Bike Care for Race Day

Don't let a mechanical slow you down on race day.

I am surrounded by hyper-intelligent women, and I have no problem admitting freely that I rely heavily upon them. I figure if you encompass yourself with brainiacs, some of their smarts may rub off, and your own deficiencies might be less apparent. So far it seems to be working. There is one area, however, that I find them to be generally...


1 a: lacking sharpness or quickness of sensibility or intellect:

...and that would be when it comes to the complex and intricate workings of the bicycle.

Now before you fire off the emails attacking my misogyny and chauvinism, let me tell you that men are just as clueless; they just don't admit it. They will get out the liquid nails and glue their cycle computer to the bars. They will proudly cross-thread their pedals and break bolts. They are not afraid to mix it up a bit with their $5,000 pride and joy. But there is one attitude about bike care that makes me cringe—that of indifference.

When I try to explain how to properly re-assemble a bike in Timbuktu, for the most important race of the season, I often want to scream, "Listen to me! This is critically important to your success." Instead I get an eyelash bat coupled with the "never mind, my boyfriend/husband will do it."

Well sister, that is the same guy that cross-threaded your pedals and glued your cycle computer to the bars.

Let me explain that I come by this frustration honestly. I have listened to athletes notice for the first time that their brake is in contact with their rear wheel as they walk their bike out of transition, or worse—during the first mile of the bike leg. I have heard the laments of athletes that traveled thousands of miles and spent thousands of dollars only to have seats fall off, aero bars drop, seat post slide down several inches and pedals come off.

I also work with a master mechanic and bicycle engineer with over 10 years of wrenching experience. This guy could write a book on some of the "fixes" he has seen—even from other technicians. The frustrating part is not that mechanicals happen—it's that most of the time they are preventable.

Ladies, I am speaking to you because you, more often than men, have a laissez-faire attitude about bike care.

I am not addressing this to ALL women. There are a great number that take perfect care of their bicycles and are more knowledgeable than many men. But for whatever reason, call it male/female conditioning, societal imprinting, gender roles, whatever; I stand by the statement that women are less apt to take responsibility for the maintenance of their bicycles.

Whew. I said it. It's out. I will await my call from Larry King. Now that we got that out of the way, let's move on to changing society as it relates to the modern woman and the bicycle.

First you have to understand two things:

  1. Out of all the things that can go technically wrong on race day, your bike is the weak link. You may struggle to get out of your wetsuit and your shoe may come untied, but these things will not end your race; a mechanical will.
  2. Your bicycle is your responsibility. Knowledge is power, ladies. If you know how to assemble your bike and get it race-ready, you will not have to wait in that long line, baking in the sun prior to your race. You will be more confident and leave less to chance.
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