Nine Ways You’re Destroying Your Cycling Gear
You might be hurting your bike and cycling kit in ways you don’t even know

  1. Ignoring a Noise

You could be hearing a creaking you can’t trace, and it can be anything from overtightened stem bolts to a press-fit bottom bracket that’s backing out of the frame.

What to do:
Use some deductive reasoning and diagnose what you’re hearing: Does it happen all the time or only when pedaling? When standing, sitting, both? Is it coming from the front or the back of the bike? Those questions will help you narrow down what might be producing the offending sound. The type of sound can also be helpful. A creak when standing and pedaling might be over-torqued stem bolts; a squeak during the same could simply be your cleats squirming on the pedal. Whether you’re fixing it yourself or having a mechanic do it, zeroing in on the source and type of noise helps you fix things faster and more efficiently.

  1. Storing Your Bike Wet

Carbon frames won’t rust, but corrosion affects almost all metals to some extent—        especially steel parts like your chain and cassette, and bearing races.

What to do:
When you get back from a rainy ride, put the bike in a dry place. If your bike doesn’t have drain holes at the bottom bracket shell, pull the seatpost (mark your seat height first with some tape or a permanent marker) and flip the bike upside down to help water drain from the frame. As soon as possible, wash the bike with a mild detergent (dish soap is fine, or a bike-specific cleaner) and dry it thoroughly. Re-apply lube to the chain and critical spots like brake pivots, derailleur springs and pedal springs.

  1. Running a Filthy Drivetrain

With every pedal stroke, it wears down metal on the chain, cassette, and chainrings until eventually your whole drivetrain is trashed. It also affects shifting quality and pedaling efficiency; testing by Friction Facts shows a dirty drivetrain adds up to four watts of friction resistance compared to a clean one.

What to do:
Clean that bike! First, use a chain wear indicator to check chain condition with a simple tool like Park’s CC3.2. (Currently on sale at Performance.) If the chain is toast, replace it. Scrub the rest of   the drivetrain during the bike wash. A small flat-blade screwdriver is ideal for lifting that ridge of grime off the pulley wheels. Rinse the drivetrain thoroughly, and dry by running the chain through a rag or old towel until it doesn’t leave black marks anymore. Let the drivetrain dry fully—even overnight—before re-lubing the chain.

Inspect your chainring and cassette teeth for wear. You’re looking for teeth that are worn down or have a shark-fin like point to them. That’s a sign you may need new rings or cassette. Lube the chain thoroughly with a lube that’s appropriate for where you live. It takes about a minute longer, but the best method is to dab a drop of lube on each roller link rather than slather it on indiscriminately. When done, backpedal the chain for 30 seconds and let it sit for a few minutes to work the lube into the rollers, then dry with a towel until it runs clean.

  1. Leaving Your Hitch Rack On

Hitch racks face all the same issues that roof racks do, like unrelenting UV radiation and extreme temperature swings. Unlike roof racks, they also have to deal with intense heat from your car exhaust that can melt plastic parts, and corrosive wheel spray during winter months. The bumps you encounter in everyday driving can create slop in hardware connections, which causes the rack to sway alarmingly when loaded. That puts even MORE stress on the hardware. Finally: Because it sticks out even when folded up, there’s always a chance some inattentive knucklehead backs into it in a parking lot, damaging the rack or even your hitch mount and car.

What to do:
Check your rack for signs of corrosion, like the telltale bubbling of a powder coat paint finish that means metal is corroding from the inside. Keep the rack clean; a quick wash with soapy water uncovers a lot of hidden problems. Check hardware internals for signs of rust on fixing bolts. On hitch racks, inspect pivots, large fixing bolts and welds and put a dab of grease on it. Finally? Take the rack off the car if you’re not using it; you’ll save it immense amounts of wear and tear. Newer designs make use of lighter materials to knock 10 or 15 pounds off without harming stability which makes them easier to install, remove, and maneuver. Get creative with rubberized storage hooks to create a garage wall mount for your system to keep it safe when you’re not using it.

  1. Using the Wrong Tool

What to do:
Just get the right tools already. You don’t need much to start—a set of quality hex wrenches in 2-10mm metric sizing, a 3-way Torx-head Y-wrench (T10, T20 and T25 cover most bike bolts), some tire levers, a chain tool, and a good floor pump will cover 75 percent of the work you need or want to do on your own bike. You’ll want a good chain lube, too. A work stand is important, but you can do work without one if you’re careful (and flexible).

  1. Letting Your Stinky Kit Sit for a Week

Bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments; the longer your kit sits, the harder it is to remove stains and odors set deep into the fibers. Concerned about wear from laundering? Washing    doesn’t harm clothes nearly as much as not washing them does, says Ted Barber, Director of            Advanced Development for Pearl Izumi. “Some people don’t wash their kit enough because               they’re afraid it will affect durability,” he says. “Our fabrics are engineered so they can handle         standard washing.” The bigger problem, he adds, is dirt particles that abrade yarns.

What to do:
Instead of chucking sweaty kit in a pile post-ride, hang it to dry first (especially shorts). Do smaller loads more often, and don’t worry about hand-washing; most cycling clothing is made to withstand a delicates cycle. Don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets; they’re designed to leave fragrance in clothes to help them smell better, but those residues can interfere with moisture wicking and heat transfer in technical garments. Line dry or tumble on air only. If your kit is especially trashed from a muddy ride, just wash right away (hose it off outside first to rinse out as much dirt as you can so you don’t mess up your washing machine).

  1. Not Reading Instructions

A Shimano Ultegra 8000 front derailleur has a different setup process than an older 6700 series does; dual-pivot brakes don’t adjust like single-pivot models; and like Bicycling’s former editor-in-chief Bill Strickland, unless you read the manual, you might learn the hard way that the titanium crank arm fixing bolt on a Campagnolo Super Record crankset is threaded opposite to the Record and Chorus versions.

What to do:
RTM. Manuals give you an idea of recommended maintenance schedules and dos and don’ts. Threw away the manual? Check the manufacturer’s web site, or just Google the part name and “manual.” Components like stems, bars and seat post clamps have recommended torque ranges often printed right on the part; follow them, or risk crushing expensive carbon stuff. Need detailed instructions on maintenance? Some companies, like SRAM, are great about posting step-by-step videos about specific products.

  1. Ignoring Your Brakes

Neglected rim brakes can get glazed pads that are don’t brake effectively, and grit ground into the pad can groove your rim sidewalls over time and shorten wheel life. Rim and disc brake pads must be swapped out when worn, and hydraulic systems benefit from a brake bleed.

What to do:
Keep an eye on pad wear and keep the brake surface clean. For rim brakes, clean the rims with a rag dabbed in rubbing alcohol to remove rubber and dirt. If the rim is really dirty, scrub brake tracks on metal rims with steel wool first (don’t do this on carbon brake tracks). Use a file to rough up rubber brake pads and remove glaze. A small dental pick can help pluck out larger pieces of dirt or metal slivers.

For disc brakes, check pad wear by removing the pads from the caliper or just shining a flashlight in there. If there’s less than 1mm of pad material left, swap them. Clean rotors with rubbing alcohol and inspect for deep gouges and warping and check that bolts are tight. Brakes can benefit from a yearly bleed even if they seem to be working fine, because the repeated heat-and-cool cycles from braking will degrade fluid over time.

  1. Mistreating Your Helmet

Heat in itself can be dangerous for helmets. The trunk of a car can get super hot, enough to deform the foam liner and the shell. Extreme cold can also lead to decreased performance in a crash situation.

What to do:
To get rid of stank, mud splatter, and those telltale white salt stains on the pads and straps, wash your helmet by hand with warm, soapy water (never use solvents and other chemicals; they can harm the plastic shell and foam). If you don’t have a laundry sink, a bath or shower works fine.

Finally, do what you can to avoid even minor dings and drops. Instead of casually draping your lid over a brake lever, secure it to the handlebar with the strap so it doesn’t fall off.


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