Cycling can be a very expensive sport. While the costs associated with getting fit and living a healthier lifestyle are indeed worth the investment, that doesn’t mean you want to be throwing your money away unnecessarily.
To make your bike and gear last as long as possible, avoid these eight common mistakes:
The last thing you probably want to do when you get done putting in miles in the rain is clean your bike. While carbon frames won’t be as much of an issue as steel, all the other metal parts on your bike can corrode and rust — particularly the chain, cassette and chain rings.
THE FIX: Instead of leaving your dirty bike in the garage until your next ride, give your bike and drivetrain a good wipe down and dry it thoroughly as soon as you can. Also, make sure your frame has drain holes (usually on the bottom bracket) to let the water out. If it doesn’t, letting the bike hang upside down after removing the seatpost allows any water inside the frame to drain out. After it’s clean, be sure to reapply chain lube to the areas that require it (chain, cables, etc.) so your bike is ready to go the next time you head out.
A dry or dirty chain not only slows you down and makes pedaling less efficient from the increased friction, but it also causes wear and tear to the other parts of your drivetrain.
THE FIX: When it comes to chain lubes, you have two types to choose from: wet or dry. As the name suggests, wet chain lube should only be used in wet conditions, while dry chain lube is meant for dry conditions. If you use a wet chain lube when it’s sunny and warm, it’ll attract more dirt and grime from the road and gunk up your chain. On the other hand, if you apply dry lube and ride in the rain, it’ll wash off quickly and leave you with a squeaky chain that has no lube. Make sure you have both types of lube on hand to match the conditions. Using them correctly makes your parts work better and last longer.
While hand washing your cycling clothes helps them last longer, most of us are strapped for time and opt for the washing machine. Even though this isn’t necessarily a no-no, when you throw all your gear in the wash, leaving the zippers undone on your cycling jerseys can be bad news for the rest of your laundry. Lycra and other materials used in the shorts, socks, base layers and outerwear can be delicate, and the open zipper on the jersey can shred these materials.
THE FIX: There is a right way to handle your cycling kits. To keep from ruining your expensive items, zip up all your jerseys and jackets before placing them in the wash and then turn them inside out. Air dry them after washing.
While it’s never a good idea to overtighten a bolt, doing so on a bike full of carbon parts can be disastrous. Overdo it and you could cause cracks in the frame, stem, handlebars or seatpost that can lead to failure on the road or require replacement.
THE FIX: A safe way to keep from ruining your carbon parts is to use a torque wrench instead of a more traditional hex key. A torque wrench allows you to tighten each bolt to the exact tension recommended by the manufacturer. They are fairly inexpensive — especially when you compare it to the cost of replacing a bicycle part.
Even if you take all the precautions with your cycling helmet and take good care of it, it’ll need to be replaced about every three years. On the other hand, if you get in an accident, drop it, leave it outside for an extended period of time, store it in your trunk or throw it around on occasion, it’s lifespan will be even shorter.
THE FIX: To make it last as long as possible, store your helmet in a cool, dry place and wash it often with soapy water just as you would any other piece of equipment. If you drop it or see any signs of visible damage, replace your helmet to be on the safe side.
There are times when you’re on a group ride or in heavy traffic when a pothole can’t be avoided.
THE FIX: When it’s possible, try to avoid riding on the rougher sections of roads and definitely avoid any and all potholes to extend the life of your bike. Bumps and hazards place more stress on your bike and decrease its lifespan. Riding over rougher surfaces also increases your chances of damaging a carbon wheel or ruining your tires — neither of which is cheap to replace. For those times when you can’t steer around a pothole, why not bust out your bag of tricks and give the old bunny hop a try.
Winter weather can be especially hard on your wheels, drivetrain and other parts, causing them to wear faster than they might normally. If you have an expensive race bike with lightweight parts, using it during the winter can significantly decrease its lifespan.
THE FIX: Riding an entry-level bike with cheaper parts and fenders allows you to save your nice bike for racing and training when the weather is less harsh. Although entry-level components are heavier, they are built to take more pounding and hold up to the hazardous conditions.
Getting your drivetrain sparkling clean often and reapplying a light coat of lube is a must. Giving the rest of your bike a wipe down once per week is a good idea, too.
THE FIX: There are a few things you should consider to do the job right. The first is taking off your wheels while you clean. This allows you to access the chain, chainring, cassette and derailleurs and ensures you don’t let those clumps of gunk stay stuck on your derailleur pulleys, for instance. While a pressure washer can be a big help, another thing you’ll want to avoid is blasting water on the wheel hubs or bottom bracket. Getting these parts a little wet is no big deal, but blasting them may allow water to creep inside and wreak havoc on your bearings. Also if you have rim brakes, make sure to clean the surface of your brake pads along with the brake track of the rim. This can keep your brakes working properly and keep your rims from wearing out prematurely.