Your Cycling Checklist: Getting Your Bike Ready for the Victory Ride, with Gene Carleton

The V Foundation’s Victory Ride to Cure Cancer is quickly approaching, and that means it’s time to prepare your bike for the big ride! Maybe you’re new to riding and not sure what items you need. Or maybe you want to know how to have the most comfortable ride possible. Whatever your question may be, our expert mechanic, Gene Carleton from Performance Bicycle, has you covered.

Gene has been a cyclist since 1986 and a professional bicycle mechanic since 1999, after graduating from Barnett Bicycle Institute and SRAM Technical University. He has been with our partner, Performance Bike, for ten years as their “Spin Doctor Services Coordinator.” Gene has raced in a few mountain bike clubs, but really enjoys cruising around the woods on his mountain bike. He loves providing mobile mechanical support at charity rides, like the Victory Ride, because it requires him to think outside of the box to get riders back on their bikes and over the finish line. We asked Gene some important questions about cycling preparedness and this is what he had to say:

The Victory Ride: For someone who is new to riding longer distances (like 30, 60, or 100 miles), what kind of bike would you recommend?

Gene Carleton: It really depends on each individual rider. For most charity cyclists, a drop bar road bike works well because these bikes are lightweight, aerodynamic and offer multiple hand positions for the riders. This type of bike also comes in several frame materials. The most comfortable to ride (but expensive) material is carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is very light and stiff, and it absorbs vibrations very well. A more affordable alternative would be a road bike with an aluminum or steel frame; and many these days come with a carbon fork, which will reduce the road vibrations coming through the handlebars.

The drop bar road bike will place the rider in a very aerodynamic riding position, which is great for cyclists concerned with time. But if the rider experiences chronic lower back pain or doesn’t feel comfortable on a drop bar road bike, a flat bar road bike might be a better choice. The flat bar road bike combines the speed and riding efficiency of a drop bar road bike with a more comfortable, upright riding position of a mountain bike, with mountain bike type handlebars, brake levers and shifters.

TVR: If riders are buying a new bike, what are the top accessories you’d encourage them to add on?

GC:

  1. Helmet
  2. Riding shorts
  3. Gloves
  4. Flat tire repair kit
  5. Water bottle(s) and cage(s)
  6. Riding jersey
  7. Eye protection
  8. Cycling shoes

TVR: What’s on your checklist of things to assess before heading out on a long ride?

GC: On the bike: Always check the tire pressures and check your flat tire repair kit. Listen for any odd noises and tighten up any loose bolts. Make sure the wheels are properly seated in their dropouts and confirm that the brakes aren’t rubbing. Fill up your water bottles and pack some nutrition for the ride. And don’t forget your helmet!

Safety tip: Know where you’ll be riding and let others know your planned route and when you expect to be back. And always ride within your limits.

TVR: What can a rider do to help ensure they have a comfortable ride?

GC: Pre-ride training: Again, ride within your limits! Don’t let the excitement of the event push you outside your comfort zone early in the ride, and don’t cave in to peer pressure to ride farther than what you’ve trained to do. Have a plan and stick to it. If you’ve trained for a 30-mile ride, don’t try to challenge yourself to do the century ride on the day of the event.

As a general rule, you need to be able to comfortably complete training rides that are 2/3 the distance of your event day ride distance. For instance, if you plan to attempt the 100-mile route on May 19, you need to work up to comfortably completing training rides of at least 65-70 miles. If you plan on riding 30 miles for the Victory Ride, your training rides need to be at least 20 miles long a couple of weeks before the event.

During the ride: I recommend that cyclists drink about 17-25 fluid ounces of water per hour. But know that it is possible to drink too little or too much. If you’re thirsty: drink. Take advantage of the event’s rest stops. Get off the bike, refill your bottles, get something to eat, stretch, get to know the other riders or the rest stop volunteers, and ask the mechanic at the rest stop to look at any bike problems you’ve been experiencing. If you’re going to be on the bike longer than 60 minutes, it’s a good idea to supplement your fluids with electrolyte drinks and consider adding some nutritional products. But don’t try new products the day of the event! Experiment with electrolytes and nutritional products during your training rides. Determine what foods and fluids works best for you and then use those tried and true products on the day of the event.

TVR: How often should you bring your bike in for maintenance?

GC:If you are riding every week, we suggest that have a bike tune-up once or twice a year. And for those of you who ride at least 3-4 times a week, we suggest a tune-up a couple of times during the season and then a complete overhaul in the off-season.

Maintenance covers many things and riders should learn how to perform some basic maintenance on their own. Keeping the chain properly lubricated is critical, as is keeping the tires properly inflated. Depending on riding conditions, it’s probably a good idea to have your drivetrain cleaned a couple of times each year, too. As an event mechanic, I love to see bikes at the event that have had a drivetrain cleaned the week before the ride. It’s always pristine, properly lubricated and shifts incredibly well. But don’t wait until the last second to take your bike to the shop. Service departments get very busy in the weeks before a big, local event.

TVR: What are some mistakes you see people make when it comes to bike maintenance or preparing their bike for long rides?

GC: A couple of things immediately come to mind. The first one is putting too much lube on the chain. You need enough so that it penetrates the pivot points and around the bushings in the chain. But you need to wipe off as much excess lube as you can from the exterior of the chain. Lube on the outside of the chain only attracts dirt and does very little in helping keep the chain lubricated.

The other thing riders can do is wipe down their bike after a long ride. During a ride, perspiration, water, electrolyte fluids, and all sorts of other “contaminants” find their way onto the frame and the other components of the bike. Washing down the bike with soapy water gets rid of all the “gunk” on the bike and helps protect everything from corrosion. And after washing the bike, it’s a good idea to re-lube the chain and put a few drops of lube on the pivot points on both derailleurs. You might also hit the pivot points on your clipless pedals with a couple of drops of oil while you’re at it!

If you’re not sure how to perform any of these maintenance procedures, you can attend one of our free maintenance clinics at a Performance Bicycle store near you.

TVR: What about advice for the more-than-casual rider? Someone who has done one or two century rides before, but who may not be a bike whiz. Is there anything that could help them step up their game for the Victory Ride?

GC: If a rider has completed a century a couple of times, they already know how to train for the ride and how to take care of themselves physically during the ride. I’d suggest the more-than-casual rider join a team or other group of riders that are attending the Victory Ride. Go on weekend training rides with the group. Learn how to safely ride and communicate in groups and learn how to ride in a pack or paceline. Not only will this help take your mind off the miles, but you’ll get to the finish line much faster with a group than you will alone. The aerodynamic draft created by the pack enables riders in the pack to expend only about 2/3 of the energy that the lead riders are expending. By taking turns at the front of the pack, riders can share the load of riding faster than they would by themselves. It’s basically the same draft dynamic as you see in the NASCAR races at Daytona or Talladega.

Now that Gene has covered these important questions, you’re ready to start preparing for your ride on May 19. If you have any additional questions, head down to your local Performance Bike and their experts will get you on track. Happy training!

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