You might say I’m a bit more meticulous than most people. I’m all about the little things, that together, can make a noticeable difference. You may have heard the phrase “marginal gains” in reference to many small advantages leading to a victory. UK Cycling has used this philosophy to great success during the last five Olympic Games, with a staggering twenty-five gold metals since the year 2000. I don’t have the privilege to test the bearings on multiple wheel sets to see which have the lowest drag. I can however prepare my bike properly before a fast ride to ensure my machine is as efficient as possible. It’s not nearly the same, but it beats doing nothing at all.
Keep it clean
A clean bike is a fast bike. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of walking around the start village at a major bike race, one thing you’ll notice right away is that PRO bikes are all spotlessly clean at the beginning of the day. Sure, the team has a responsibly to the bike supplier, but anywhere aerodynamics are a factor, a slippery surface is beneficial. A clean car gets better fuel economy, so it should be no surprise that a clean bike will shave watts.
I’m all for free power, because I need all the help I can get. Before any group ride, pace line workout, or big day in the saddle, I always clean my bike with a mild soap and water. Not only do I gain free watts, but I also clear all the nasty grime off the frame. Dried sweat and isotonic drink don’t mix well with too many frame materials.
What pressure you running? I’m just kidding, that’s a can of worms I’m not ready to open quite yet. I do however have a pressure I like to run on each of my bikes. I’m a tire weirdo, so I run staggered tire widths. This means I run a bigger tire on the back than on front. This allows me to run a balanced tire pressure. It also gives me a quicker turn in, and a lower rolling resistance on the drive tire than if I ran tires of the same size. But all my silly reasons don’t mean anything if I haven’t aired the tires to the proper pressure.
Keep in mind, the maximum pressure of the tire may exceed the maximum pressure of the rim you are using. A rock hard clincher does help avoid punctures, but maximum tire pressure isn’t always the best option. I’m treading on a slippery slope here. I’ll wrap this up with a friendly reminder to air up before your ride.
A clean drivetrain
Dry lube, wet lube, or wax. Like tire pressure, we have our preferences. I have a buddy who soaks his chain in a crockpot full of paraffin wax. I’m not sure what kind of mileage he can put on the chain before he has to re-wax it, but he’s got me curious about that system. I use a lube that I can’t buy anymore here in California. It works great, but apparently has some chemicals you can’t sell here. It’s nice in that I only have to apply it sparingly every 500 miles or so.
Regardless of this fact, I’m always sure to wipe my chain clean before every ride. I clean the jockey pulleys on my rear derailleur, clean the cassette, and wipe down the chainrings. A clean drivetrain, like a clean bike, is going to be more efficient. A drivetrain caked in crud will likely perform just fine, but I also get more mileage out these high wear components because I keep them clean.
cables and brakes
I’m not switching over to electronic shifting and disc brakes anytime soon, so I still have the opportunity to check these components before a ride. This doesn’t take much time. A quick look at all cable ends ensures I will have brakes when I need them. A run through the gears shows me that everything is functioning properly as well. If you’ve ever experienced any kind of cable failure on the road, you know how difficult the ride back home can be.
This simple rundown takes me about 15 minutes. I know my bike is going to perform as well as I feel on any particular day. The only modification I can think of is if you do utilize electronic shifting, check your battery life. I’ve been on rides with a few people who have had a battery die mid-ride. They were not happy campers. My routine is admittedly slightly tedious, but it’s dangerous enough out there. It’s good to know your machine has had a pre-flight inspection. Safety first, and as always, keep the rubber side down!