If you watch enough YouTube videos, you can probably figure out how to fix most things on your bike. Making a bike work isn’t too difficult; but making it work perfectly (and look flawless) is what really sets the best bike mechanics in the world apart.
We asked some of our favorite bike whisperers to share their secrets so you can show a little bit of flair next time you’re turning the wrenches. Here’s how to maintain your bike like a pro.
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Casey Magner, former head mechanic of team Hincapie–Leomo, hated searching for his favorite tools when he was out of his workshop, so he made a rollable travel tool belt from waxed canvas and leather, which he calls the Quiver. “It gives me a place to stash my three-way Allen key, which never fits in a pocket,” said Magner. It’s also easy to throw in a bag or suitcase so Magner has everything he needs for a stage race, bike build, or quick fix on the road.
Whether you opt for a tool roll or a more standard box, every good mechanic keeps their critical tools sorted and easily accessible.
Try This Mud Trick
We spoke to Robin Baloochi, the sports marketing manager at WD-40, who used to race pro downhill. We all know WD-40 can help with stuck parts (though it should never be used as a chain lube), but did you also know it can help you get around a muddy cyclocross or mountain bike race?
Baloochi recommends masking off the tires, braking surface, saddle and bars, then spraying WD-40 (in the blue can, not the bike stuff) on the frame to repel dirt. “It can save you a few pounds of mud weight,” he says, “which makes a huge difference in a ‘cross race.”
Learn how to wash your bike like a pro:
Keep Your Cables Neat
Do your cables give the front of your bike that “bed head” look? Matt Fallon of Black Mountain Bicycles in San Diego has a solution. Fallon uses heat-shrink tubing and a heat gun (or another heat source, like a hairdryer) to pull cables together.
With heat-shrink tubing, you’ll need to remove the ends of the cables in order to to thread it on. Two pieces of tubing should suffice—one for each set of cables. Make sure the heat-shrink tubing doesn’t impede the cables from working, or create unwanted bending. And don’t apply too much heat, since the heat-shrink material can actually burn after a point.
If you don’t feel like bothering with heat-shrink tubing, you could also use housing hooks or simple zip-ties to keep your cables neat.
“It’s the little things that make a bike look really neat,” he says. Fallon should know about the little things, having spent years working with Mavic. He also personally built the bike that Chris Horner used to win the Vuelta a España in 2013.
Wrap With Care
Fallon also has some tips for bar tape: “You should always consider which way the rider pulls on the tape and wrap it so that they pull it tighter. Typically the rider pulls back on the tops and pushes forward on the drops.” He also says that it’s important to use high-quality electrical tape—“no dollar store junk”—for sealing the ends.
Go Green for a Better Clean
You’ll notice pro bikes are always meticulously clean. The secret: “Dawn mixed with Simple Green is the best spray cleaner, then I use isopropyl alcohol in a spray bottle for greasy stuff,” says Fallon.
Other bike mechanics suggested using a diluted bleach mixture for white saddles and bar tape. Pledge also seems to be a favorite for giving bike frames that showroom sheen.
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