Ready to race
Blow “bad luck” on vacation
Experts state that you can control 80% of the factors that can ruin all your efforts and illusions.
In racing it seems like Murphy is always lurking, an unforeseen event is something you can’t anticipate, but there are a lot of things you can anticipate and prevent before it happens.
It’s a good idea to do a basic safety check of the bike before a race, with all components adjusted a few times to make sure we don’t get stranded on the scheduled day.
Tune up …
Check tyre sidewalls and tread condition: Whether or not the tyre is best suited the characteristics of the track, two conditions must always be met to guarantee a minimum: sidewalls in perfect condition without cracks or crazing and a tread pattern that preserves the qualities of the tire you are riding on.
A suitable circuit pressure: If you know that your challenge has a technical course, look for tyres that guarantee good cornering grip. Tyre pressure is another way to improve your bike’s performance. If you get the pressure wrong and go for too much grip or comfort or drop the pressure too much, you can puncture if you go over a hole. The current standard is 700×28 tyres and a safe pressure is 6 bar depending on your weight. If you have doubts consult the manufacturer’s website or your trusted mechanic.
Check the centering: An off-centre wheel rubs, slows down and causes instability when braking, although this is less applicable to disc brake systems. Check the condition of the spokes anyway, and if you see any damaged spokes, take the wheel to your store quickly. Most often, the ones that deteriorate the most are those on the cassette side, just at the level of the hub, because sometimes the chain comes out of the top of the sprockets and can damage the spokes. If you don’t have a lot of skill and practice, take it to a specialist workshop.
Fixings: don’t mess it up by rushing to assemble the bike the morning of the race. Take your time and don’t leave them loose or incorrectly positioned. If you leave them loose, we don’t really need to tell you what the consequences might be, but if you leave them too tight, it can cost you an ordeal to remove the wheel in the middle of the race. Apply a very thin layer of mounting grease to the contact points of the fasteners so that if the wheel needs to be removed, it is smooth and quick.
Condition of inner tubes: If you use inner tubes instead of tubeless, be sure to bring new ones to races. A patched inner tube is always an additional risk. That’s enough if you’ve had a patch on a tube for a week and nothing happened, for the patch to come off on race day. If the camera is in good condition, do not touch it.
Never change brake cables the day before a race! At most you should clean and lubricate them, but if they work well, don’t touch them, because especially the gear cable is very sensitive and it is possible that in your desire to improve it, you may disengage it.
Check the chain condition. Unless absolutely necessary due to breakage, never change the chain before a race! Especially if the rest of the transmission is not new. New generation waxes with ceramic additives are always the winning choice. Clean the chain thoroughly with a rag and apply a thin layer to the inside of the chain the evening before. You will avoid dirt pick-up and get a smoother pedalling feeling, optimising a few watts in your favour.
Leave the cassette as clean as a whistle. Remove the wheel and go over the sprockets one by one with a rag and remove any dirt and twigs that may be between developments. Do not leave threads of the rag inside the cassette, which can get entangled with the chain, with the derailleur pulleys and cause inaccuracies in the chain pitch.
Check that the chain does not come off the small or large chainring and the same with the sprockets. In training everything can go well, but then, between fatigue and pressure, in the race you generally change less delicately than necessary, so you have to pay particular attention to the synchronization of the derailleur and the upper and lower stop of the chainring derailleurs. Make sure the large chainring fits without the chain coming out from the outside and the small chainring fits smoothly but not falling into the bottom bracket.
The pin: Please, be very careful when transporting the bike, as one of the most common incidents is bending the pin a little, which always leads to a chain of derailleur problems. It is a very delicate and pressure sensitive element. It is designed to deform and break, so if you notice that the derailleur is a little off, you should try to redirect it back to its natural position, but very, very carefully. Let’s not break the pin before the start.
Check the condition of the brake pads. This tip applies to both rim and disc brakes. If you have any doubts about the condition of your brake pads, consult an expert mechanic, because especially in the case of disc brake pads, the visual difference is very small.
Discs screws. Especially if you’ve been wearing them for a long time, it’s advisable to check their tightness the day before the race.
Balancing of the brake bridges: If you change pads or grease cables, it would not be unusual for the bridges to become unbalanced, that one side pulls more than the other or that you have touched them a little. For bikes with rim brakes, make sure that both pads are touching at the same time and that they have the same distance from the rim brake band.
Be careful when transporting your bike if it has hydraulic disc brakes. Try not to operate the lever without the wheels, if this happens you can separate them with a flathead screwdriver, but try not to do this so as not to cause cracks in the brake pads or air to enter the brake circuit. To avoid this, whenever you transport a bike with hydraulic disc brakes, always remember to fit disc brake pad spacers.
On the day of the race, don’t start tightening all the screws on the bike, it’s just a general check to make sure nothing is loose, you don’t need to over-tighten anything. These are the most important elements, especially if you have totally or partially disassembled the bike for transport.
Saddle. Be careful not to modify the tilt position and here be especially careful because the seatpost screws break “just by looking at it”. Check the setting very carefully and gradually.
Bottle cage. It’s very annoying to go get water and not find the bottle cage in its place, but it’s even more annoying to have to throw the bottle away because the “bracket” has come loose and the ” rattle” will pull the wires out of the frame. As a precaution, check the screws and so that the bottle does not fall, never run with the bottle to the edges. Fill it to the brim, but drink a quarter of its capacity before departure.
Couplings. The ideal tightening torque must be found. They should not be “welded” to the handlebars as they are one of the most exposed parts and can break. Tighten them solidly, but to the point where if they get bumped, they spin on the handlebars.
Seatpost. It does not usually move and, as with the stem, you must be very careful not to over-thread the seatpost collar. Checking that the seatpost does not rotate is more than enough to be sure.
Power. Be careful not to over-tighten, because the aluminium of the power threads is particularly fragile and accumulates a lot of load. Try a little with the spanner and if you feel that the tightening is adequate, don’t insist. With carbon handlebars you must be very careful not to over-tighten and always use carbon-specific mounting grease, which includes granules that increase the friction between the power and the handlebar without over-tightening.
Loose steering. If you have fitted the steering recently, check that there is no play. This is not something that will prevent you from finishing a race, but in addition to damaging the steering, you lose a lot of precision at the braking and it gives an unpleasant sound with little confidence.
The crankset. Especially if it is a square axle crankset, it is a good idea to check that the cranks have a good tightening torque. If your crankset has aluminium screws, check that they have not loosened. Be careful because these screws are as fragile as they are light.