5 things your bike is telling you
They might not say much, but your bike can actually tell you quite a lot about yourself if you take a look. Here are five things we look at on a bike and you should do this every month.
1. Handle bar tape - are you the smelly undies and singlet guy?
Bar tape tells us many things. Firstly how hygenic you are. Think of bar tape as socks and undies. They get a lot of close contact, get plenty of sweat and are the ideal home for ugly bacteria. So like your socks and undies clean it and change change it regularly. When you ride you always touch your bars and you'll pick up the bacteria and spread it around. Super salty bar tape also tells us there is likely lots of corrosion and oxidation happinging underneath with all parts and components that are metal so these will need a good clean to prevent them breaking - we have seen plenty of corroded handle bars and lever mounts break due to corrosion from sweat. Don;t be the dirty guy in the bunch with smelly undies.
2. Saddle - are you the guy with holes in their running shoes and wonky wear marks on the soles?
Your saddle supports you, like a shoe supports your foot. It helps you align to the bike and like a shoe they wear out from all of the weight bearing and bumps you encounter on the way - the saddle sucks up those bumps. They absorb and flex and move, however they wear out - the foam loses its properties, the saddle rails weaken and can compress as does the shell. When we look at a bike we inspect the saddle and look for signs of wear such as bent or broken rails, wear and creaking where the saddle rails attach to the shell. Is the foal dipped and compressed? If so its not that the saddle is worn in, your saddle is worn out. Also look at the wear patterns - is there wear marks just on one side? If so it says that you are loading it unevenly - perhaps your sitting alignment is off or there is something at play elsewhere in the bike. Perhaps the saddle although not causing symptoms of pain and discomfort is showing symptoms of lost aligment and power. Pehaps get a pressure check.
3. Crank arms- scuffed and polished - its absorbing more power than you can save with an expensive wheelset.
Your cranks arms don;t come with pre polished wear marks. Visible signs of rubbing and polishing tell you your foot or ankle are rubbing on the crank. That says something about your aignment and function. You could simply ignore it or you could have it checked out. If you are rubbing the crank, apart from wearing out the crank, chances are the alignment is causing extra wear in cleats, pedals and shoes. All that rubbing and wear is an energy loss - the $3000 wheels you bought to save 15watts and 9 seconds over 40km are lost because of the extra drag from rubbing and that's before you get an improvement of power transfer from better alignment. Check your standing alignment - do your toes point out? If so aligning yourself better makes sense.
4. Pedals and cleats - tick tock, wibble wobble
This is a super interface - a key power transfer point. If your gearbox was loose would you just keep driving? Check your pedals - do they spin freely? Of not time for a service of the bearings. Is there toggle? Toggle is the play in the pedals on the axle - if there is movement of the pedal body on the axle they are well worn. Pedals that have lots of toggle often result in extra hamstring loads on the inside of the knee and the heel can pull in at the back as your body tries to stabilise and hold the position while transfering power. If your knees are sore on the inside towards the back its possible its from lots of pedal toggle or worn cleats. Time to replace them. The same is for your cleats. Check the bolts, check the wear and replace them frequently - your knees, feet and pelvis will appraciate the reduction in load.
5. Insole - has someone been gouging at the ice cream?
Pop your insoles out regularly and take a look. Can you see pressure and compression marks in the insoles. Are they even? Are they uneven? All of your power transfer goes through your feet and into the insolve first - its the primary power transfer interface and tells you how your foot is functioning and if it can do with some new or better support. Insoles wear out and most are not matched to your foot for ideal power transfer. Again all the effort on a well oiled machine with loads of training on Zwift only to leak power at your feet. Stop goughing the ice cream bucket! Replace your insoles, get some customs made, support your feet and better still do some strengthening exercises.
So go take a look at your bike and see what things look like and if you find things we can help you: