Mike Norris is the GB Cycling's Team's Head Mechanic. He pretty much knows everything there is to know about fixing a bike. From fixing a puncture to fitting new groupsets, Mike can do it all in quick fast time and has the answers to most problems you encounter with bike maintainance. Here's a few answers to some of the questions you asked Mike recently:
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.
Mike: I don’t recommend any as they take the food out of the mouths of mechanics’ children. :) But if you must - 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?
Mike: After every ride! Degrease your chain and any other oil-soiled components first – (I use a chain cleaning tool CarPlan degreaser), then clean with a proprietary detergent, rinse off, dry, lubricate chain. Check cable operation and lubricate if necessary.
Question: What are the minimum things you should take out with you when you go out on your ride?
Mike: Drinks, banana/gels, 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. A motor-pacing scooter can also be handy! And if you are riding to get away from it all forget the phone...
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 70kg, 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!
Mike: 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 as to how much oil I should apply to my chains? One bike is my winter trainer/commute & the other summer use for time trials, Audax & sportives. I use Finish Line wet lub on both bikes & apply a small amount to each link. Should I be using the same oil? (i.e. Wet lube for both bikes & am I applying the correct amount of lubricant/to much or to little?)
Mike: 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. Wipe off the excess with a rag – 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/chain rings?
Mike: 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 chains this corresponds with – it could be several on a well maintained road bike or very few on a poorly maintained mountain bike.
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. Desperate not to damage the rims but it's proving difficult not to.
Mike: 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 – ever! Tyre levers are the tools of the devil (who also causes us to puncture so he can watch cyclists stationary in the rain) 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?
Mike: I wouldn’t upgrade just for this although in theory it should result in a stiffer head tube / fork combination. Unless your current ride is very flexible in this area I would be looking elsewhere for improvements – wheels, position, even coaching! Or put the money towards a training camp somewhere sunny and dry! Sorry – forgot my PR training – you must upgrade immediately or you will be forever marked out as a loser.
Question: How do I set up my handlebars correctly?
Mike: I assume you mean road bars. I like to get the straight/flat section of the lever hoods level with the straight section of the bar or just slightly below so that your hands are comfortable on the hoods and half on/off. 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/hoods with perhaps a slight drop/rotation as you move your hands forward. 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. Still not comfortable – consider a positioning session.
Question: My cycling friends spray their bikes all over with Teflon spray after washing them – aside from making the bikes shine and smell nice, what are the benefits, if any?
Mike: Your friends will go much faster, win more races and become internationally famous – before a fall from grace when their secret is discovered and banned by the UCI.