Let’s be honest, racing your bike is not cheap. When you think about things like race entry fees, traveling to the event, you’re probably taking some time off work as well. One should be pretty committed when it comes to signing up, throwing ourselves in the deep end.
So why is it the riders go through all that preparation to get to the start line, but they don’t make sure their bikes running in tip top shape?
My guess is they just don’t know where to start confidently. Very few riders in the world have a professional mechanic that’s going to take care of all those pre-race day worries, as far as the bikes concerned, but we’re our own mechanics.
So we’ve got ourselves. Later on I do want to go over a couple of race day enduro tips, but for now let’s just focus on the bike because if this things dialed, that’s one less headache for you. You can focus your attention elsewhere.
Even if you aren’t racing your first or 50th enduro here, these tips and preparation are really beneficial to everyday riders. Think about that next big bike trip you’re going on or all day adventure.
Consider a couple of these tips to help prep you for your ride, cause they definitely cross over.
First and foremost, this should go without saying, but I’m going to reiterate it even for myself because it’s that important. And that is start with a clean bike. This is going to make the rest of the service go that much smoother and possibly, in the cleaning process, you might’ve noticed some parts that need a little extra attention.
I like to start by cleaning the frame and the wheels. I just use some simple bio-degradable soapy water. Works wonders for me, but make sure to dry it after with a clean towel. When you’re going deep on cleaning that drive train, I like to use a little degreaser agent. It’s going to help break it down, get the cassette looking nice and fresh and shifting like a dream.
After that, I like to finish with a fresh layer of chain lube to really seal the deal. But don’t forget to wipe off the excess when you’re done. Bike is clean and polished. Time to get to the nitty gritty. The servicing parts.
Now, personally, I like to do this the day before my race, assuming I’ve just had practice and I’ve got one day to just rest up before racing, lots of time to check the bike over. But if you’re planning on bringing it to your local bike shop to have the service done there, make sure you book it in with plenty enough time. Could take a couple of days to get it back.
So you don’t want to be rushing around morning of the race. While it isn’t necessary to throw on new components and fresh rubber, every single race weekend, it’s really important to be cognizant of how your parts are wearing and when you serviced them last. Like just a simple fork lower service can make a huge difference on how your bike feels out on the track. So this kind of stuff can be done pretty easily as a home mechanic, if you have the right tools.
But before we get too deep, start with bolt check. I like to bolt check every single thing on the bike, bring it back to the torque spec. That way stage one, you can descend with competence.
This next tip is easily overlooked, even I sometimes forget, but don’t forget to check your spoke tension on your wheels. If anything’s loose there, you’re going to want to make sure to tighten it up, get it back as straight as possible because sometimes believe it or not little things like loose spokes can in fact lead to a flat tire later on in a race run.
Gear Check & Sprints
Next step, we’re going to run through all the gears, checking every single one, make sure it’s shifting like a dream. Little pro tip from Tom Bradshaw himself. He says take the bike out onto some flat ground when you think it’s shifting nice, throw in a couple of sprinting start gates because if you’re going to drop a chain or slip a pedal, it’s always going to happen right when you descend into a stage.
Something I really, really love on race day is a freshly serviced fork. Now you don’t have to take this thing fully apart and do a full rebuild on it, but even just changing the oil and the lowers, it’s going to feel really nice, clean it all up.
It’s going to feel a lot better on your hands, over an eight hour race day. And if you’re not comfortable doing that, then definitely take it to your local bike shop because trust me, it’s going to make a big difference.
Even if you don’t send your fork in to get service or you don’t do it yourself at home, still double check your pressures just to make sure you haven’t lost any air since your last ride. We’re heading out there for what could be a six to eight hour bike ride racing, descending.
Brake Pad Check
So it’s really important to check your brake pads. Now, personally, I don’t actually love to put new brake pads in every single race day because it takes a little bit of time to bed them in properly. And it’s a bit of a mind game when you drop into stage one and your brakes aren’t bedded in properly. It’s going to be a bad rest of the day.
So what I do instead is just make sure I’ve got enough meat on the pads, the rotors in good condition, give them a little cleanup and then just put them back in.
If you do go ahead and decide to throw in new brake pads, chances are you going to have to push those pistons back out in the caliper, so you probably want to do a full bleed on the whole system, get some fresh oil in there.
However, for me, I’m not going to do that today, cause I know I’ve got enough meat on my brake pads. So I’m going to clean those up, put them back in and then on these brakes, I can actually just bleed the lever and get rid of those few extra bubbles. Keeps it really simple for me.
Check Frame Bearings
Something that’s not in my everyday service ritual, but definitely for race time is to check the frame bearings. Now a few gunked up frame bearings or even ones that are fully locked, you can’t spin, that could be the reason for some odd feelings on the bike or those noises that you just can’t pin down.
They’re also really crucial to help with suspension working on your bike and just how your bike feels overall. So it’s worth checking those, making sure they’re moving super freely.
Now when it comes to tires, really fresh, good grip is going to make a big difference. It gives me a ton of confidence going fast and cornering with speed. Even if you only keep one set of freshest tires throughout the whole race season, only throw them on for your race laps.
It’s really gonna make a big difference over old bald tires. If you put these fresh tires on last night or if you’re in a different location than you’re used to, it’s not uncommon to lose a little air pressure in your tires, especially if you’re going for a tubeless set up overnight.
So therefore in the morning, bring the pressure gauge out and just double check where you’re at. Just a little bonus topic, but I do think it’s worth considering, is your tire casing. Now for me personally, I always go for that kind of mid to heavier casing because I hate flat tires.
Touch wood, I haven’t had one in quite some time. But on race day, it’s pretty common to be a little bit fatigued. You’re not taking the smoothest lines. You’re probably riding harder than you usually do out on a practice lap.
So might be a good idea to spring up in the tire casing just to cover your butt come race day. Do bear in mind though, if you’re used to running really thin more cross country type tires, and you slap on a big downhill one, you’re going to notice the difference going to be a little bit heavier, feeling a little bit slower rolling. So maybe practice this a couple days before your race. So you’re not totally thrown off.
Load Up Bike
Final little hints, we are almost ready to line up and go racing. But first I like to put everything on my bike that I’m going to need for the race day, the night before. So that way I’m not running around in the morning, looking for zip ties for my number plate, side cutters to cut the zip ties. And as for what I carry on my bike, well, I’ve got the usual suspects.
I like to obviously carry a pump and a tube if there’s any issues out on course. On my pump, I actually have a little bit of spare tape and zip ties. Should I have any mechanical or need to help a friend. I’ve got my multi-tool so I can tighten up anything as needed on the course. Also in the EDC tool I pack my tire plugs. Those are going to be really helpful.
If I get a little puncture out in the stages while I’m racing, hopefully I can get to the bottom of the stage and then put it in tube and take it from there. But in the heat of the moment, you just want to shove a plug in there and keep racin’.
Obviously we’ve got a full water bottle on the bike ready to go, but one little thing I do carry with me on race day that I pretty much never ride with otherwise, is a CO2 cartridge. Because if you do get a flat mid-stage and you need to pump it up and keep going, it’s gonna save you so much time versus the hand pumps. Have a little CO2 cartridge ready to go. And finally, are you really enduroing without some Enduro fruit on your bikes?
I mean, I’m not partial to bananas myself. They get a bit yucky and brown after that first climb, but a nice orange at the top of stage, one little hydration. It’s good stuff. Make sure to spend some quality time with your race rig here before the race day comes. And hopefully it’s going to treat you nice out there.
Thanks for reading about my pre-race bike check.