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In the excitement of getting ready for a big Gran Fondo or sportive a surprising number of riders overlook their bike. A mechanical on the day could slow you down or even prevent you from finishing. Why waste your training by failing to prepare your bike properly? Discover what jobs you should do in the lead up to an event so you can be sure both you and your bike are in the best condition to perform!
It all starts with your bike
For many riders a Gran Fondo is the longest they will spend in the saddle, so you need everything about your bike to be as comfortable as possible. If you are experiencing any minor aches and pains in training get your bike fit checked out as soon as possible. If you do need to change anything it gives you time to choose the new component and get used to it. Your mechanic can give you good advice on what to upgrade.
Plan your upgrades in advance
Before a big event it is tempting to buy some nice new upgrades for your bike but if you are changing contact points such as saddle or handlebars do it in plenty of time to make sure they are comfortable and properly set-up. You certainly don’t want to ride a long distance on an untested saddle! If you are changing parts of your drive-train, maybe to get lower gears for a climbing event, allow time to test the new set-up works smoothly.
Never ride with anything new on event day, this goes for kit and clothing as well as bike upgrades. Don’t wear kit for the first time in an event as seams can rub and fabric itch. These minor irritations can prove very distracting when you have long hours in the saddle. Use shoes that you have been riding in for a while and check your cleats are in good condition. Worn cleats can lose you power at the pedal but if you plan to change them don’t leave it until the night before, you will need to do a few rides to make sure the position is correct.
Get a service with time to spare
Get your bike booked in for a service at least a week or two before the event. This gives the mechanics time to check it over, then source and change any new parts required.
Bike components wear out through use and worn components may mean your bike doesn’t perform as well as it should, it isn’t as fun to ride or can even be dangerous. Your mechanic will check your chain, chain-rings, rear sprockets and cables to make sure you can shift gear smoothly, replacing anything that is worn. Powerful brakes are essential for your safety so cables or hydraulics will be checked and brake pads replaced. Headset, bottom bracket and hubs will also be checked - worn out or sticky bearings will only slow you down!
Head to your nearest Shimano Service Centre to make sure your bike is in good working order.
On the last ride before the event give your bike a proper shake-down. Check through all your gears, running from the bottom of the cassette to the top and practice a few short sprints so you know everything meshes when you put the power down. It feels good to test your legs with some speed just before race day!
Brush up your mechanics skills
Simple mechanicals like a puncture or broken chain shouldn’t mean the end of your ride. If you don’t already know how to fix these things, ask your mechanic to show you. Carry a quick-link or Powerlink for your chain, spare tubes, a lightweight pump or for a really speedy fix, a C02 gas inflator. If you are swapping to your best deep-section wheels for an event make sure you carry tubes with long enough valves or a valve extender.
When you are full of adrenalin and frustration in a race it can be hard to calmly fix a mechanical, even when you know how. Practising gives you the confidence that you will be able to do it quickly and you are less likely to panic and make a mistake.
Pack your kit bag
Laying out your kit bag the day before gives you time to check you have everything and that it is all working the way it should. Look up the weather report so you have the right kit for the conditions. Check and double check you have packed everything. Plenty of riders have had their big event ruined by something as simple as forgetting their shoes or their helmet!
On the day
Check your bike a final time on the morning of your event, particularly if you travelled with it in the car or on the roof. Use a track pump to make sure your tires are properly inflated. Run through all your gears, spin your wheels to see if they are true, try your brakes to be sure they stop you quickly and don’t rub. Find out how to do a full pre-ride check here.
Knowing that your bike is in perfect working order and that you have the spares and skills to fix it if it goes wrong means you can spend all your energy and attention on pushing your body to its best performance.