excess, each brand has it's own preferences on that.

Apply lubricant every 3-5 rides at least. Cleaning the drivetrain every 5 applications or so.

Wash your bike after dirty rides

After long rides in a little drizzle, when you get home your bike is bound to be a mess. The road contains lots of different minerals. None of these are nice on your bike. It is important to wash these off your bike before they can chemically react and create rust. Taking some bike cleaner or even just a hose and washing your bike can help your components last much longer. Not only will this prevent rust, but it will rid your drivetrain of any sand or dirt in your drivetrain which will break down your bike parts substantially faster than normal wear and tear.

Know your riding tire pressure

Riding at the wrong pressure can wear your tires out much faster than usual, and make your ride miserable. It can also rattle a lot of things loose throughout the bike. For the most accurate tire pressure calculator, check out this SRAM Tire Pressure Guide

Most athletes ride at far too high of a tire pressure. Most athletes will fall somewhere between 65 and 90 PSI. If you are pumping up over 100, you're riding too high of pressure! Studies have found that lowering your PSI changes the layout of your contact patch between your tire and the ground, but does not alter your rolling resistance. Lower pressure will also reduce the vibration in your legs throughout the ride and keeping your legs primed for a good run.

Cyclist riding bike

Learn to fix a flat

What do you do when you hit that rock, or glass on the side of the road and feel your tire go flat? If your answer is anything other than change your flat tire, this part is for you! Changing a tire is an easy thing to learn, and a crucial skill to have as a cyclist. How would you feel if you spent an entire year training for your full distance tri, you purchased all of the equipment needed, paid your race entry, flew to the race, got a hotel, and part way through your ride your journey ends because you got a flat tire and can't change it. Changing your tire can take as little as 90 seconds, but even 12 minutes for a slow change, over the course of a 17 hour race, is not the end of the world.

We will be uploading a video on how to change a tire, with all of our tips and tricks, but a Youtube search will bring up lots of great how-to videos of tire changes. My recommendation is to practice at home, when you have all of the time in the world, and there is no pressure on you. While you watch TV or a movie, change your tire a few times. Do this once or twice per week until you are comfortable, and you will be more than ready should you need this skill.

cyclist changing tire

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