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PJT
PJT's picture
Joined: Aug 16 2005
Posts: 1513
Prerace bike tune-up checklist

Just thought I’d share my “A” race DIY bike tune-up routine. I try to do this work the weekend prior to race weekend. That way, I can do a few shakeout rides and if I need to run to the LBS for emergency assistance I still have time.

If anyone has anything to add to this list, please do.

Drivetrain:

Remove and clean chain.
Remove and clean cassette.
Using soap, water and a brush, clean front and rear derailleurs (I admit I don’t remove the jockey wheels from my rear derailleur, just because I don’t want to mess with that before a race).
Clean chainrings.
Using chain gauge, check chain for excess wear (I replace the chain at the beginning of each season and don’t think the gauge has ever indicated replacement by September).
With the chain off, give the cranks a spin to check the bottom bracket bearings. If there is clicking or stickiness, BB may need an overhaul or replacement.
Reinstall chain and cassette and lube chain.
Check shifting and adjust derailleurs if necessary.

Frame:

Remove wheels and clean frame with soap and water.
Inspect frame visually for any cracks or dents.

Wheels and Tires:

Clean wheels, focus on brake track.
Check wheels for true.
Inspect wheels for cracks.
Inspect tires for wear or damage (I put on new tires and tubes on the race wheels at the beginning of each season, because I like to get a few hundred miles on them before the A race. Yes, they might be ever so slightly slower, but it’s peace of mind for me to not be messing with tires and tubes. It is way too easy to mis-install a tube such that it works itself under the bead of a tire, especially on a narrow rim, and bursts during a race. Lots of people will blame this phenomenon on hot temperatures. They are wrong.)
Check valve stems/extenders on tubes to make sure everything inflates smoothly.

Brakes:

Clean calipers and check that action is smooth (Gatorade and sweat can do an number on front brake calipers over time)
Check pads for excess wear.
Check alignment of pads with race wheel and adjust if necessary.
If rain is forecast, switch pads to Kool Stop salmon. (I have aluminum rims on my race wheels. If I had carbon ones, I’d have to switch the pads every time).

Steering:

Check headset action by holding bike by seatpost and making sure bars swing freely back and forth (at least as much as the cables allow). If stuck, loosen stem cap bolt slightly to see if that frees the bars. If not, remove bars and clean or overhaul headset as needed.

Bolts:

Check that these bolts are tightened to spec, using a torque wrench where necessary:
1. Pedals
2. Pedal tension bolts (visual check of tension setting)
3. Bottom bracket
4. Seatpost
5. Saddle hardware
6. Derailleur mount bolts
7. Brake mounts
8. Stem bolts
9. Stem cap bolt
10. Aerobar extensions
11. Water bottle brazes

Shoes:

Check cleats for wear and replace if necessary.
Tighten cleat bolts.

On the shakeout rides:

Make sure all gears are shifting smoothly, both under load (while climbing) and not. Check braking; listen for any new rattles, etc.

prendergi's picture
Joined: Apr 15 2009
Posts: 457
at what point to deem your

at what point to deem your brakes need to be replaced or is that an automatic replacement at the beginning of a season?

Anton's picture
Joined: Mar 4 2005
Posts: 5350
Loc-tite (blue) on the cleat

Loc-tite (blue) on the cleat bolts.
Great List!

TriSooner's picture
Joined: Dec 20 2007
Posts: 3376
PJT wrote: Bolts: 6.

[quote=PJT]
Bolts:
6. Derailleur mount bolts
[/quote]

Do you mean where the F derailleur mounts to the seat tube (either braze-on or clamp) and where the R derailleur mounts to the rear drop outs? That's a good check. If so, I'd add #12 to check the bolts that clamp down on the deraillauer cables. If loosened, you'll lose your cable and can't shift and all it took was a insert of the Allen wrench and a quick turn. Oh, and bar plugs if you ride drops. RDs frown on core tissue samples.

Nice tag.

NotAsFast's picture
Joined: Oct 17 2005
Posts: 574
One other thing I do on my

One other thing I do on my pre race tune up is with my race wheels (808's) I squeeze the spokes slightly together going around the wheel to move them in their seats. Similar to what you do to a newly built wheel.

I did that three weeks ago, the weekend before my race and it broke a spoke throwing the whole wheel out of true. If that happened on race day, with the small amount of clearance I have on the back wheel, even with the brake lever compeltely off, it still would of rubbed the carbon frame, which is never a good thing to do.

Fortunately for me I build my own wheels so it wasnt a major fix, but if you do this do it the weekend before just to be safe.

jwillia852's picture
Joined: Jul 9 2008
Posts: 475
For you guys who don't build

For you guys who don't build your wheels (envy notasfast), do you true your own wheels?

Great List

zagfan's picture
Joined: May 21 2008
Posts: 393
Great list, I was just

Great list, I was just wondering about this the other day. Thanks for sharing.

PJT
PJT's picture
Joined: Aug 16 2005
Posts: 1513
prendergi wrote:at what

[quote=prendergi]at what point to deem your brakes need to be replaced or is that an automatic replacement at the beginning of a season?[/quote]

Brake calipers should last for years and years if properly maintained. The brake pads (rubbery things that touch the wheel) often have wear indicators on them that show when replacement is needed. I usually get a few years out of my brake pads, but I train on 2 different bikes (road and tri) during the season and I don't do a lot of long descents or urban stop & go riding to wear the pads faster.

Pads are cheap. Kool Stop, Shimano DA, and other top brands should all be $20 or less.

[quote=TriSooner] I'd add #12 to check the bolts that clamp down on the deraillauer cables. If loosened, you'll lose your cable and can't shift and all it took was a insert of the Allen wrench and a quick turn. Oh, and bar plugs if you ride drops. RDs frown on core tissue samples. [/quote]

Good additions. Ditto Anton on using blue loctite on cleat bolts (I use grease when I install them for the first time, but loctite is certainly a viable alternative).

And as far as wheel truing: My truing skills are marginal because it's not something I need to do very often and it's definitely more of an art form than most other types of bike maintenance. I'll attempt to true my own training wheels, because the downside of a screwup is relatively low. Zipps are another story as a bad truing job can crack the carbon hoop of the wheel--so those go to a pro for truing.

tri-ac's picture
Joined: Dec 7 2005
Posts: 3717
PJT, how long does it take

PJT, how long does it take to do your pre-race service?

I've always had this done by the LBS

PJT
PJT's picture
Joined: Aug 16 2005
Posts: 1513
tri-ac wrote:PJT, how long

[quote=tri-ac]PJT, how long does it take to do your pre-race service?

I've always had this done by the LBS[/quote]

Maybe 2 hours, 3 tops. My LBS would charge $75-100 for this (though they would also disassemble and clean the rear der. jockey wheels and possibly the BB.) Yes, it is a pain. OTOH, I get it done when I want it done and don't lose access to my bike for several days. Most important, I know for dead certain that the work is getting done to my satisfaction. Since I am the one who literally has skin in the game, I like to think that nobody is as careful maintaining my bike as I am.

tri-ac's picture
Joined: Dec 7 2005
Posts: 3717
PJT wrote:tri-ac wrote:PJT,

[quote=PJT][quote=tri-ac]PJT, how long does it take to do your pre-race service?

I've always had this done by the LBS[/quote]

Maybe 2 hours, 3 tops. My LBS would charge $75-100 for this (though they would also disassemble and clean the rear der. jockey wheels and possibly the BB.) Yes, it is a pain. OTOH, I get it done when I want it done and don't lose access to my bike for several days. Most important, I know for dead certain that the work is getting done to my satisfaction. Since I am the one who literally has skin in the game, I like to think that nobody is as careful maintaining my bike as I am.

[/quote]

that's not too bad...i'm assuming it'd take me prolly twice that. if i could learn all those tasks, i'd be happy to take a crack at it.

i'm slowly learning to take care of my bike myself, but the LBS still has the experience to do it better than me (same cost as yours, but they have overnight help and can turn stuff like this around very quickly: in at 6p, out at 10am the next morning, except sundays)

Anton's picture
Joined: Mar 4 2005
Posts: 5350
I do my own check list at

I do my own check list at home...but still run it by the LBS for a look see in case I missed something.
They don't charge me and it gives me peace of mind..takes them 10 minutes to double check everything.
Before IMLP they found, bless em, a problem with the FD that I missed...limit screw replaced, fixed, done. NC!

TriSooner's picture
Joined: Dec 20 2007
Posts: 3376
PJT wrote:Maybe 2 hours, 3

[quote=PJT]Maybe 2 hours, 3 tops. My LBS would charge $75-100 for this (though they would also disassemble and clean the rear der. jockey wheels and possibly the BB.) Yes, it is a pain. OTOH, I get it done when I want it done and don't lose access to my bike for several days. Most important, I know for dead certain that the work is getting done to my satisfaction. Since I am the one who literally has skin in the game, I like to think that nobody is as careful maintaining my bike as I am.[/quote]

Gold. THIS is why getting intimate with your bike and going through this list is good idea. I thought about again later, and as PJT noted, my LBS would charge $100 or so for this service. 90% of what you listed could be done with your mini tool, tire levers, and phillips head screwdriver. The only other tools you'd need to buy (or get out of the garage) would be a chain gauge, chain whip, cassette lock ring tool+socket wrench. And maybe a chain pin tool to adjust the length when you buy a new chain and install and quick-link (the greatest invention ever). The point is if you bought all of these tools from your LBS and even went "all Park," it'd be less than $100 - the cost of one cleaning. It may sound corny, but if you set aside a couple of hours, open a bottle of Chianti, put some Bocelli on, light a nice cigar and work over your ride, magic can happen.

A couple of the areas are above my skill grade. BB removal is beyond my tool and competence level, and so is just about anything involveing the headset ("[url=http://www.parktool.com/products/detail.asp?cat=10&item=CRP-1]I need to buy a crown race puller?[/url]" Tell me [i]you[/i] know how to use that monster.) or something that has bearings (like wheel hubs). I'd eventually like to get a truing stand, but fortunately my Mavic SSC SLs with well over 10,000 have come out of true . . . once.

NotAsFast's picture
Joined: Oct 17 2005
Posts: 574
I get my LBS to do my crown

I get my LBS to do my crown race work, but I have a great relationship with him, and he never charges me a thing. Maybe its because I fix his computer every time I am there. Goes to show, there is more than one way to pay for your LBS work.

The other upside is, if I need a tool I just get to borrow it, and if I need mechanical advice it is given for free without hesitation. Plus he send me wheel builds from time to time if he way too busy.

Like Trisooner says. Get intimate with your bike, the better you know it, the better you know what to do if you have a problem, especially if you are 30 miles from home. The wife doesnt like driving that far to pick me up. Motivation enough for me.

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