3 Dangerously Common Ways Bikes Fail On Course (and 1 Surprisingly Simple Solution!)
IRONMAN bike tune up, bike assemblyIt’s tempting to think that you can pull your bike out of it’s box after traveling, assemble it in your hotel room, and waltz into transition confident you’ve saved a good chunk of change getting your bike ready for the race. I mean, why not? You manage hedge funds, teach AP calculus, juggle soccer practice and music lessons for a family of 5, litigate devious corporate lawsuits, or maybe even perform brain surgery!! How hard could it be to build a bike?

You’ve got your trusty multi-tool and the will to get it done can only come after 9 months of preparation, training, and strategy for the race ahead. If you can get through your training - how hard can it be to build your bike? Well - if you can take any indication from the racers we pick up around the course with bikes in a dysfunctional - or worse - dangerous condition - it’s not all all that easy to get it right. Even if you’ve followed a meticulous step by step YouTube video… that’s right - you know the one I mean.

So, what are the 3 dangerously common ways we see bikes fail on course - and the 1 surprisingly simple solution? Let’s get right to it!

Loose Parts - Fork, Aerobars, Stem, Cranks, Seat

This one is best told with an anecdote. So, here’s the story… We’re supporting IRONMAN 70.3 Florida in Haines City. Over the last two days we’ve been prepping and tuning bikes for athletes so they can rest easy knowing their bike is ready to go. Not everyone comes by for their safety check though - they must be thinking they can build their bike themselves and skip right past us. Well, it turns out more than one of them was in for a surprise on the bike course!

On race morning, our bike tech Matt is out on course, scouting out athletes in distress. As he passes, an athlete calls out, “Hey bike tech, I need you!” Matt slows down and notices the athlete hasn’t stopped. She’s still riding, calling for help from the bike. Puzzled, he calls to her, “What do you need?” In a moment Matt can only describe as a combination of shocking and incredible the woman says, “Do you think this is an issue?” As she - still holding the bars in her aero bar tuck - lifts her hands and the aerobars with them a full 4 inches up in the air. The entire front end of her bike is hanging on literally by a few bolt threads! Needless to say, Matt had her pull safely over and was able to tighten down the bars and run a quick inspection.

We cringe to think what might have happened if she had put in just a few more miles with those loose bolts rattling around, getting looser by the mile. A DNF would not be the worse part of that story…

Loose parts do not need to happen. But when race day nerves combine with inexperience and a lack of mechanical understanding - well, it can be a recipe for disaster. Don’t let that happen to you. Get your bike professionally checked after assembling it - or better yet - just drop your bike off with bike services and let them build and tune it for you. We offer a package price for just that purpose.

Tires - flats, blowouts, and time lost

Bikes and Life IRONMAN Bike ServicesTires are pretty critical to proper bike performance. In fact, you can outright say that without tires in proper condition, a bike is just about useless. But it is this very basic and critical aspect of the bike which often gets overlooked come race day.

Here’s three things to check on your tires before racking your bike in transition:

Proper air pressure - this one is easy. Check the sidewall of your tire, near the logo for any recommended pressure. We typically put in 110 psi in the back and 105 psi in the front. That gives you a good firm drive wheel and a more comfortable front wheel.

Worn, cracked, and cut tires - this one is a little more tricky. Deflate your tire first. Then work your way around from the valve pinching the tire to open up and reveal any gaps, gouges, cracks, or cuts. These are flats waiting to happen. As you roll along they collect rocks, wires, ground up glass bits, and anything else small and nasty on the road. Eventually, they can open up into little holes that let grit into your tire, irritating the tube, and causing a flat or - even more frustrating - a slow leak. The solution here is a new tire. Easy, one and done.

Worn down side walls - the most devious of all! Ok so this one is more rare but we wanted to include it for your checklist pleasure. When brake pads are poorly adjusted - ahem - they sometimes wear down unevenly, with only part of the brake pad on the brake track. That leaves part hanging off with only one place to go - the sidewall of your tire. When this happens, it happens fast. You pass the point where that overlapping part of the pad is not touching and when it makes contact with the tire and in a matter of a few hundred feet of braking you can find yourself in the middle of a blow-out, losing control, at a moment when you really needed to apply your brakes. In other words - not a fun place to be.

    The solution to all these tire issues is amazingly simple as well - let a professional mechanic check over your bike! With experienced hands and eyes on your bike you will know that all issues have been checked and corrected.

    Brakes - Rubbing, Grabbing, or Just Plain Weak

    This one can be anywhere on the spectrum from annoying to dangerous. Pulling your brakes should be a naturally confident experience. You’re in control when you pull the brakes. That’s what they’re there for - to give you control. But a poorly adjusted brake can be just the opposite. It might be so loose that you can barely coast to a halt. Or it might be so immediately reactive that you shock yourself into a wobble.

    Brake adjustment is no simple task. It takes careful assessment and adjustment to the alignment of a number of parts that make up the braking system: brake pads, brake caliper, wheel rim and hub positioning, cable tension, lever action - to name a few.

    Let a professional adjust your brakes. The confident feeling of being fully in control on your bike is worth it in spades.

    The Solution? Leave your bike assembly and tuning to a professional.

    IRONMAN Bike Tune UpThere’s no reason to have an issue with your bike out on the course. We've been there in the tech support car and you can imagine - the athletes we help are grateful but frustrated.

    There are any number of ways to get your bike professionally assembled, tuned up, or at the very least checked over for safety by a professional bicycle mechanic.

    At Bikes and Life Race Day Service, we provide the easiest way to get your bike serviced - right on-site in the event expo area. Our on-site triathlon bike experts have seen it all and we’re ready for anything. We’ll carefully check your bike over and return it to you safe, fast, quiet, and ready to race.

    Check our bike service offerings and set yourself up for a safe, fast, and worry free ride on the bike course.






    1 comment

    Richard Fernandez

    Richard Fernandez

    Hello Bikes + Life

    I would like to register for the assemble, tube up and disassemble, and was wondering if you works with a company that could ship my bike up to Chattanooga as Tribike Transport is fully committed.

    Also, when will the bike be repacked? Will you be available the next day (Monday) after the race?

    Thanks so much.


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