For many aspiring road cyclists, winter is a low-mileage season – at least for outdoor riding. Multi-sport athletes have been preoccupied with hunting powder or sport climbing in warmer environs. These five pointers from Active Junky will make returning to the road easier and safer no matter what your riding goals for this year.
Tip #1: Check handlebar tape
As one of the primary connections between rider and machine, handlebars should allow nearly-constant repositioning of hands without losing a firm grip. Dirty or sticky tape makes for poor grab as does a loosening wrap. If tape is worth keeping, make certain tension is uniform and both ends remain secure. If any doubts, spring for new tape ($30 or less) for greater bike handling and shifting confidence.
Tip #2: Get cleat paranoia
First season rides are important as all the variables of road cycling – including traffic – immediately loom large. Cleats, particularly those made of plastic, wear out. Sharp edges that engage the pedals or maintain alignment become rounded almost to the point of looking blurry. A sharp knife trims off sloppy edges and digs deep to remove grit. Don’t be afraid to unscrew, clean and reattach cleats, knowing retightening is necessary even after five hours on the road.
Tip #3: Recheck saddle height and position
Last season’s miles likely moved both the height of the seat post as well as saddle angle. Both have a tremendous effect on comfort as well as power. Many riders are satisfied with too-low saddles that limit leg rotation while increasingly lactic acid accumulation by limiting circulation. Know that first rides will feel as if you’re overextending so warm up gradually. While higher is not always better, lower is slower in nearly every case
Tip #4: Lube from bottom bracket to shifters
This topic warrants its own consideration. Suffice it to say that many riders have only chain lube for keeping everything from pedals to shifters operating smoothly. Or they employ WD-40 freely without consideration for the build-up of grit attached to every mile, much less the longevity of their lubrication compounds. A combination of three, well-chosen lube products should get you down the road – and bring you home with fewer mechanical problems.
Tip #5: Replace tires and tubes
Time doesn’t turn rubber compounds into finely-aged traction devices. Temperature fluctuations plus oxidation do serious damage as does exposure to sunlight. With new tire patterns for the taking, $100 will add a margin of speed, handling and stopping power to your bike as with no other expenditure. There’s a time to get by (think beer forgotten in a cooler) and a time to act like a grown-up. This is the latter.
Looking for a New bike this season? Check out our picks for the Best Road Bikes under $2,000