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Home » Cycling » Advancing from a Recreational Cyclist to an Enthusiast; What You Need to Know to Stay Sharp, Fast, and Happy on Your Bike(s)

Advancing from a Recreational Cyclist to an Enthusiast; What You Need to Know to Stay Sharp, Fast, and Happy on Your Bike(s)

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There are certain things I know that make life as an avid cyclist a lot easier, beyond simple “clean your chain” maintenance.  Maybe simpler is a better word than “easier”.  Come to think of it, “less chaotic” would do as well.

Cycling by the Numbers

For instance, off the top of my head, my saddle height is 36-3/8″, give or take a millimeter.  The distance from the center of my handlebar to the tip of my saddle should be between 22-1/2″ and 22-3/4″ depending on the saddle – the most important thing is that my knees are properly over the pedal spindle, of course, but I’ve also got to have the reach right.  The angle on my saddle, nose down, should be 3° on the Venge’s Romin saddle and 2° on the Trek’s Montrose Pro saddle.   I pump my 24mm tires up to 108 psi.  My 25’s go to 95 and 100, front and back.  These are my numbers.  With those numbers I can set up virtually any properly sized road bike on the planet up to fit me well enough I can ride a 100k without pain.  As much tinkering as I do on my bikes, it only makes sense to keep those numbers at the front of my melon.

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The Intricacies of My Bicycles

There are also a few intricacies I have to remember to keep the fleet rolling properly.  I have to clean and lube the metal shifter cable guide plate under the bottom bracket shell on my Trek every once in a while or it gets gooped up and won’t shift right.  I have to clean out the rear brake cable exit point from the Venge’s frame or else it’ll get caked with salt from where my sweat hits the top tube.  I also have to watch the sweat drippings on the Trek at the rear brake cable – under the fame, too.  I have to clean out the rear derailleur’s cable housing every now and again on the Trek because it gets gummed up – a normal thing in exterior routed cable bikes.  The Trek’s headset needs to be cleaned and tightened up regularly or it’ll creak when I’m out of the saddle.  On the Venge, I’ve gotta move the seat post around a little bit and tighten it back up once a year or it’ll develop a creak.  I’ve gotten rid of quick releases for Halo’s hex key skewers because they’re light, solid and quiet.

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…But WHY?!

Most people won’t go to the length I do to know my bikes.  For many, it makes more sense to “take it to the shop” and let a mechanic sort any mechanical issues out.  If I were to follow that line of thinking, I’d probably need three or four more bikes – one race bike and two rain bikes – so I could make sure to have one at the ready at any given point.  All too often I’ve got something that needs a little tinkering on at least one bike.  If I had to drop one off at the shop for a week every time I had to get something fixed… well, thank God I don’t!

One of the intricacies in dealing with high-priced, light equipment is that it often needs to be tinkered with (my Ican wheels, now that I’ve gotten through the initial build issues, being an exception).  The cleaner I keep the bikes, the better I maintain my equipment, the longer they last, quieter they are, and nicer they look.  Cables need changing, bolts need tightening, parts need cleaning (and to be lubed back up).  Between my wife’s bikes and mine, if I took them into the shop for everything that went wrong, I’d have more bikes in the shop than in the bike room.

This list would be never-ending…

Look folks, truthfully, I could probably go on to a point of getting boring with all of the neat little things I do to keep my bikes tip-top (my friend Ukulele Dave puts me to shame). The point is, being a recreational cyclist is awesome. You take your bike out now and again, you ride it some, you put up with some minor clicks and creaks… and when you’re done you put it up till the next time. Being a “ride every day” enthusiast is a different beast entirely. You’ll have multiple bikes to maintain and keep quiet and lubed/clean. You’ll ride enough that “clicks and creaks” will be a once a month issue (if not more frequent) and, because a quiet bike is so awesome, you’ll obsess about finding whichever one you happen to be looking for at the time. Some are rather elusive. With some time and “want to”, though, you’ll begin to build a historical knowledge of your bikes. You’ll be able to diagnose clicks and creaks simply by the noise. You’ll be able to make new bikes fit just like the old one’s. And you’ll be infinitely more comfortable when you ride for all that fine-tuning.

Being an enthusiast, rather than an occasional cyclist, is extremely rewarding and fun. It’s just a lot of work.


8 Comments

  1. capejohn says:

    I remember those days. Always working on the bikes to keep them clean and light. One of our group went as far as removing his valve caps to save weight.

  2. biking2work says:

    I love it when I have the time. The rest of my family ask me why if “they’re only gonna get dirty again, isn’t that frustrating?”. Nope, it makes them last longer and means that every day cleaning is another school day learning

  3. Kushal Gorti says:

    How do you come up with those measurements?

  4. joliesattic says:

    Even though I know how to take everything apart to fix it, I don’t have the patience, even hubby will take his in from time to time, but then he knows everyone from his racing days, so that’s a cheat. He works so much, he’d rather ride than fix when he has time.

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