20 Questions Every Cyclist Should Ask: Part II

Did you miss Part I? Catch up on questions 1 through 10.

11. How often should I lube my chain?

The correct method to lubricate a chain is "lightly and often," but most cyclists follow that advice by oiling the chain before every ride, which coats the drivetrain and leaves a black, gritty mess where a once-pristine drivetrain once meshed. Unless it rains during your rides, once a week or every 250 miles is more than enough time between chain lubrication intervals.

Keeping your drivetrain clean is more important than oiling it regularly, because grit and grime cause more friction and do more damage to your drivetrain than running your chain dry will ever do.

Wipe your chain and sprockets clean with a terrycloth towel first, and then, using a light-viscosity lubricant like Finish Line Pro, carefully drop the oil at the gaps between the rollers and the sideplates. Turn the cranks at a moderate rpm so as not to spray oil all over the bike to work the lubricant into the chain's internals, and then wipe all of the residual oil from the chain and sprockets. The chain does not rotate on the sprocket teeth, so the teeth, chain rollers and sideplates should be dry when you are done.

Only the inside of the chain's rollers and pins need to be oiled—do this and your bike will stay clean, and your drivetrain will enjoy a long and efficient life.

12. Why don't more tire companies make tubeless tires if they are that good?

Road Tubeless is the most important innovation to come from the tire and wheel arena since the birth of the high-performance clincher somewhere back in the 1970s. The catch is that developing a successful tubeless road tire required massive investments from Hutchinson and Shimano with no guarantee of a successful launch.

Most bike brands make claims that they are innovators, but few will be willing to gamble that kind of money to develop a tubeless road tire—that is, until the market is large enough to support it. With Campagnolo and Fulcrum on board with Road Tubeless wheels, we should expect some action from tire makers by 2010.

13. Do you put lube on your pedals?

NO. Modern pedals are equipped with sealed bearings and do not need regular maintenance. Theories that oiling your pedal's engagement areas will assist you in clicking free in the event of an emergency are fabricated by anxious Freds who should be on roller blades in Brazil.

Dry pedals and cleats will release consistently at the same pressure. Spray-lube will cause them to release too easily initially, and as the lubricant sloughs off or combines with dirt, the release pressure will become erratic as it firms up. Use mountain bike shoes and pedals for cyclocross, because, unlike plastic road cleats, their smaller, metal-to-metal interfaces release consistently in wet, muddy and dry conditions.

14. Do gloves really make a difference?

Unless you or your team is sponsored by a Rodeo Drive manicurist, gloves should be a mandatory part of your kit. Gloves are great for wiping your nose and preventing salty sweat from dripping into your eyes on a scorching climb, and they keep your hands clean, should you make a roadside repair.

The best argument for gloves (full-fingered are best), is that when you crash, you will instinctively use your hands to protect your nearly-naked body from being ground into hamburger on the hot asphalt. You can get around fine with a bad case of road rash, but every aspect of your life will be compromised if your hands are bandaged up.

15. How many gels should I carry with me?

The rule of thumb is that 15 minutes before your start and every 45 minutes afterwards is the minimum interval between food intake. Those who can't eat solid or gel-type foods while they are in motion use carbohydrate fluids in their water bottles. I prefer gels because there are times during a high-watt interval when my stomach can not handle anything but water, so I can continue to hydrate—which is most important—and eat later.

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