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Trail to Zen: Bike Prep

As important as it is to have your body ready for an intense race like True Grit, you also want to have your bike in tip-top shape. You wouldn’t take your fresh-off-of-holiday-vacation Homer Simpson body out for the race, with no preparation or training, would you?

Likewise your bike. You’re not going to be pulling some old junker out of the garage that hasn’t been ridden in 30 years and try to race it for True Grit (unless it was the 1970’s again, I guess).

What you want is your bike to be in the best shape of its life, what Howlin’ Josh Wolfe calls “showroom-new”. What does showroom-new mean? Obviously, it should look like the angels are smiling down on it, like they are on this Specialized Epic World Cup. But what else does showroom-new mean?epic 2017

I spoke to expert mechanic Wolfe the other day, a rider who finished True Grit 2016 in three-and-a-half hours (50-mile race), and got the DL on what he does to get his bike ready, and what you should do to have your bike as ready as your bod come race day.


New chain
You need a new chain. If you are halfway around the course and break a chain because you had a slightly bent link, your race could be over, or at least delayed significantly. Just put a new chain on. And make sure its lubed even the day of the race, like Wolfe does.

Cables and housing
Make sure everything is in great working order. You’ve been riding the heck out of your bike to get ready for this race, maybe 100+ miles per week like the Wolfe, or even more, and your bike needs some love. Be ready to crank out your mileage by having the cables and housing ready to ride.

New tires
Old tires equal stiffer rubber, which means a less-comfortable ride. New tires, on the other hand, have softer and more supple rubber, which makes for a better ride. Especially with the mileage you’ve been putting on them, new tires will make for a better ride AND more peace of mind that you will finish the ride–Zen is really easy to get a sidewall cut on, and no one wants that on any ride, much less on race day.

As to what tires you use, it’s pretty much up to personal preference (just make sure you you’ve put a couple weeks or around five hours on them). Wolfe rides a smooth-rolling, control-casing tire like the Fast Trak or the Renegade at a 2.3 width. Other racers ride a grid tire with more tread, with a stiffer casing, and/or more grip on the trail.

Also, make sure you have a tubeless refresh before the race, and your PSI set to whatever you need for your weight and the type of casing your tire has.

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New brake pads
You will definitely want new brake pads and to do a brake bleed/flush. The Wolfe cautions you, his competition, that if you start the race with half a set, and it starts to sprinkle or even downpour, the likelihood of finishing the race is incredibly slim. So just change those out and be ready.

Seat-Dropper Post
Replace the cables and housing and check that dropper is all in great working order. If something isn’t working, figure it out before the race and get it fixed.

What if you don’t have a seat-dropper? Do you need one? Not necessarily. Some, like the Wolfe, ride without them and don’t really even like to ride with them. He is used to riding without, and also wants to save the pound of extra weight that it adds to his bike.

Other, equally-as-skilled riders pretty much wouldn’t ride without one. It’s totally YOUR personal preference. Whatever you do, don’t decide to get one the day before the race and ride it for the first or second time during the race.

Service your front suspension one last time
You will want to get your front fork serviced one last time. It will make for a better ride for you, and for your bike, and will be most likely to keep working for the duration of the race.

Fit and touch points
Josh also recommends you LOVE your fit and touch points. What are those? What we are talking about are things like grips, pedals, shorts with chamois, saddle, shoes, etc. For example, it seems like a small thing, but the Wolfe reminds you to make sure you love your grips. For example, he loves the feel of cheap foam grips, but he changes them out every few months. Some love the feel of the Ergon grip. Whatever you like, use them.

Also make sure you love your pedals and shoes (but don’t get anything new less than a few weeks before the race). Check your cleats and pedals and make sure they are all in good, working order. For example, check the cleats for wear and make sure they are not super worn down; you’d be surprised at how many people forget to check their cleats for wear, and you don’t want those slipping off on Zen!

Check your pedal bearings for excessive wiggle by moving the pedal back and forth a bit. If they are too wiggly, you might need a new pair. If you’re not sure, bring your bike by the shop and let us look at them.

Cleaned up
Make sure your bike is all cleaned up and at its best. Check your water-bottle cage bolts, for example, so they aren’t loose and you lose a cage during the race. Make your bike look and ride like it’s showroom-new. Remember the angels.

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This ride is going to beat the heck out of your bike, but if both you AND your bike start out in best working order–showroom-new–you are most likely to finish, and finish well, keeping your personal goals in mind.

So be prepared. Having both your bike and your bod in fantastic shape will give you ease of mind, insurance that you’ll finish, confidence, and a good time. Yeah, you’re racing. Yeah, you’re beating up your body and your bike. Yeah, you love it! Be ready.

And good luck from all of us at Red Rock Bicycle!

By Summer Barry

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