Coming back from the toughest ride of my life, there were several things that required attention – from my bike, to me physically. When I ride in a group on a supported ride such as Michigan Mountain Mayhem or the Assenmacher 100 I’m solely focused on getting it done, of staying with the group, staying hydrated and eating enough to keep me going without eating too much… Everything else goes by the wayside. I end up with sticky shifter levers (from all of the Gatorade/PowerAde), sweat, gunk, grime, Gatorade (and in this case, chain lube from busting my chain and having to fix it) all over my frame. I have a few dings on the frame that will have to be inspected by a competent person (from rocks and one decent nick in the chain stay from the aforementioned busted chain [UPDATE: Frame’s fine. No worries]).
Then there’s me. I was wrecked, just a little bit, after Mountain Mayhem, by far the hardest ride I’ve ever done. In other words, there’s a lot to take care of after a big ride.
I was thinking about starting with me first, because I’m the easiest part of the equation to deal with. However, after some thought, chronologically makes more sense…
So I pull into the parking lot 105 miles (and some change) later. I’ve already eaten (first things first, of course), my bike’s a mess, the shifting is sluggish and I’m pretty much toasted. My wife had packed our tent and campsite up already so after locking my bike up on the rack, my wife and I helped my friends pack up. Then came a shower and the long ride home – I didn’t mess with the bike at all that day. We ate dinner, unpacked, and had a nice evening together and I crashed out.
On waking the next day (Sunday in this case), I completely wiped down my bike, cleaning it entirely of the three G’s – grime, grease and Gatorade. I paid particular attention to the shifters and hoods that wound up sticky by the end of the ride, and the frame. I made sure the wheels were true as well, and gave it a ten minute once-over to make sure everything was in good working order and there were no major dings or cracks in the frame.
That done, I waited for my wife to wake up, we donned our cycling gear, pumped up the tires and we went for a short recovery ride – 20 miles with a goal pace of around 16 mph. Many folks would think that taking a day off would be wise but I’m not one. The hardest way to come back from a hard ride is to take a day off. The problem becomes picking up where I left off after that day off. Usually it takes me a ride to spin my legs back up if I do that, so I opt for a really easy, short-ish ride the next day. High cadence, low speed. We ended up with 21 miles and some change and a 16.3 mph average. I felt great the entire rest of the day – I cut some grass, took a nap and went swimming with my wife and daughters, then grilled dinner and followed that with a bit of TV time with the kids… In other words, I had a very active day with no ill-effects from the effort the day before. This is entirely attributable to the recovery ride. Had I chosen to take the day off, I’d have been wiped out, sore and sluggish.
While out on that ride I took the time to adjust my derailleurs, front and rear. An eighth of a turn on the rear and a half-turn on the front… An easy rule is this: Turn the adjuster whichever way the shifting is sluggish. If it’s slow going up the cassette (to an easier, lower gear), turn the adjuster to the left and no more than a quarter turn at a time. Same with the front (though I have the newer in-line adjusters that are in the cables just below the handlebar. Very simple, quarter turn, shift. Quarter turn, shift… It takes about thirty seconds to get both derailleurs running perfectly again. I should also say that I am insanely picky about how my bike shifts. I very well could have adjusted it on the fly while I was on my big ride but it wasn’t off by enough to mess with it – the bike still shifted gears fine, it was just a little sluggish. With time to tinker with it though, it’s a different story.
Next up, after all of the little things were cared for, came the full cleaning of the bike. Chain comes off, and sits in degreaser while I clean the cassette, chain rings, rear derailleur jockey wheels and the front derailleur cage. I flip the bike upside down, take off the wheels and clean everything – this is the spick-and-span clean. I get everything to a point where my bike looks showroom new again. Then I wipe down the chain, reinstall it, lube the chain, both derailleurs, and I’m ready to go again…
Perhaps this a touch much in terms of maintenance, but I’d rather put in a couple of hours now to have my bike running perfectly and looking awesome when it matters.
Actually, same goes for me too.