I like to think that I am quite good at taking care of my bike(s). I perform 90% of maintenance myself and haven’t (that I can recall!) had an incident that was due to my own actions and poor maintenance practice. You really don’t have to spend a lot of money in order to equip yourself to look after your bike as well as possible / necessary. For me, I draw the line at press fit bottom brackets, but that’s only really a question of tooling. Otherwise, chains, brakes, headsets, tyres… it’s all very doable. And given even my average capabilities in most things, if I can do it, then you can too.
However, there are very good reasons for experts and specialists to look at your bike from time to time. This week has been ‘uncomfortable’, as my ‘wet’ bike has been deemed ‘unfit for service’ by an expert, which now means it needs to be sent to a specialist. While this sounds expensive, it does mean that the expert has potentially saved me from an incident and that it will cost less for the specialist to repair it now rather than if I let the situation progress by continuing to use it. In particular, where carbon fibre is concerned, bad news early is a very good thing, as when carbon fibre ‘fails’, it is likely to fail spectacularly. You’re unlikely to get a lot of notice, and they’re most likely to fail when you’re stressing / using them most – and it’s not likely to end well.
So, if you see a ‘rub’ wear mark on your frame, don’t ignore it. Ideally fix the source of the rub while it’s rubbing the lacquer / paint, and before it gets to the carbon and resin. If it’s into the carbon and resin layer, get it in front of someone who knows what they are looking at, and get it fixed. While cracks tend to be more obvious as they’re unsightly, a rub may sneak up on you, and not even cross your mind as a concern. A friend of mine had a ‘rub’ on a seat stay from a ‘vibrating’ mudguard. Several hundreds of hard earned pounds, and a few weeks without a bike later, it was fixed and you’d never know it had happened. But it would have been better if it had not happened in the first place, and my friend now knows how to fit his mudguards without inducing such ‘rub’. However, 98% of people would have never worried that there might have been something wrong with how the guard was fitted, never mind checking frequently to see if anything was going awry!
In my case… ‘I did nothing wrong, your honour’. I changed a 25mm Vittoria Rubino Pro, for a 25mm Schwalbe Pro One. While I could see the clearance between the tyre and chain stays wasn’t huge, it also didn’t look tight either. I certainly couldn’t anticipate that the wheel, tyre and frame might deflect in such a way that the tyre could contact the stay, never mind gouge the paint and carbon-resin layer away… leaving a deep cut into the stays on both sides. The expert who looked at it, levelled with me that I shouldn’t try to use a 28mm tyre on this particular bike. I corrected them that this was not the case, but also took time to reflect a little further on the variability in tyres… Not all tyres are equal.
The standard size for wheels and tyres on most road bicycles are ‘700c’, however not all manufacturers 700c tyres, fit all manufacturers 700c wheels. I’m not going into the complexities of hooked vs hookless rims, or tubeless, tubulars and clinchers at this point… this is far more basic. From experience, I can tell you that a 700c Continental GP5000 tyre DOES NOT fit on a 700c Mavic Ksyrium Wheel. After 4 tyre levers, 2 enormous blisters and over 2 hours of trying, I gave up trying to take this installation Kypton Factor challenge. I called my local bike shop and they laughed, informing me that one of their technicians had recently broken their thumb trying to install this combination and they simply won’t bother trying any more. So, not only is a 25mm tyre not necessarily a 25mm tyre but a 700c tyre / wheel is not necessarily 700c. Then if you go for a Pirelli, they don’t even offer a 25mm tyre, it’s 24 or 26mm. How the bloody hell are you supposed to know which you need? And at typically £50 per tyre, these can be costly experiments to get wrong! Talk to an expert… And, if nothing else, you can thank (or blame) them when it works out (or doesn’t).
Some developments in cycling technology are undeniable ‘improvements’, however many, in my opinion at least, are determined by fashion and fundamentally aimed squarely at parting us from our hard earned cash in pursuit of an admiring / jealous glance (at your bike, not you!) at the coffee stop, or shaving precious fractions of a second of our Strava PB’s, that would be more easily and cost effectively delivered by not having ‘one for the road’ on Friday night.
While I remain to be convinced about whether the move from rim to disc brakes is fashion or performance driven (I’ll let you know my opinion in due course), tubeless tyres are one area that I am 100% convinced is – brilliant. I recognise that there are many things you can find written down that will say go either way… but I am definitely in the tubeless movement, and not looking back. Yes, you have to put sealant in the tyres and replace it every 3-4 months. Yes, the tyres might deflate a little overnight. Yes, there are bad tubeless tyres, and bad sealant, but there are fantastic ones too! The benefits of tubeless is clear… primarily that it is self sealing, meaning you’ll have some punctures you don’t even know you had, that would have traditionally commanded levers and a tube. And in the worst case scenario, you can carry a tube to fix any rare ‘biggies’ that won’t seal, plus if the tyre is so badly damaged that it won’t contain the tube, then your non-tubeless tyre would likely be the same and you’ll be phoning your mum, or stopping a random passer-by for a lift home, either way. Additionally, you need to add-in exceptional ride quality (due to lower pressures) with less rolling resistance (as there is no inner tube)… sooo much smoother!
I wouldn’t get too excited about weight reduction through eliminating the inner tube as I believe the sealant will offset this – and I wouldn’t recommend going ‘light’ on sealant as it’s there for a reason. I’ve heard a lot about how messy sealant is, as a reason to not go tubeless. Admittedly, it’s messier than no sealant, but not as messy as changing your inner tube on a wet and mucky ride. When you’ve got the knack of putting it into the tyre, it’s simple and not at all ‘messy’. As for deflating tyres, if you don’t check them before every ride, frankly you deserve what you get. And good / bad tyres / sealant… you can go trial and error, or ‘ask an expert’. I certainly don’t mean me, but for what it’s worth, in my experience Stans No Tubes sealant has worked very effectively. As for tyres, I’ve had several disasters with Mavic Yksion tyres (the original, and the upgraded ‘2’), typically replacing them inside 800km due to blistering or gross punctures. However, I’ve had very good results with Schwalbe Pro Ones, which saw the winter out in fine style. However, I’m now running Pirelli P Zero Race, and this is a massive step up. What a tyre! Inspiring grip in the wet and dry, phenomenal ride quality and 1,000km in, looking as good as new. I am very impressed.
To my earlier point, you can (and should!) do the absolute majority of maintenance yourself. Remove your wheels, inspect your frame, clean your chain, cassette and even brake pads and rims… but, do not be afraid to seek advice or services from an expert… their opinion can save you some serious expense. While your question may seem embarrassing, they’ve heard it all before, and it’s not as embarrassing as returning your pride and joy with bits hanging off, because you didn’t ask the question.
Cycling can be an intimidating pastime… but any expert worth their salt loves it more than we do, and will talk about it and share their experience until all of the cow’s have come home, and are safely snuggled in their barn, after a jolly good feed…
… never be too proud to ask!