It may seem ironic that the gear used to brave the elements on long rides — jerseys, bibshorts, shoes, carbon parts and chains — needs a little TLC between rides. There’s nothing worse than ruining a brand-new jersey or cracking an expensive carbon part. But while some accidents can’t be avoided, many mishaps are the result of our own negligence.
To make your bike and cycling gear last longer and perform better, here are eight common care tips:
WASH YOUR CYCLING GEAR DELICATELY
Lycra and other expensive technical fabrics used in cycling clothing can be easily damaged if you opt for machine washing over the more time consuming hand wash. While a machine cycle can still be done, to do so correctly you’ll need to take a few extra precautions. Make sure you select the delicate cycle and the extra rinse setting to remove all the soap from your chamois pad.
In addition to turning each of your garments inside out, make sure you zip and fasten all of your clothing — including jerseys, booties, jackets and gloves. When the zippers are left undone, the friction they create against your delicate items like bibshorts can act like a cheese grater, creating holes or leaving your favorite kit in shreds.
Finally, hang dry all garments and never place jerseys or shorts in the dryer.
AIR-DRY YOUR BIBSHORTS
The longer your kit sits in the dirty basket, the harder it will be to remove odors and stains. It also increases the chances of bacteria creeping into your chamois pad, since bacteria thrives in moist environments. This can lead to saddle sores or other nastiness that can easily be avoided.
Instead, hang dry all of your wet, sweaty clothing outside before you throw it in the laundry. This keeps bacteria from growing and helps to air out the smell. Wash small loads once or twice a week with a special detergent to kill anything lingering.
USE THE RIGHT TORQUE FOR CARBON PARTS
If you’re going to do home bicycle maintenance, you’ll need to invest in the correct tools before you attempt any repairs. One of the biggest mistakes bike owners make is tightening carbon parts with a standard Allen wrench. When you overtighten handlebars or a seat post bolt, for instance, you can cause cracks in the frame or other parts that can’t be repaired. Because of this, it’s important to know the torque specifications for each of your parts (located in the user’s manual) and always use a torque wrench when tightening carbon bike parts.
ALWAYS CHECK YOUR TIRE PRESSURE
Bike tires are expensive, with some racing options ranging as high as $200 for a pair. To improve longevity, always check your tire pressure before a ride. Using a tire pressure that’s too low can cause a pinch flat and prematurely wear the rubber. If it’s too high, you’ll also increase the likelihood of a flat tire or blown sidewall the first time you come into contact with a pothole.
It’s better practice to inflate your tire before every ride according to the manufacturer’s specifications. If the sidewall says 125 psi max, a good rule of thumb is to inflate your tires in the 70–90% range of this number unless you are a heavier rider. In this case, inflate your tires closer to the max number.
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REPLACE YOUR CHAIN
Most mechanics agree that a normal road bike chain will last between 2,000–5,000 miles. The variance depends on the weight of the rider, how often you shift and your style of riding. A more accurate way to check for wear is to use a chain checker and replace the chain before it’s completely worn.
If you continue to ride with a worn chain, you’ll wear out your cassette, chainrings or rear derailleur, which are much more expensive to replace.
WEAR OLD CLOTHES TO DO BIKE MAINTENANCE
Whether it’s a roadside puncture or a quick bike wash in your driveway after a ride, most of us are guilty of completing basic bike maintenance tasks in our cycling kits. While it can’t always be avoided, when you can, change into an old pair of clothes before you clean your drivetrain or lube your chain. This helps keep the grease off your expensive cycling clothing, which can be hard to remove.
When you have to complete a roadside repair, carry a few baby wipes in your saddlebag to clean your hands before you get back on the bike. This keeps you from ruining your bar tape or accidently wiping your greasy fingers on the leg of your pricey bibshorts.
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WASH YOUR BIKE
Dirt, oil and other road grime have a way of sticking to your drivetrain during a ride. In harsh weather conditions, it’s even worse. If you don’t make an effort to clean your chain, cassette, chainrings and derailleur after a ride, these components wear much quicker and affect the performance of your shifting.
Instead of stowing your bike until the next ride, rinse off as much of the gunk as possible with soap and water. Use a degreaser when needed before lightly applying oil to your chain. Remove any excess lubricant with a rag to finish the job.
WASH DIRTY SUNGLASSES AND SHOES
During a ride, sweat and debris collects on the lens of your sunglasses. Storing them in this condition can cause unnecessary wear and tear and affect the clarity over time. Giving your glasses a quick rinse with water and drying them with a lens cloth makes them last longer and perform better.
Likewise, giving your shoes a wipe down and removing the insoles following a ride keeps the materials of the upper from breaking down and helps air out any unwelcome smells. It also helps them dry faster and keeps them looking and feeling new the next time you slip them on.