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Great Britain Cycling Team mechanic Q and A - part 1

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Article posted: 03/07/2013

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With hundreds of bikes passing through his workshop every year, Great Britain Cycling Team mechanic Mark Ingham knows everything there is to know about keeping your bike running smoothly and avoiding costly repair bills. Here he answers some of your mechanical and maintenance questions.

Question: Do you recommend any courses for bike maintenance? I want to be able to strip a bike fully and put it all back together again.

Mark: Look up Cytech certified courses, there are a number of providers so one shouldn’t be too far from you.

Question: How often should you clean your bike if you’re riding 2-3 times a week or more? Is there any particular method you’d advise following?

Mark: After every ride. Degrease your chain and any other oil-soiled components first, I use a chain cleaning tool with CarPlan degreaser, then clean with a proprietary detergent, rinse off, dry and lubricate chain. Check cable operation and lubricate if necessary. It’s only a five minute job and will save you time, money and grief in the long term. Here's Martyn's five minute bike wash.

Question: What are the minimum things you should take out with you when you go out on your ride?

Mark: Drinks, food, mobile phone (charged), multi tool, spare inner tube, puncture repair kit, tyre levers, CO2 cartridge and/or pump, emergency cash and a spare ‘magic’ chain link. You might also consider extra rain-protective clothing and a mini chain-tool.

Question: I currently have a triple cassette (52, 40, 30) and a 9-speed (11-25) cassette. I'm considering doing a ride across the Pyrenees in October with a group of friends to raise money for a charity. At 70 kg, I'm fairly good at climbing. My question is should I keep the triple or replace it with a compact? I tend not to use the “granny”, but I might be thankful for it when approaching the top of a steep incline.

Mark: If you’re happy with the triple keep it. When it’s time to upgrade you might consider a compact instead. I prefer a compact with the appropriate cassette for the terrain. Be careful over the Pyrenees though as one side is civilised and the other not.

Question: I do most of my own maintenance on my bikes. However I am never sure how much oil I should apply to my chains? One bike is my winter trainer and commuter and the other I use in the summer for time trials, Audax and sportives. I use Finish Line wet lube on both bikes & apply a small amount to each link. Should I be using the same oil?

Mark: I use wet-lube all year round and apply a liberal amount then run the chain over all the sprockets and chain rings for a minute or so to help ensure the oil gets to the chain pins/rollers. Then wipe off the excess by running it through a rag but watch your fingers especially on fixies and track bikes.

Question: How much should I allow my chain to wear before renewing? How many chains should I replace before renewing cassette and chain rings?

Mark: Use a chain checker to check wear and replace it when your chain is 0.75% longer than the nominal original length or 0.5% for 11speed chains. Visually check ‘rings and sprockets for wear and if the shape is worn on the contact pressure side, replace it. There’s no fixed number of chain replacements this corresponds with. It could be several on a well maintained road bike or one on a poorly maintained mountain bike. Check out the technique of how to change your chain and cassette.

Question: What's your best tip for fitting a very tight clincher tyre on a rim? In my case, I've really struggled to fit a Vittoria Open Corsa Evo SC on Camapagnolo Neutron wheels. I’m desperate not to damage the rims but it's proving difficult not to.

Mark: If you get the bead of the tyre well seated in the central well of the rim they will go on more easily as you can gather all the ‘slack’ in one place to get the last bit of tyre on. Fully deflate the inner tube once it’s well positioned in the tyre as this will help too. I find finishing at the valve easiest as you can push the valve stem up to avoid pinching the inner tube. Don’t be tempted to use a tyre lever when fitting a tyre. Tyre levers are the tools of the devil and must only be used to remove a tyre.

Question: I’m thinking of upgrading to a bike with a tapered steerer tube? Is this a worthwhile upgrade or a flash in the pan?

Mark: I wouldn’t upgrade just for this, although in theory it should result in a stiffer head tube and fork combination. Unless your current ride is very flexible in this area I would be looking elsewhere for improvements. Wheels, bike fit, some coaching or put the money towards a training camp somewhere sunny and dry.

Question: How do I set up my handlebars correctly?

Mark: I assume you mean road bars. I like to get the flat section of the lever hoods level with the flat section of the bar or just slightly below so that your hands are comfortable fully on the hoods and half on them. Then I set rotation of the bars until I’m comfortable on the top of the hoods. This is usually not far off a straight line along the top of the stem, bars and hoods with perhaps a slight drop or rotation as you move your hands forward. Most importantly you need to be able to reach and use the brakes. Adjust the lever reach to suit your hand size and the gear levers should also be easy to use as a consequence. If you’re still not comfortable, consider a professional bike fit.

Question: My cycling friends spray their bikes all over with Teflon spray after washing the. Apart from making the bikes shine and smell nice, what are the benefits, if any?

Mark: It will help stop dirt sticking to the frame and make cleaning marginally easier. However, if you’re following my advice about giving your bike a wash down after every ride, it’s not really necessary.

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