What to check on your bike before you race

You can lose more time from a broken bike than any other part of your race. Here, Glen Coltman, Team GB bike mechanic, makes sure you're ready to keep on cycling whatever the race throws at you

What to check on your bike before you race

1.MAKE SURE THE BIKE FITS
An ill-fitting, high-end bike won’t serve you as well as a correctly fitting, entry-level one. A good local bike shop should be able to at least help you get the correct size of bike and many shops are now offering fit services. If you have the budget, getting a full professional fit before you venture out to purchase will serve you well.

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2. GET THE RIGHT SHOES
If you decided to go clipless, take time to buy a comfortable pair of shoes. Most shops will stock two or three different brands, so you may have to visit a few shops to find one that fits you best. Tri shoes will be faster to put on than cycling shoes, even if you don’t have them ready on the bike pro-style.

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3. SORT PEDALS OUT AT THE SAME TIME
If you’re buying tri shoes or cycling shoes for the first time, chances are you’ll be in the market for pedals, too. Buy both from the same dealer and chances are they’ll afford you some time to fit and set up the cleats.

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4. KEEP IT CLEAN
You should be looking to clean your bike often. Try to make it part of your weekly routine, especially through the winter months. At the very least, you should be cleaning it before you compete. Believe us, clean and shiny bikes go faster!

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5. CHECK IT OUT
Cleaning and checking your bike go hand in hand. As you clean, you’ll be checking for problems at the same time. Keep your eyes open and you should notice if something isn’t as it should be. For instance, a loose spoke will show itself when you run that soapy sponge along it. Once you’ve cleaned your bike, dry it off and re-lube the chain, cables and any moving parts. Keep the lube light, wiping away any excess so as to not attract dust and dirt. Then run through the gears, brakes… A buff-up and you’re ready to race.

6. BE TIME-CONSCIOUS
Don’t leave your pre-race check too close to race day. Give yourself time to get your bike to the shop if you find a problem. Good workshops are at their busiest during the season, so don’t leave it too late. If you use a second pair of wheels to race on, pop them in and check them too.

7. EXAMINE YOUR TREAD CAREFULLY
Pay attention to your tyres. Look out for cuts and small objects buried in the tread. Choose good-quality race tyres for race day. Folding tyres are lighter (and lighter means faster), but are more expensive. Going too light will increase the chances of puncturing. Choose a good pair of folders with some puncture protection (like Continental’s GP4000) and keep them for race day. When they become too worn to race on, use them for training. Fit good-quality, un-repaired tubes and keep the patched ones for the training tyres.

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8. KEEP THE PRESSURE ON
Decide on your tyre pressure. If it’s a hot day and your bike is going to sit in the sun for any length of time, the tyre pressure will increase and could result in a blow out. Your tyre should display the optimum PSI.

How do I choose the right tyre pressure for different races?

9. CHECK FOR LAST-MINUTE DAMAGE
Once at the race, re-check the bike to make sure it hasn’t been knocked in transport. Most common is the brakes getting knocked off centre and rubbing on the rim. Run through the gears and check the quick releases.

10. LOAD UP THE BIKE
Before racking, choose which gear you’ll want the bike in for the start. Load up your water bottle and any gels and bars you’ll want to take along. The best place to put these is in a tri-bag positioned on the top tube behind the bar stem. If you have to rack the bikes the night before, you may want to think about placing a plastic bag over the saddle to guard it from possible rain (remembering to remove it in the morning before the race starts). And, having racked your bike, don’t forget where it is!

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11. ELITE TIP
“Spending time to acclimatise to clipless pedals is well worth the effort. You may hit the deck a few times to begin with but you’ll be more efficient and also feel more like a triathlete.”
Alistair Brownlee