5 Must-Do Bike Maintenance Checks for Race Day

Marc Lindsay
by Marc Lindsay
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5 Must-Do Bike Maintenance Checks for Race Day

Being in shape isn’t the only thing you need to worry about once race day rolls around. To be safe and perform your best, the condition and function of your bike are just as important.

Use this simple, quick checklist to give your bike a pre-race tune-up before you head to the start line.

1. Clean your bike.

Having a clean, fast-looking bike for race day will not only boost your morale, it’ll also improve your performance — in particular how well you can shift from gear to gear.

Giving the frame and wheels a once-over is a good idea, but make sure to pay closer attention to your drivetrain. Here are the parts you’ll want to make look like new before the big day:

  • The chain: Clean with degreaser and a toothbrush. Apply one or two drops of chain lube to each link, and wipe off any excess.
  • The cassette: Remove from the wheel and clean.
  • The cables: Clean and lube the cables on the underside of your bottom bracket.

2. Check the tires.

Let’s face it: Getting a flat can ruin your race-day experience. While you’ll want to prepare for worst-case scenarios by packing spare tubes, tire levers and a pump, the first step in prevention is to make sure your tires are in good shape.

Before the race, check the items below — and replace your tires if necessary.

  • Cuts: Any cuts or tears in the tread will make a flat more likely.
  • Tread life: If the tires are bald in spots or have worn past the tread wear indicators, it may be best to replace the tire rather than risk a flat.
  • Air pressure: It’s recommended to inflate your tires to around 90–100 psi, but you should always follow your tire manufacturer’s specifications. Just remember that opting for a low tire pressure will slow you down considerably, and a higher psi will make your bike less comfortable and harder to control.

3. Adjust the brakes.

There’s nothing worse than finding out something isn’t right with your brakes just after you begin a long descent. To make sure everything is working properly, here are a few things you should check:

  • Brake pad wear: If your brake pads are worn, it might be a good idea to replace them. Keep in mind that if conditions are wet, your brake pads will wear much faster than normal.
  • Centering: Make sure your brake calipers are aligned so that each pad contacts the rim surface at the same time. You can do this by loosening, adjusting and retightening the 5 mm bolt that secures the caliper to the frame.
  • Tension: Adjust the cable tension so that it won’t require a huge amount of pressure from the brake levers before the brake pads and rim can make contact.

4. Get your gearing right.

Shifting is a key component in any cycling event. Check the race profile beforehand to see what the terrain and elevation gain will be like. If a lot of long, steep climbs are on the menu, consider switching to a cassette with larger cogs to make it easier to pedal.

If you do switch your cassette or make any other gearing adjustments, you may also need to adjust your front and rear derailleurs — which is a good idea anyway. If you aren’t comfortable giving your derailleurs a tune-up, take it into your bike shop a few days before and get it right.

5. Tighten the bolts.

If you haven’t tightened your bolts in a while, chances are one or two have come loose. If you have carbon parts on your bike, make sure to check the manufacturer’s specifications, and tighten the following with a torque wrench:

  • Seat post bolt
  • Seat post rail bolts
  • Stem bolts
  • Headset bolt
  • Bottle cages

About the Author

Marc Lindsay
Marc Lindsay

Marc is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and is a certified physical therapy assistant. An avid cyclist and runner of over 20 years, Marc contributes to LAVA, Competitor and Phoenix Outdoor magazines. He is the former cycling editor for Active.com.


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