Tri troubles – Gulf news – Jan 15

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The original article can be found here – Gulf News 

So you are hitting all of your training goals, smashing personal bests and destroying your local Strava segments. You are as at home in the water as an otter and have been issued speeding tickets whilst on your morning run. But one thing could be holding you back. It is the most common mistake of the triathlete and one which can end your race in an instant. The problem is bicycle maintenance. So simple, so why are there so many people getting it wrong?

Whilst the cycling leg of a triathlon is completed using your body, you will not get far without your trusty steed. When swimming running or cycling, the more you train the stronger you get. Only with cycling, however, does the tool degrade in such a way that it can counter all of your hard work.

Imagine exiting the water in first place, the thrill you feel as the crowd cheers your ascent up the beach. You complete transition in the blink of an eye and are feeling great as you start the bike leg only to break a spoke or chain 10km into your ride. With “no outside assistance” rulings in lots of events, this would be the end of your race. If only you had cared for your bike as well as you had cared for your body, you would be stepping onto the top of the podium to receive the praise of your peers. Like a chain, you are only as strong as your weakest link, so what can you do to stop your bike from stopping you.

Firstly we need to look at some common mistakes made by triathletes to understand why we should be caring for the bike better.

The Chain
The chain comes in at number one because it seems to be a minefield of errors. Too little lubricant and your bike will squeak noisily with every pedal stroke. The chain will also wear rapidly causing not only an expense but a loss of up to 9 watts! Too much lube and you will have a black mess which attracts sand like a magnet. This will also cause premature wear and can lead to an entire drivetrain needing to be changed. This over-lubing will drip onto your rims causing bad braking performance and possibly damage to your rear wheel. In the worst cases, you will see a permanent black mark on the inside of the riders right calf. (the dreaded 4th category tattoo in road cycling)

2. Your Tyres
Training lots is a great way to become stronger, but always keep track of tyre wear. Tyres have a lifespan of as little as 1500 km depending on the model you choose. Indoor training is particularly bad for your rubber as the rollers get hot causing the tyres to literally melt. Tyre choice alone can make a difference of up to 20 watts, so riding a worn tyre could be worth twice that.

3. Sweat-Rust
When you ride hard you sweat, this is normal and cannot be stopped. Your beautiful carbon bike has many steel bolts in and around the handlebar area which can become weakened by salt water causing rust to form. Your armrests and handlebar tape will also retain this sweat causing a sticky or smelly mess. A broken bolt can end a race very quickly so beware.

4. Gear and Brake Cables
Time can make fools of us all and with the slow degrading performance of your brakes and gear cables (due to rust or dirt,) it can be difficult to notice when they are in need of attention. In the worst case, on race day you cannot select the necessary gear and have to struggle with the few working ones. Brakes can become so hard to pull that it becomes a strain on your arms.

5. Repair Skills
Can you repair a tube should you need to? Do you even carry a spare tubular tyre? What about that toolkit you carry, do you actually know how to use any of the parts inside? You are your own pit crew in cases of emergency. Just because you have the correct tool, that doesn’t mean you are out of danger.

So here are my tips to avoid a ruined race day or training session. Get into the habit of doing these things and they will become second nature.

Never apply lube to a dirty chain, lube your chain only after washing it.
5-10 droplets of chain lube are enough, wipe the excess from the outer links as you are only trying to lube the inner sections.
Find and check your tyre’s wear indicator marks every ride.
Replace tyres as often as is necessary and don’t be cheap as you get what you pay for.
After a sweaty session, wipe the sweat from your bike with a wet cloth to remove the damaging salt. Dry your bike with a rag before storing it.
Look at your bike from all angles, know it. By doing this you will notice possible problems such as rust before they become a problem.
Check the brakes and gears on other bikes, whether it’s your friend’s or new bikes. This will highlight the wear on your cables.
Book a service at least twice a year, you may not notice problems but the professionals will.
Practice the common repairs that you will need to know. chain, tyre, tube.
Watch Youtube repair guides and pause/repeat.

If you don’t have the time for all this then I suggest skipping a training session where possible to fit in some training of a different sort which may just make all the difference.

Good Luck