Lightweight, strong, precise and delicate. Your bike wheels are what brings you into contact with the terrain. If you look after them, they will look after you. We explain the 5 maintenance tips to keep one of the most important investments of your bike in perfect condition.
1. SPOKE TENSION AND WHEEL TRUING
The most important part of the wheelset. The correct spoke tension, as well as being true is fundamental to getting the most out of your wheels. If any one of the spokes are loose, damaged or broken, it will, as a consequence, affect the tension of the rest of the spokes, which in turn will make the wheel untrue. With daily use, it is quite normal for the wheels to loose tension, and will be directly affected by the type of terrain being ridden upon, the impacts received by the rim, the rider weight, the way the bike is ridden, the type of tyres being used, and the tyre pressure. It is recommended to check spoke tension on certain intervals, both on mountain bikes and road bikes, even if the wheel is true. It is important that the work is carried out by a qualified mechanic, as is the use of the correct tools for the job, as if these are not used, the risk of damaging the spokes/nipples is increased.
2.BEARINGS AND FREEHUBS
After spokes, the second most important part of any wheelset to check regularly are the bearings. If you ride in perfect conditions, dry and without mud, then it is recommended to check the bearings every 8 weeks in both the front and rear wheels. Clean and re-grease the bearings. There is no need to remove them from the hub, just remove the adaptors and washers, use a rag and degreaser to clean them, if you have access to compressed air even better. If you ride in wet, damp and muddy conditions and ride multiple times a week, it is recommended to do these checks at least once a month. To check whether the bearings are worn, all that is needed to do is move them whilst in place with your finger, and check if the spin freely or if there is any friction. It is also recommended to check for any lateral play in them, a symptom of wear. If there is a lot of friction then replace them, remember that most rear hubs have two sets of internal bearings that need checking and replacing if necessary. Whilst checking the rear hub, it is a good idea to go over the freehub body, cleaning and re-greasing the pawls and springs. Always clean and re grease with the correct lubricants. Cheaper wheelsets usually have open bearing systems, which will take slightly longer to clean and re-grease and will need more regular checks. Replacing these types of bearings is a relatively cheap and easy procedure. With these types of wheels the final adjustment of the cones should be performed with the correct cone spanners so the wheel can spin freely and with play in the bearings.
3. RIM AND BRAKE SURFACE CHECKS
Rims, both the alloy and carbon types should be checked internally and externally at least a few times a year. Check for cracks, that the brake surface is clean and the rim lip shows no signs of damage that could affect the correct seating of the tyres or the loss of sealant in tubeless rims. For standard tubed rims, check that the rim strip is correctly placed, and no holes are showing or any loose metal shards are present that could cause a puncture. For road wheels, check that the correct brake pads are fitted for the rim material used, as carbon rims require a special pad compound so as not to damage them.
4. GREASING AND TORQUING QR AND THRU AXLES
Both quick release and thru axles should be checked before every ride. Make sure they are tightened and the levers are in the correct position. It is also good practice to clean and re-grease them occasionally, so they can be fitted and removed with ease without damaging the frame or fork. If the axles have a factory torque recommendation, then these should be checked with a torque wrench. It is also important to remember that when fitting wheels, they should be correctly seated in the frame and/or fork. With thru axles, the wheels will always sit in the correct position, but with the standard QR type axles it is normal for them to sit at an angle if care is not taken. Take your time to ensure both wheels are positioned and tightened correctly before starting your ride.
5.TYRES; TUBELESS, TUBULAR AND TUBES.
No matter what type of tyre system is used, it is important to check them regularly. If you use the traditional style of tyre/tube combo, make sure that the tyre has seated correctly when inflating, the rim strip is centred and the valve is not at an angle. For tubular tyres the most important aspect is the glueing process, if this is not done correctly, they will not sit centred on the rim or in the worst case scenario can come unstuck during a ride and cause serious harm to the rider. If you are unsure of how to go about fitting tubular tyres, we recommend taking it to your nearest road bike specialist. With tubeless systems, change the sealant at least once a season, and occasionally check that the valve is tightened correctly and does not leak. Regardless of the type of tyre being used (conventional, Tubular or tubeless) make sure that they do not present any signs of damage, cuts or holes that could cause a blowout, if this is the case, then replaces them immediately.
Many dedicated cyclists experience knee pain at some point during their cycling career. By its very nature, cycling means lots of pedal strokes over and over again, which tends to cause chronic, repetitive use injuries such knee pain. All those pedal strokes stress the knee joints, and the effects add up over time.
One way to take care of your knees is to reduce the effective stress on your knee joints. Oval chainrings such as ROTOR’s Q RINGS have been shown to not only reduce stress on the knees but also to improve performance and thus minimize fatigue.
Since there are myriad different possible causes of knee pain, there is no one solution to reduce or eliminate it, but many successful pro and amateur cyclists have discovered that they experience less knee pain after switching to oval chainrings. That’s because oval chainrings optimize cycling pedaling biomechanics.
How do oval chainrings work? Q RINGS virtually decrease the gear ratio in the dead spot of your pedal stroke and increase the gear ratio in the power phase, which is when you exert the most force while pedalling.
And because no two cyclists are exactly the same, ROTOR’s Q RINGS are adjustable so that you can find the perfect setup for the oval rings on your bike and make your pedalling more efficient. ROTOR Q RINGS have up to five different Optimum Chainring Positions (OCP) which lets you flexibly position your oval rings to suit your unique pedaling style.
ROTOR makes switching to oval rings simple and straightforward with no special tools or other special equipment needed. Q RINGS are available for nearly all standard cranks on the market, and they are quick and easy to mount using standard tools.
What started as an almost exclusive territory for professionals, due to the high price, has become the perfect complement for planning your training routine with precision. Have power meters made heart rate monitors redundant? We explain the pros and cons of each one.
Training has always been a science. Lately, it has become so professionalized that if you want to go it alone, you will need some basic knowledge without which, it would be impossible to establish a plan that works without risks. If you are lucky and have a personal trainer, a heart rate monitor, power meter or both together will be essential to create a personalized plan which suits your fitness level and your competition calendar 100%. Although training plans with heart rate monitors have been relegated over the last few years due to the massive increase in power meters, a large amount of professionals still use both, and only a few opt for just using the power meter. Here we will explain the pros and cons of both.
TRAINING WITH HEART RATE MONITORS
In the 80’s and 90’s most professionals trained with the help of heart rate monitors. Establishing their maximum heart rate per minute, they determined the output percentage of each interval. It is a simple method, but not very reliable for a number of reasons. Heart rates are not entirely exact, and can be affected by a number of external factors, for example, the lack of sleep, or the build up of stress, caffeine rich drinks, time of day of the work out, and the quantity of food being digested. This means that training at the same intensity does not mean the same number of BPM each time.
The increase and decrease of the heart rate is an indicator of whether or not the exercise is working (recuperation periods), but at the same time, it is a slow process which can interfere when training in series. On the other hand, training with a heart rate monitor can have benefits; it can help identify if you are getting tired or over training, if you cannot reach your maximum BPM in power training, or if your heart rate at rest has increased. One of the most positive aspects of using these devices, is that you can get a relatively exact idea of how you are training, and the average price is quite low in comparison to the power meters. Depending on the brand, model and system that is used to measure the heart rate (chest strap, or wrist strap) you can find them for as little as 60€.
TRAINING WITH POWER METERS
Power meters are what heart rate monitor used to be a few years ago. They have revolutionized training methods, prioritizing the constant measurement of watts over heart rates. The power meters were first used at the beginning of the 90s, almost in exclusively by professional riders, due to their high price and technical features. Actually, there are several brands, models and options to choose from, integrated into crank arms, pedals and even bottom brackets.
Their margin for error is very small (usually below 2%) and should be used with computers and GPS which have bluetooth or ANT+ connections. ROTOR is one of the unique brands using a double side power meter. The 2INpower DM Road by ROTOR measures power individually in each leg to provide precise data about balance and power output in order to demonstrate where improvements can be made to pedalling performance. Power meters measure amongst other things, the amount of force applied to the cranks quantified in watts per pedal stroke.
This measurement allows you to identify your maximum power output in watts, of which you can then calculate your percentage increases for your training and for competitions. Although not everyone does it, the best thing to do is to take into account the parameters of the power meter in conjunction with a heart rate monitor to establish the most efficient training plan. The positives of using a heart rate monitor is being able to establish with precision what your maximum power output is in your anaerobic window. This number will give you your maximum power output and allow you to divide the training by the number of watts maintained during one pedal stroke. The watts will also allow you to know in every moment whether you are working within the desired power parameters or if they are below expected.
Although a large number of professionals and trainers prefer using both systems to obtain the best results, the popularity of using power meters over heart rate monitors is evident. Prices have also come down, and the technology is being updated regularly, meaning power meters are becoming more compatible and easier to use.
When it comes to tire types, you have a few choices: clincher, tubular and tubeless. Each has advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we take a look at your options so you can pick what will work best for you ahead of your next bike or wheel upgrade.
Clincher tires are the most popular type and tend to be the default setup for most bikes. A clincher tire is constructed with a bead that hooks onto a wheel with a clincher type rim. Inside each tire is an inner tube that you fill with air. When you get a flat tire, you remove your inner tube and repair it or replace it with a new one.
Because clincher tires and tubes are ubiquitous, they are a good choice for many riders. It’s easy to source new tires and tubes, and maintenance and repair are straightforward. Plus they tend to be cheaper than the other tire types.
A tubular tire – also called a sew-up, tubie or tub – is exactly what it sounds like: a combination, one-piece tire/tube. You have to mount a tubeless tire to a special tubular rim – typically this is done by gluing the tire to the rim or using a special adhesive rim tape. When you get a flat tire, you then have to remove the tubular tire from the rim and repair or replace it.
The primary advantage to a tubular setup is that tubular wheels and tires are typically lighter than an equivalent clincher setup due to the lack of rim bead so they feel easier to accelerate and better during climbing. You can run a wider range of tire pressures with less risk of pinch flatting, and the ride quality generally feels smoother than it does for clinchers. That’s why racers like them.
The major disadvantage is the process of setting up tubular tires and repairing them if you do flat. Frankly, gluing on a tire can be a mess, and it takes time for the glue to dry, but using the newer adhesive rim tape is somewhat easier.
Racers are more likely to use tubulars than recreational riders because if they do get a flat, they can simply swap out the entire wheel via their follow car or neutral support. But even many racers will opt for clinchers for their training wheels and save their tubulars for racing.
Tubeless setups are the newest tire option and are rapidly increasing in popularity for road and cyclocross use although they’ve been the top choice for a majority of mountain bikers for nearly two decades. A tubeless setup uses only a rim and tire – no tube. The setup is airtight. Most cyclists will also use a tire sealant inside which allows small punctures to automatically fix themselves as they occur.
When they first came out, setting up tubeless rims and tires was more of a challenge, but rim, tire and sealant design have evolved to the point that road and cyclocross tubeless tire setup is straightforward just as it is for mountain bikes.
The major advantages to the tubeless setup are 1) that you rarely get flats and 2) that you can run lower pressures (without pinch flatting) for better traction and ride quality than clinchers. If you do get a flat, you can simply add more sealant and/or use a tire plug to fix it. Or you can always put an inner tube in it to finish off you ride.
In summary, tubeless setups offer many of the ride quality advantages of a tubular with simpler maintenance and lower costs more like clinchers – which is why many road racing teams are making the switch to them. Team managers love that they can buy just one set of wheels for training and racing for each rider vs. a set of clinchers for training and tubulars for racing for each rider.
Why does it matter?
Before you buy your next wheelset or bike, decide what type of tires you want to ride. The default rims sold on bikes are generally clincher rims, so if you want to run tubular or tubeless tires, you’ll need to buy wheels with rims that are designed for those options.
The good news is that many new clincher wheelsets are now constructed in such a way as to also be compatible with running tubeless, so you can swap between those two setups as it suits you.
Travelling light, far and wide with a bike. That is the easiest way of describing bikepacking. Directly derived from cycle touring, and the enormous panniers that were mounted on both sides of the bike, bikepacking is an evolution that allows us to travel lighter and more efficiently whilst pedalling with ease… but maybe without as much freedom. Here, we will explain the secrets of bikepacking.
The world in which bikes are being used as a form of transport has been constantly evolving. Different variants of the same style have been continually developed and redesigned. Cycle touring was, years ago, about huge panniers and never ending equipment to be able to survive in any situation. In the last 10 years or so, bikepacking has presented itself as a viable alternative to travelling, whilst on a bike, albeit a lot lighter and easier than before, and far more efficient than carrying those overweight bags full of equipment.
The first thing to take into account with bikepacking is that you travel with bags a lot lighter, and that can be adapted to fit to many different frame styles, without the need of a specifically designed touring bike. You can see people bikepacking with full suspension bikes, hardtails with 27.5” plus wheels, or even with road bikes. Everything goes. You will also see a lot of Gravel bikes, bikes specifically designed for travelling, and classic road bikes, although still very popular in central Europe, they are gradually being overtaken by more modern, much lighter and versatile bikes. In fact, one of the strong points for bikepacking, is that with only a few bags (one below the saddle, and one on the handlebar) a small tent and compact sleeping bag, you can have complete autonomy for 2-3 days. These types of bags can be installed in a matter of minutes due to their incredible adaptability. There is no “universal fitting” but brands are working on making them even easier to fit.
Another key point in bikepacking is the variety of terrains on which you can ride. Asphalt, gravel, trails, tracks… Any type of terrain is apt for bikepacking, always depending on the bike and number of bags you have. This wide range of possibilities has made “Gravel” and 27.5” Plus bikes become extremely popular due to the fact that they allow you to ride on practically any terrain with confidence and security. The type of bike is very important to take into account when purchasing bags, as this will determine how easily it will be to attach them to it. A rigid frame, like on a Gravel or Road bike will have lots of space in the front triangle for an internal style bag, as well as under the seat and in front of the handlebar. In the case of a full suspension mountain bikes, the only real possibilities would be on the handlebar and under the seat, and maybe a small one on the front part of the top tube.
And depending on the number of bags you can carry, you can be self sufficient for longer, but on the other hand you could overload the bike, which could cause problems when pedalling. And this is one of the principal elements of why bikepacking differs to conventional touring. This last one allowing you to have far more autonomy, and the oversized panniers can be used to carry a tent a lot larger and more comfortable, cooking utensils and quite a lot of food. Bikepacking was born as a simpler alternative, in which you travel lighter, which in turn allows you to interact with your surroundings more, when buying food, sightseeing, or even going out for the night.
The biggest handicap for bikepacking is how to travel light, but efficiently. Think about the basics that need to be taken, then what would be needed in circumstances, like rain, cold weather or nightfall. When you are bikepacking, you have to remember that everything you carry needs to allow you to be self sufficient in every scenario. You may not always be able to buy food easily, refill your water bottles or have a roof over your head.
Lastly, probably the most important thing to think about, is the budget for buying a good set of bags. There is a vast selection of different brands and qualities available to buy, including custom made to measure models. It is advisable that you do your research, and look into the various options on the market, think about the type of trip you will be doing, where you will be travelling, will you need them to be waterproof, what size will you need to fit your bike. Do not forget to follow the instructions supplied when attaching them to your handlebar, seat and/or seatpost, as fitting them could compromise the correct functioning of the suspension or simply because some carbon parts cannot be fitted with these types of accessories.
And if you want to find a middle ground, and your frame and forks are fitted with mounting points for pannier racks, these would be a good option if you wish to carry a bit more weight. Bicycles designed for bikepacking have them prepped and ready with all types of fitment points so any type of rack can be mounted, and some specially designed bags that are an exact fit to their frames. If you have always thought that pedalling for days, alone, or in company would be a good adventure, you have no excuse not to do it now.
Cyclists outfit their bikes with lights for nighttime riding so that they can see and be seen when it’s dark out. Thus, it might seem unnecessary to also use lights during the daytime; however, more and more riders are making the decision to use lights no matter when they ride – even when pedaling during daylight hours.
Have you noticed that most new automobiles and motorcycles now come with automatic daytime running lights? Being seen is not just relevant to bikes; every vehicle with lights is more visible on the road even during the day. According to Trek, daytime running lights reduce car accidents by 25% and motorcycle accidents by 13%.
Because it’s safer, many countries have passed laws requiring daytime lights for their automobiles, and more cyclists have been buying into the same practice by riding with lights during daylight hours. A Twitter survey by road.cc in October of 2017 found that 52% of road cyclists now opt to use lights during daytime rides.
With eight out of 10 cycling accidents occuring during the day, there is plenty of potential for daytime light use to prevent accidents and increase cyclists’ safety.
Older bike lights have tended to use a steady, flashing pattern, but many newer bike lights have one or more pulsing modes that cycle light brightness level with time. Some pulse regularly; some pulse irregularly.
There is something about a light that catches our attention even when a rider who is using them is in relatively bright surroundings. Add some pulsing or flashing functionality, and those lights will draw our attention even more.
The use of cycling lights during the day is all about trying to catch the eye of motorists, many of whom are even more distracted than ever not only by increasing traffic levels but also by complicated vehicle control interfaces and their phones. A majority of drivers are not consciously looking for cyclists, but a flashing or pulsing light may be just enough to get their attention in time for safer maneuvering around those illuminated cyclists.
And just because it’s daytime doesn’t mean it’s always bright and sunny and clear. Where daytime lights excel is in conditions with varied or poor lighting. Think about riding through an urban area with constantly changing light conditions as you pass in and out of shadows between buildings and even other traffic. Or think about a rainy or foggy day, when visibility is substantially reduced. A well lit cyclist will stand out more in those relatively darker places.
Research has proven that cyclists who use daytime running lights are safer. For example, a study involving 3,845 cyclists in Denmark in 2004-2005 showed a 19% lower incidence rate of accidents with personal injury to cyclists using permanent bicycle running lights relative to a control group not using such lights.
What to Think About When You’re Shopping for Lights
It’s still standard protocol to use a white light on the front of your bike and a red light for the rear, and while you can simply keep your night riding lights on your bike and also use them during the daytime, many light manufacturers are now making specialized, more sophisticated lights for daytime use. After all, many lights used at night are not actually bright enough to be very visible during the day. Which is why many newer lights now have multiple modes so that you can simply switch between the best modes, respectively, for day and night time use.
Other factors that apply to selecting lights for nighttime use still apply to lights for daytime use. Of course, there is cost, but it’s also important to consider each light’s mounting technology and make sure it will work for your particular bike. Is it easy to install and remove? Can you swap it quickly among your different bikes?
Research how long each light will last in its different modes. Then depending on how you will use your light and what opportunities you will have (and when) for potential recharging, pick a light with either a rechargeable battery (such as via a USB cable) or a replaceable battery.