Cycling: How to look after your bike

By Michael Brown

KEY POINTS

Michael Brown is going through a mid-life crisis so he thought it would be a good idea to tackle the Pioneer, a seven-day mountain bike race from Christchurch to Queenstown. This is his fifth training blog.

I'm a bit cheap, although it was probably always going to be the case.

Not only am I of Scottish stock, but I've also got a dollop of Presbyterianism in my heritage. Frugality is a skill I really should flag up on my CV.

I have learned throughout this journey for the upcoming Pioneer mountain bike race, however, that there are some things you can't scrimp on.

And given the physical and emotional toil invested in getting to the start line, I would be crazy to try to look for short cuts now.

My body is in reasonable shape after five months of solid training - although my varicose vein has started aching again and the muscles are constantly weary - and I'll be damned if I'm going to take any risks with my bike.

It would be a disaster if it broke down or failed me because I was too cheap to get it looked at before a major expedition.

"When you are doing that much riding, you really should have your bike serviced regularly - every two to three months," says Will Turner of Hot Cycles in St Heliers. "You need to stay on top of the chain, drivetrain, brake pads and suspension to keep it all in tip-top shape.

"For someone who is riding one or two times a week, we would recommend servicing every three to four months."

I made the mistake of not getting my bike serviced before the Taupo Challenge mountain bike race - OK, I was being cheap - and it cost me about 15 minutes and quite a few places as I had to make running repairs on the side of the track.

Let's just put that down to another learning experience. There have been a few of those in the last five months.

I'm not at all mechanically minded but there are a few things people like me can do at home to look after their bikes.

"The chain is the obvious one," Will says, "lubing your chain and keeping it clean, especially in the winter when it's muddy. It's not over-cleaning it but making sure you keep the drivetrain clean.

"On a full suspension bike, it's keeping the pivots clean, the stantions on the forks and the shocks. It's also keeping the right pressure in your tyres and not running them too low. These basic things can make a massive difference."

There are a few technical choices to make ahead of the Pioneer, like which gearing to opt for (2x10 or 1x11), what type of bike shoes to wear and whether to take the fluffy seat cover and pink handlebar streamers.

Another is whether to run tubeless tyres or stick with tubes. My riding partner Greg Bowker and I are going tubeless, which most will probably opt for.

"There are few advantages [with a tubeless setup]," Will explains. "One is that you can have lower tyre pressure without the risk of the tyre pinching the tube and having a puncture. Particularly on rocky terrain, that can be a real advantage.

"Generally, the tyre gets more traction when it doesn't have a tube in it. That's due to the friction caused when you have a tube pushing up against the tyre. Tubeless tyres equal better traction and lower pressure. And when you get a puncture, you've got sealant in the tyre which will seal the hole when you are riding."

All of this costs, and it's dawned on me that cycling, both road riding and mountain biking, is not a cheap sport. But at this point, with only 10 days until the Pioneer, it feels worth it.

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