Found on Ironman.com and written by by Kara Deschenes
IRONMAN athletes spend countless hours and dollars preparing their bodies but sometimes overlook equipment basics. With the bike as the most sophisticated apparatus in a triathlete’s arsenal, knowing how to address issues can make the difference between an awesome split and precious wasted time.
Avoid the sidelines and heed the advice of Greg Hammond, professional cycling mechanic, with the four things every athlete should know how to do on the bike, plus a bonus tip.
Lube your chain
The chain acts as the heart of the drivetrain on a bike, working in motion while under pressure from your body weight. While a dry chain can cause premature wear or even catastrophic drivetrain failure, Hammond advises athletes to lube their chain on race morning as part of their final preparation. “Racking your bike in transition overnight can expose your chain to the elements, leaving your chain excessively dry,” he says.
How to: Bottles of chain lube usually provide application directions, but most will guide you to liberally spread the liquid on the entire chain. Next, lift the back wheel of the bike off the ground and freewheel the chain backwards (take a pedal in your hand and move it clockwise) for 10 seconds. Wipe off excess lube from the chain with a rag.
Fix a flat
Race day isn’t the best day to practice changing a tire for the first time. Hammond recommends sharpening your tire-swapping skills several times before arriving at the start line. Grab a group of friends and head into the garage for a fix-a-flat session. After several practice rounds, kick it up a notch with a friendly competition—last one to successfully change a tire buys the first round of post-race brew.
How to: Though difficult to capture in words, here’s the basic rundown on changing a tire: Remove the wheel from the bike (if it’s the rear wheel, ensure you shift the rear derailleur to the smallest cog before removing the wheel). Remove the tube from the tire using a tire lever to pry the tire off the rim. Run your fingers inside the tire to check for any object that might cause a flat (a small nail, thorn or even a piece of glass). Install the new tube and remount the tire. Inflate the tube using a pump or CO2 cartridge. Reinstall the wheel on the bike and give it a spin to make sure it’s straight, with no rubbing from the brakes.
For a hands-on demonstration, Hammond recommends seeking out a local bike shop for expert guidance. Most shops offer free clinics to learn the basics of bike care.
Know your valve stems
It doesn’t matter how good you are at changing a tire if you don’t have the right tube or valve stem for the wheels you are riding. Since many athletes use a special set of race wheels only during competition days, it’s important to be familiar with the length of the valve stem and whether a valve stem extender is necessary to fix a flat.
How to: Read the specifications before leaving the bike shop where you purchase or rent your wheels. Knowing the correct size ensures you can buy the proper back-up tube and/or valve extender. Hammond cautions athletes who rent or borrow wheels for race day to make sure they add the appropriate accessories to their bike bags in order to head off potential issues.
Remount dropped chain
As part of the bike course support team for IRONMAN events all over North America, Hammond says he’s seen far too many riders stranded on the side of the road with a simple dropped chain. While it may seem like an easy fix, being self-sufficient in handling the problem will help to get you back on the road in no time.
How to: Whether the chain dropped on the inside or outside of the crank, grab the chain and place it back on the chain ring. Freewheel the chain (take a pedal in your hand and move it counter-clockwise) to ensure movement flows in a normal rhythm before mounting your bike.
Bonus tip: Balancing act
While the last tip doesn’t involve the mechanical operation of your bike, it’s essential for top performance. Knowing the location and type of aid stations on the bike course will help you prepare mentally for the distance. Exchanging a bottle or grabbing a gel from a volunteer requires the art of balance and should be practiced. Save frustration and avoid potential run-ins with other riders by planning ahead.
How to: As you approach an aid station, discard any empty bottles before grabbing a new container. Know what you want from the aid station and where it is before you arrive by learning the layout of the stations before the race. Pre-race meetings are a good time to get this information and formulate your strategy. Hammond suggests riders practice aid station exchange by simulating the experience with friends during a training session.