Here's a few pointers, which spring to mind as we get ready for another one. Whilst the mechanical team is different, you may see some of the same faces under the marquees, in the evening Mechanical tips for riders on the GVBR
A lot of you have done this before, and have your own ways of approaching the "mechanical interface" part of the ride, but here's a few of my own observations that 20-odd (some very odd) years of mechanicking, and 8 or so years of being team leader for the repair operation has taught me to prepare for:
If you are unfamiliar with any of the terms here, you may find them in Sheldon Brown's bike glossary, here: http://sheldonbrown.com/glossary.htmlPreparation of your bike for the ride – packing your bike
Make sure your pedal axle threads will move in the cranks a few days before packing your bike. Get a big, thin-jawed 15mm spanner to 'crack' the joint between them (not the component, just the joint) or maybe it's a 6 or 8mm Allen key hole in the end of the pedal spindle, from the back of the crank. There is a left hand (reverse, clockwise-loosening) thread on LH side pedal. Put the pedal to the front of the pedal stroke, place the spanner jaws onto the spanner flats near where the pedal screws into the crank (or a big 6 or 8mm Allen key into the rear of the pedal spindle), with the spanner handle pointing to the back, then push down (you might need to do this quite hard, maybe with your foot for extra force), on both sides. If you have no luck with this, i.e. if the spanner slips or it will just not move, the local bike shop will have a bigger spanner they might lend you along with a mechanic. If they are nice, they will not charge you, unless they lose skin in the process (they can be very tight). A dab of grease (not oil) on the pedal threads once removed will aid reassembly and future removal. A-Team mechanics will be there to help you reinstall them if needed, or check and assist in any reassembly conundrums your bike might chuck at you;
Make sure that your seatpost, handlebar or headstem attachment bolts will loosen and allow the handlebars and seat/seatpost to be removed, detached or rotated for packing. Lightly tighten them again once the bars and/or stem are removed to stop them shaking loose and getting lost, or remove, package and label them carefully.
Put all your ride gear into a SEPARATE bag or bags (helmet, shoes, pedals, frame fit bags, panniers, repair kit, pump et c.) and either have it with you on the bus or pack it carefully in your bike box in the gap between the forks and the down tube. Pack your pedals in cardboard or bubble-wrap to avoid them denting your helmet. Take your front QR skewer out of your front wheel, reassemble it, and put it in this bag as well (remember the little conical springs, and which way the face on the skewer). Shift your chain to the big chainring on the front and the big cog at the rear before packing. Consider unscrewing the derailleur from the frame and wrapping it alongside the chainstay (if you feel confident in doing this). Use foam and/or cardboard packing tube for round the frame, shifters and derailleurs, of which your local bike shop should have a lot, because that's what new bikes come wrapped in. In particular, ask for a plastic fork blade separator for the front forks, and perhaps some axle end-plugs for the front wheel axle. Ask them to put some aside a week or so in advance, and a bike box of the correct size for your bike (bigger is better). If they charge you for packing material, politely decline – pay a maximum $5 for a used bike box.
If you want them to do it for you, they may charge you $25-70 for the service.
Of course, if you are making your way to the start, you can ignore the above paragraphs, but not those below.
If you've got wheels with non-standard spokes (i.e. straight pull, concealed nipple, Aluminium, threaded rim, etc.; mainly expensive proprietary-pattern ones) go to the place you bought the wheels, or a dealer for that brand, and obtain at least one (1) spare drive-side rear spoke, and preferably a non-drive side one also (which may be compatible with the front as well) unless the wheels are less than 300km old. There are many different patterns of spokes nowadays, and for the mechanics team to carry all of them is a bit of an ask. We can replace a broken one for you and straighten i.e. 'true' the wheel, if we have the correct sort of spoke, in the majority of cases; riding on a wheel that has a normal complement of less than 28 spokes when one is broken is nigh-on impossible;
If you have hydraulic disk brakes (hoses rather than cables connecting brake lever to caliper), insert folded cardboard or a dedicated pad spacer between the disk pads once a wheel is removed, to stop them compressing in transit – its hard to reset them once they are compressed fully.
Thoroughly clean and lubricate the bike's drivetrain before the ride. If it's worn out (how to tell, read the last paragraph or two of http://sheldonbrown.com/chains.html
), replace it. Replace the brake pads if worn out (how to tell http://bicyclehabitat.com/faq/frequentl ... ads-51.htm
) . Check brake and gear cable operation, and replace if necessary – you should feel a smooth and progressive lever action, with no jumping or shuddering. Bike shops will of course do this for you if you are pressed for time or don't feel like doing it. We can do this for you on the ride (we have been known to do roadworthy-type services on the rest day, subject to workload), but your bike will work a whole lot better from the start with this preparation;Setting up your bike for the ride to suit you
If you intend to ride a MTB on the ride, seriously consider fitting quality smooth "semi-slick" tyres with a low tread profile instead of the chunky tread pattern you might have on now, for the ride. Inflate them to within 2/3rds of the maximum pressure recommended (this figure is printed or moulded on or into the sidewall of the tyre). You will go faster with much less effort. Likewise, if you increase your fork and suspension seatpost spring rate, for less bobbing from the front of the bike, especially when climbing, by winding up the spring setting (usually with a dial on top of one of the fork legs, if you are able to, or pumping up the air spring to the manufacturer's recommended maximum) for smooth roads, you'll find pedalling less fatiguing. Consider doing this soon, or ask A-Team mechanics for help on the ride with this task if needed,
If you have road-racing style shoes with protruding plastic cleats, seek an informed opinion on how worn the cleats are are before the ride - replace them if necessary. They can be dangerous and pull out of the pedals unexpectedly if worn. Walking around in them will wear them rapidly. Better to consider swapping over to your MTB/touring/commuting pedals and shoes with recessed cleats, if you have them, for functionality on this ride, or carry a lightweight pair of walking-around shoes if you are going to be walking around mid-ride. I will be, on my bike.
Cleat position in any pedal/shoe system is critical to leg comfort and pedalling efficiency. Make sure that your shoes and pedals don't give you knee, ankle or hip pain well before the ride, and ask for an experienced opinion why this may be occurring, if it is;
A good seat that fits your bum (not necessarily the thinnest and lightest or sexiest) is the best thing you can get for your bike. If you are lucky, the one that came with your bike will be comfortable and not take too much of your pedalling energy. You may need to try a few before one feels right after 70 or 80 km - riding mates might have a few rejected ones tucked in their cupboards you could try – they may suit your ischial tuberosities ('sit bones') just fine, if not theirs. Girls often need a wider seat than comes as standard to be comfortable – there are dedicated women's shape seats readily available.
Radical position or 'contact point' (pedals, saddles, bars) component position changes late in your training schedule (more than 5mm per week in any direction) are probably not a good idea, because it takes your body a fair while to adjust to them. Little changes are ok. If you are going to make radical changes in your position, do them before November. How do you decide if these are needed?
Get a position fit, or at least a seat height and setback adjustment, and handlebar adjustment now, or soon, from someone who is experienced and competent in this.
You could look at this link (http://sheldonbrown.com/pain.html
) for general information on the subject.
The local bike gurus may charge you for the time taken (15 - 30mins @ $70-80/hr), all the way up to a proprietary system-approach fitting setup (promoted by some major bike brands and shop chains) that can cost more than $150. Some people swear by the latter, once they've had it done – however, these are usually riders who are looking for incremental improvements in their already highish performance. A good basic position setup, that can be tweaked in response from to your own feeling and experience over time, is something well worth doing, in terms of comfort and riding efficiency gained.
Consider fitting bar end extensions to enable another hand position or two if you have flat handlebars, and quality handgrips with good cushioning (good riding gloves also help). Using different muscle groups in your shoulders, neck and arms reduces fatigue;
The thing I have done the most on the ride over the years for position adjustment, apart from the above, is to shorten handlebars on hybrids and MTBs, which are usually too wide from the factory for a number of body shapes. Ask your local shop (or us) to assess your position if you are unsure, or get crippling neck or shoulder pain. You will be much more comfortable as a result.
Because the ride this year will be hilly in the middle/end of its route, you may wish to review the gear range you have available to you on your bike. If the bike you are riding mountain bike or a hybrid, it is likely that you have a wide range of gears – 2 or 3 chainrings on the front, and 5-11 gears on the back, so a possible 10 to 30 total different gear ratios. I think you need at least 14, in a fair range of ratios to be comfortable. If you are used to 7 or 8 gears on an internally geared hub for city riding, this may be OK, but you may struggle up the steeper or longer hills. If you struggle a couple of days in a row, you may experience cumulative fatigue, and start to loathe and dread the idea of riding, which is not why you ride (unless you enjoy unnecessary pain and fatigue. I know I don't).
In the case of a bike with a narrow gear range (that is, there is not a great deal of difference in apparent effort needed to pedal the low and high gears in the range) you could ask your friendliest local bike shop about the options available to increase the gear range available to you. You probably won't gain actual individual gears in this process, but you may gain useful lower (easier. slower) gears, spread more widely. However, this can incur moderate to highish cost. It's best done when the original parts are close to worn out. If this is the case, there's never been a better time!
This might sound obvious, but . . . train as recommended in the Ride Notes on the bike that you will take on the ride, for the majority of the time. Even the most carefully set-up bike will feel different to the one that you are used to.On the ride
Carry some chain lubricant (my tip - an Asian food soy sauce squeezy fish can suck up enough for a mildly damp week, you will need two, or a proper bottle if it's wet) and a spare inner tube or two. The mechanics will stock tubes in most sizes for $10 each. If you have a weirdo wheel size (Brompton, Moulton, bike trailer, steampunk 36"er, etc.) please source what you need in tyres and tubes from your accommodating local supplier;
Lube the chain lightly every wet day, and every dusty day, and every couple or few days in good conditions. Wipe the chain with a rag or folded kitchen wipe before doing this. A little (few drops) often is a good approach;
Check and top up your tyre pressure up at the start, and in the middle of the ride, and after you get a puncture, with one of A-Team or the WARBY 'track' pumps (available @ rest stops, mornings and evenings);
Any and all of the above the A-Team mechanics crew can do for you on the ride, as well as a full list of major and minor repairs, and advice if you need it. We'll have a pretty good "field hospital" workshop setup each evening, and bike 'dressing stations' at rest stops, and can do most things if we have the correct parts (and even a 'get you by' if we can't get hold of exactly what we need). If we're utterly defeated, we may have hire bikes you might be able to ride for the next day or two until we get the part freighted in (perhaps - depending on availability).
I'm happy to answer questions on anything regarding this topic if you'd like to ask, at: firstname.lastname@example.org
See you all in Ballarat!