How many of you hop on your bike and just go for a ride? While this is ok most of the time, I'm here to remind you to show your bike a little love, TLC, and attention before you head out.
Last week, my husband and I decided to go for a bike ride. We got all decked out in our Spandex-best and went into the garage to roll out our bikes. I added a little air to my tires and plunged my hands into my shoes to make sure no critters had taken up residence. (I had an incident last year where I had a tickle on my toe for my entire ride, and when I pulled my shoe off my foot, the spider living in my shoe came out too!)
I gave my bike a quick once-over. My husband then chuckled and said, "Wow, I've never seen a tire do THAT!" The top layer of his tire had basically started to peel away in several locations. To make things even more ridiculous, he'd been riding a few days a week and hadn't noticed. Admittedly, this tire is ANCIENT - possibly more than ten years old. We decided the decade-old tire needed to be changed, delaying our ride by about 15 minutes.
Sometimes the Army and triathlon worlds collide in my life. This is one of those times. The Army has a program called PMCS - Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services. Any time you take a piece of equipment out to use, you go through this PMCS checklist. I saw many soldiers not take it seriously with little consequence. Still, sometimes brakes locked up, tires went flat immediately, oil ended up being low, and a host of other problems.
Here's the bottom line: If we take the time to give our equipment a hard look over before we head out, we can potentially eliminate many issues later.
Let's take a look at the bike and its associated equipment. For our bike PMCS, we should look at the following items:
Helmet - check for cracks. Make sure all attachment points inside the helmet are secure.
Shoes - check inside for critters (see spider story above). Check screws attaching your clips (I've had a shoe detach from the clip during spin class due to a loose screw).
Sunglasses - are they CLEAN?
Body of the bike - no cracks or significant dings? Is it relatively clean?
Brakes - can you see space between the pads and your rims or pads and disc (no rubbing)? Do you have an appropriate amount of brake pad, or is it time to replace them?
Are your skewers tightened appropriately? Tight enough to keep your wheel on but not so tight that you can't loosen it if you have a flat?
Are your rims in good shape? No major dings or spokes flying free? Is the pressure valve tightened appropriately to the wheel? Do they spin freely with no wobble?
Are your tires in good shape? Nothing poking out of them? No dry rot? No peeling? Are they inflated to the appropriate PSI?
Saddle - is it secure (screws tightened appropriately)? Is it in good condition? (If you have a noseless saddle, check to make sure the rails are still even).
Handlebars - are they tightened appropriately to the bicycle? (Sounds silly, but I had a friend once race with loose handlebars - she was trying to hold the handlebars and tri-bars up while still riding on the bike. It was awful. She doesn't recommend it--and neither do I.)
Headset - is it tight, and can you turn in the direction you want easily?
Bottle cages - Make sure the hardware is tight and check to ensure your bottle stays secure, especially if it's an aluminum cage.
Bento box - is it securely attached to the frame of your bike?
Derailleur - is it in good condition? Is it rubbing against the chain when you shift?
Shifting - does the bike shift smoothly from gear to gear on both the rear derailleur and the front chainrings?
Chain - is it oiled appropriately? Is the chain somewhat taut, but not super-tight or super loose?
Pedals - are they screwed tightly to the cranks?
While this is not an exhaustive list, it gives you a great place to start when looking over your bike BEFORE you ride. There may be other items you want to check that are particular to your bike.
It takes a few minutes to get through your pre-ride checklist, but if it saves you from an unplanned maintenance stop on your ride (or an accident or injury), it's worth it. And like all other things, the more you practice, the better (and possibly faster) you'll get through the list.
Maria Netherland is a Northwest Florida-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Youth & Juniors Certified Coach as well as a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Performance Enhancement Specialist. Coach Maria loves working for athletes of all abilities, military athletes, and new triathletes as they pursue their goals. Maria is a veteran of the US Army and a United States Military Academy at West Point graduate. She can be reached at email@example.com.