Bike Race Prep

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  The same holds true for prepping your bike before the big race.  It takes a lot less effort and is a lot less stressful inspecting and fixing your bike well before the race, than right before the start.  It also may prevent you from having to walk the bike back to the finish or transition area.  So do your bike prep well before race day!

Ongoing Upkeep.  The first and best type of prep you can do is proper ongoing maintenance.  A bike is like a car, in that proper ongoing maintenance can help prolong the life of its components and help them perform better over the long run.  Keep the bike components clean and free from dirt and grime.  Keep the components that need it properly greased and/or oiled. 

Tire Pressure.  One of the easiest things to forget, but one of the most important to remember is to make sure your tire pressure matches that listed on the sidewall of your tire.  Over time, all tires loose pressure, so this one can be easy to miss--especially if it's a gradual loss in pressure. 

If the pressure is too low, you risk putting a hole in your tire during the race by pinching it on a pothole or large bump in the road.  Not as severe, but also damaging to your race is the fact that you also rob yourself of precious minutes and energy by making yourself work harder than necessary.  As discussed in the Wind & Rolling Resistance Archive lower tire pressure increases your rolling resistance and makes you go slower.  So check the tire pressure and make sure it matches the pressure listed on the tire's sidewall!

Tune Up.  If you are good with a bike do it yourself, if not, take it somewhere.  However you do it, tune up your bike a few days before the race and test it out.  You want your bike to be 'tight'.  Gears should shift smoothly and quickly (test them all--they all should work well).  Brakes should effectively stop you (both brakes).  Rims should be true and not rubbing on the brake pads.  Rattles should be gone.  The results of a bike that is not properly tunes up are obvious--a chain that falls off or gets jammed between the frame, a hairpin turn that causes you to bite it because you cannot slow down properly, handlebars that are loose and stop pointing straight halfway through the race, or even an annoying rattle that makes you want to kill someone by the time you get off the bike are only a few of the results--so get your bike tuned up!

Lighten Your Load.  For those of you using a recreational bike or any type of bike that gets used for anything other than racing only, make sure to give you bike a once over for any thing that your bike could do without on the race.  A lighter bike is a faster bike (see Wind & Rolling Resistance Archive

If the race is a daytime race, you can rip off all those reflectors splattered all over your bike (just remember to put them back on after the race).  Racks, lock holders, bells, horns, pinwheels, flags, etc., etc. all can come off and should come off for the race if you are concerned with speed.  Even extra water bottle holders can be ejected if water is provided on the course.  A bottle of water can weigh a ton!

Seat Position.  Many people recommend that triathletes move the seat forward on the rails in order to allow the athlete to use more of the front part of their leg, thereby making the transition to run easier on the legs.  We don't necessarily agree with that stance.  We recommend putting the seat where you are most comfortable and where your pedaling is most efficient--regardless of whether or not you are doing a tri (see Seat Placement).

Misc.  Some other good tips are;

  • Try not to borrow someone else's bike, since the bike probably won't fit properly and you will not be comfortable with it.
  • Practice changing a flat and fixing other problems.  Bring a spare pump, repair kit, and Allen wrenches to the race in case any last minutes problems arise.
  • Know your bike.  Knowing how your bike works will help you keep it working well and help you fix any problems that arise.

Keeping all of these handy dandy tips in mind before you head out for the race should help to prevent those preventable problems from ruining all that training!