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World Tour Maintenance Tips

Over the 17 years I spent as a professional bicycle mechanic, I wore a number of hats. I fixed bikes for weekend warriors, and worked as a personal mechanic for Chris Horner and Francisco Mancebo. As you might imagine, along the way, I’ve picked up a couple of tricks.

 Traveling with teams as a race mechanic teaches you to be thorough, detailed, and resourceful. The job has had me working on bikes in the basement of a Portuguese parking garage, and two days later, unpacking those same bikes on the marble floor of a grand ballroom in a hotel in the Tibetan Plateau. It’s an unforgiving job, but the key is to control the things that you can control, and that starts with the condition of your bike.

 Here are five of my most useful maintenance tricks to keep your bike dialed this riding season.

Pick Over Your Tires

  • Estimated Time: 15 Minutes
  • Difficulty Level: 2/5
  • Supplies: Pick (or sharpened spoke), super glue (preferably Gorilla Glue), gloves

 

Riding on the road or the trail can result in some pretty nasty debris lodged in the tread of your tires. Ranging from goat heads and glass to tacks and nails, to name a few, this stuck material is the common enemy of all cyclists.

Using a pick, carefully dislodge any debris you find. Make sure that the debris comes out entirely, then fill the hole in with super glue. If you’ve got the tire removed (optional, but a good idea if you’re still running tubes), search the inside of the tire to ensure the point of the debris is gone—then you’re good to go. Though not a permanent solution and not intended for larger holes, this quick fix can extend the life of your tire significantly.

Clean Brake Rotors

  • Estimated Time: 30 Minutes to 1 Hour
  • Difficulty Level: 3/5 
  • Supplies: 3 to 5 terry cloths, isopropyl alcohol (in spray bottle if possible), gloves, blue loctite for rotor bolts, T25 Torx wrench (for 6 bolt rotors), park tool BBT-9 or park tool FR-5.2 cassette tool (for centerlock rotors), calipers (mechanical or digital)

 

 A common misconception about disc brakes is that it’s very difficult to clean your rotors. That’s a problem, because they’re easy to contaminate with DOT fluid or mineral oil, and contaminated rotors make your brakes work terribly.

 Thankfully, it’s surprisingly simple to clean your rotors to get them ready for the trail or road.

 Remove your rotors. Lay down the clean terry cloths, then lay the rotors on the cloths.

Spray down the rotors with isopropyl alcohol and let them sit for 5 minutes. Then wipe off the remaining alcohol and respray. Using a little bit of elbow grease, take a fresh cloth and wipe down the rotors with pressure. This will help remove any contaminants the rotors may have picked up during the off season.

 If your rotors are old, you should check them for safety. Using a caliper, measure the thickness of your rotor and compare it to the manufacturer’s recommended thickness. If it’s lower than the recommended width, your rotors should be replaced.

Resurface Brake Pads

  • Estimated Time: 30 Minutes
  • Difficulty Level: 2/5
  • Supplies: needle nose pliers, allen wrench to fit brake pin (if applicable), fine grit sandpaper (800-3000 grit), gloves

 

If you’re taking the time to clean your brake rotors, you should also take a few minutes to resurface your brake pads. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy.  

 First, remove your brake pads and measure their thickness. Manufacturers generally recommend 1mm of minimum thickness for brake pads for your brakes to work properly. If you’re at less than 1mm, replace your pads.

 To resurface, using fine grit sandpaper (800 grit or higher), run your brake pads across the sand paper back and forth until you notice the color of the brake pad surface changing. Once it comes closer to the color of the base of the brake pad, you should be all set! Make sure to recheck your measurements to ensure you’re still safely at 1mm or more, then reinstall.

Secure Your Shifter

  • Estimated Time: 1 Hour
  • Difficulty Level: 3/5
  • Supplies: silver or gold sharpie, small piece of skateboard grip tape, allen wrenches, scissors or razor knife, new bar tape

 

On a road or gravel bike, a shifter that slips and moves can cause problems on the wrist, mess with your fit, and result in  an extremely uncomfortable day in the saddle. However, the hoods are prone to moving in a crash, especially with certain handlebar finishes. So if you’re looking for a way to give your hoods a more secure hold on the bars, this will do the trick. It’s also a really good excuse to treat yourself to some fresh bar tape.

 Peel off your old bar tape. Using a silver or gold sharpie, outline the clamp where your shifter is currently settled. This ensures that you can reattach the shifter right back where it was. Remove the shifter entirely from the handlebar. Using a piece of skateboard grip tape, cut a small square a little larger than the width of the shifter handlebar clamp itself. Place the grip-tapes with the adhesive side against the handlebar, then replace the shifter and tighten it to its proper torque spec. Install your bar tape and you’re on your way.   

 

Keep It Tight 

  • Estimated Time: 30 Minutes to 1 Hour
  • Difficulty Level: 2.5/5
  • Supplies: allen wrenches, adjustable torque wrench, allen and torx wrench bits to fit your bike

 

I cannot overstress the importance of what regularly checking torque specs on your bolts can do for your bike. You should be doing this throughout the season, as it reduces wear and tear, cuts down on creaking, and ensures that your bike is ready to take whatever you throw at it.

 The time-intensive part is identifying the correct torque specs for all the components on your bike. You might want to make a list of torque specs to refer to later. Some manufacturers print torque specs on frames and components, so it’s worth starting your search for torque specs by looking over your bike.

 You’ll need a bike-appropriate torque wrench, capable of accurately reading torque under 20nm. Using manufacturer-recommended torque specs, which can usually be found online, double check torque specs across your cockpit, frame, saddle, and other components.