Maintenance and Repairs – TriSports University The place to learn about triathlon. Mon, 06 Apr 2020 16:25:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Maintenance and Repairs – TriSports University 32 32 A Beginner’s Guide To Power Meters For Cyclists & Triathletes Sat, 28 Mar 2020 17:57:19 +0000 triathletes installs power meter pedals on bicycleIf you are looking to get an edge in your training on the bike this season, buying a power meter is the single best investment you can make. But this doesn’t come without its own learning curve. Whether you are looking to interpret all the lingo that comes with your new power meter or just trying to decide if shelling out the cash for one is a good decision—you’ve come to the right place. ]]> triathletes installs power meter pedals on bicycle

Spring is in the air! The weather is turning, cyclists are riding outside more, and triathletes are ramping up for their early season races. 

If you’re looking to get an edge in your training on the bike this season, buying a power meter is the single best investment you can make. But this doesn’t come without its own learning curve. Whether you are looking to interpret all the lingo that comes with your new power meter or just trying to decide if shelling out the cash is a good decision—you’ve come to the right place. 

This is your crash course in power meters (no crashing necessary… I promise!).

Let’s start by answering the basic questions about power meters for triathletes: what, where, why and how.

What A Power Meter Is

The first basic concept we need to discuss is what a power meter actually is. 

Simply put, this is a device that you put on your bike to measure the amount of power you are producing. To say that another way, this is an objective measure of effort. It answers the question “how hard am I really pushing the pedals?”

Most power meters today are called “Direct Force” power meters because they directly measure and record the amount of force you are putting into the drivetrain (everything from the pedals to the rear wheel). This measurement is calculated by strain gauges similar to a torque wrench. 

📷: Castelli

The electronics in the power meter take this measure of torque, or the strain you are placing on it, and multiplies it by the speed at which you are pedaling (called cadence) and then displays a number on your GPS computer or smartwatch (referred to as a head unit). This number is the amount of watts that you are producing by pedaling and generally speaking, the higher the better.

Just like a lightbulb, toaster, or microwave, the average triathlete is a machine of sorts and improving watt score translates to more power on the bicycle.

Where Power Meters Are Placed

If a power meter is a device that is placed on your bike, the next question to answer is “where is it placed?”

Since a power meter measures strain in the drivetrain, then naturally it must be placed in the drivetrain somewhere. Where, though, depends on which model you have. 

Starting in the pedals, you could have something like the Garmin Vector 3’s which simply replace your existing pedals. These are a good choice if you want to switch them from bike to bike often. 

📷: gentauchi

Next, is the crank arm like the units from Stages. Again these will replace the left arm of the crank. The downside here is that they only measure power on one side and double the number (to account for both feet pedaling). Early models weren’t always reliable but manufacturers have since addressed those issues and there are few remaining doubts on the accuracy of these units. 

📷: Stages Cycling

Then you have the crank or spider-like the units from Quarq. These can be purchased as a whole unit and replace the crank on your bike. 10+ years of development have helped refine installation, enhanced durability, and smoothed out capability issues with bottom brackets.

📷: Quarq

The final type is in the rear hub. While these used to be a very popular option, they are less so now as they usually had to be bought as part of the wheelset or be laced into an existing wheelset. That means if you have both training and racing wheels you had to buy 2 power meter hubs, or do without depending on the set of wheels you were using.

Why You Should Train With A Power Meter

So why even buy a power meter? Why would you want to know how many watts you were pushing into the pedals?

The first reason is that of objectivity! Without a power meter, you would have to rely on other measurements to train and race by. 

  • Speed?— Affected by too many variables (wind, gravity, etc) 
  • Heart Rate?— Can drift over time and can be affected by caffeine or hydration status
  • RPE (rate of perceived exertion)?— Based on perception and can be affected by caffeine, adrenaline, mood, etc. 

Not that any of these are bad. No! I’m of the opinion that you need to collect data on all these points and learn from them. But power is the only objective measure. 100 watts is the same no matter how you feel, what direction the wind is blowing, or how much caffeine you had. 

📷: Quarq

With this objective measure, it is easier to perform a structured training plan (intervals, etc.). It is also possible to practice an even pace across long training rides (instead of starting too hard and fading over the ride).

These reasons only scratch the surface, but having a power meter opens up additional possibilities like measuring TSS (training stress) over the course of your training, or measuring the amount of work performed in a ride (KiloJoules) which translates to calories burned (helpful if weight loss or maintenance is an objective).

How To Get The Most Out Of A Power Meter

With all that information it comes down to “how.” You can’t just throw a power meter on your bike and expect to see improvement. That said, I recommend getting your power meter installed and spending a few weeks training as usual just to see how things line up. 

From there, find a structured training plan or a coach who can guide you through your training. One of the first things a good plan or coach will have you do is perform an FTP test or similar. FTP is “Functional Threshold Power” and roughly is the power you could hold for an hour in a race scenario. I say “roughly” because it is really a range between 45-75 minutes. There is a lot more science behind what makes up FTP, but for our purposes, we’ll stick with the basic definition. 

There are many different formats for an FTP test, but you can simply follow what your coach or training plan outlines for you. From there you can set your zones so that you will know how hard to push on hard days and how easy to go on easy days. This will also help when choosing your pacing plan before race day.

I’d be remiss to not at least briefly mention training software here as well. A power meter, when paired with an indoor or interactive trainer and popular software like TrainerRoad or Zwift, can be a game-changer in your training. These programs help the hours melt away on the indoor trainer and they provide structured plans to help you get faster in the process. 

📷: Zwift

Finally, there is the development of your race pacing plan. Using a program like Best Bike Split you can create a super detailed plan ahead of race day and practice it in your training. You can fine-tune your plan by trial and error in training, especially when practicing brick workouts (running off the bike). This can prevent you from leaving some effort out on the course or worse, blowing up on race day. 

When pacing a long ride or race, you can look at your Normalized Power (NP) to see just how much effort that time has taken. While an average of your watts may read lower due to time spend coasting, the Normalized Power may be high due to accelerations up hills or passing other riders. The difference between NP and Avg. Power is called Variability Index (VI). The closer the VI is to 1.00, the more steady the pace of the ride (a good thing for triathletes!).

So when it comes to training and racing, I hope you see the value of investing in a power meter. If you don’t have one yet, get one! If you have one already, learn as much as you can!

This guide to power meters for triathletes is a good place to get the ball (or bike?) rolling for beginners and veterans alike. But the more you know, the more you can take advantage of the equipment and fitness you have. If you want to learn more, I recommend you read Training And Racing With A Power Meter by Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan, which will take you deeper into this subject of power meter use (and even has a full chapter on triathlon racing!). 

Ready to take the plunge? Shop TriSports for a wide selection of power meters for road, mountain, gravel, cross and tri bikes at a wide selection of prices from top brands including Garmin, Stages, Quarq and more!

Author Nathan Deck is a husband, father, triathlete, and a teacher at heart. When he’s not training, he loves to mentor junior athletes new to the sport. Read more of his work at Triathlonpal and follow him on Twitter.

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Bike Repair for Triathletes Tue, 21 Apr 2015 22:36:17 +0000 This blog brought to you by TriSports Team athlete Becky Bader. Let’s face it, as a whole, triathletes are pretty miserable at maintaining our own bikes. Becky gives us a few tips to help prevent the roadies from laughing at us. Check out Becky’s blog or follow her on Twitter – @becky_bader.

Before transitioning into iron distance triathlon, I spent many years racing bikes and occasionally working at bike shops in between jobs that some might consider to be more related to my Ph.D. When I quietly told my bike racing friends and fellow bike shop employees that I was moving to triathlon, I immediately prepared myself for the barrage of jokes related to poor bike handing skills and an inability to do something as simple as changing brake pads. I wish I could say that my years in triathlon have demonstrated to me that most triathletes are incredibly adept at maintaining their own bikes and that my bike racing friends were wrong in their perception. But no, I cannot say this, and I admit to being embarrassed for triathletes everywhere at some of the conversations about bikes I have overheard in the transition area before the start of a triathlon.

We, of course, all have to start somewhere. I was fortunate enough to be taught how to ride by a former professional cyclist who, on the day that I purchased my first road bike, suggested to me that I had better get to a bike shop and figure out how to change a flat.  I completely blew him off and then cursed his name as I took a slow walk of shame back to my car in my bike shoes after getting my first flat.  So I went to the shop, purchased a set of tire levers, had the mechanics show me the best way to get a tire on and off of a wheel in order to replace the tube, and then practiced until I could change a flat in minimal time. I always suggest to beginners or novice triathletes that they take the time to ask a bike mechanic for a quick how-to lesson on things they might need to know out on the road.

Don’t be left walking home

Many years, many bikes, and many bike shops later, I have come a long way from just being able to change a flat, and I can now build and maintain my own road and triathlon bikes. Contrary to popular belief, a vast amount of expensive tools are not necessary to get this done, and a complete set of hex wrenches can go a long way. As a rule of thumb, everything should be overhauled at least once per year (chain, cables, housing, and tires).  If you are putting in some heavy mileage, I suggest investing in a quick chain checker, such as the Park Tool CC-2, to better gauge when you may need to replace the chain. This will save you from having to additionally invest in a new cassette more frequently. If you do need to change the chain, this is potentially the easiest do-it-yourself thing there is. You will need to invest in a chain tool; I use the Park Tool CT-3.2.  After this purchase, changing the chain becomes somewhat self-explanatory.  Simply press out one of the pins from the chain you are replacing with the tool, remove that chain, replace the chain, and insert a new pin using the tool again.  Bear in mind that when you purchase a new chain, you will most definitely need to remove several links before putting on the new chain (all you need to do is compare the length of the new chain to the existing chain).

Moving on to the internal routing of cables. Yes, I am willing to admit that this is a huge hassle, but still completely doable. I recommend ordering a complete set of cables and housing that is a little bit higher end rather than using what is available stock at the bike shops.  Shimano and Jag make great products that will keep you shifting cleanly for the entire year.  Although cable cutters are obviously available at Lowes and Home Depot, the ones that are bike specific (such as Park Tool CN-10) will serve you much better. The key to internal routing is to take a string or dental floss and attach it to the end of the cable. If you do this to the old cable, you are left with a string that can be used to pull the new cable through the frame. Alternatively, you can simply attach the string or dental floss to the end of the new cable and then pull that through the frame using a vacuum cleaner (be careful other holes in the bike are at least partially sealed). As for the housing, simply try to cut close to the length of the housing that is being replaced.

Attach string to your old cable before removal and have an instant guide for your new cable!

Once the cables and housing have been replaced, getting things to shift correctly can be a tad more complicated. To set the front cable, simply put the shifter in the little ring and pull the cable as tight as possible before tightening the anchor bolt with a hex wrench. For the back, do the same, but then try to slowly shift up to the next biggest cog. If this does not occur, you are going to need to turn the barrel adjustor 1/4th of a turn counterclockwise until shifting occurs (make sure the barrel adjustor is fully turned in before tightening the anchor bolt). Repeat this process for the next cog, and eventually you will be back to a smoothly shifting bike. Slap on some new bar tape, and you are ready to roll.

I will add a word of caution that if you continue down this path of maintaining your own bikes, you may someday end up with a dining room where the table has been turned into a mount for an axle vice for changing free hub bodies, and a living room where bike parts, tools, and bike part manuals cover every available surface. Good luck in keeping everything running smooth this season!

Kitchen table vice (make sure to use your place mats properly!)

Living room workshop

Chain Maintenance Wed, 12 Oct 2011 22:43:08 +0000 he modern bicycle chain is a marvel of technology.  Each link is comprised of two outer plates, two inner plates, two rollers and two pins.  Each plate is chamfered and beveled to optimize shifting.  The forces exerted on a chain during hard efforts are enormous and yet they last for thousands of miles IF properly maintained.  Here are some basics principles of chain wear and maintenance.

A chain is designed to roll precisely between the teeth of the chainrings and sprockets.  In order for this to happen, the distance between each link must be exact.  When a chain comes out of the box, the distance between each pin is ½”.  As the chain wears or “stretches”, the distance between the links increases and shifting deteriorates.

In this first picture we see a partially extracted pin in pristine condition.  The mirror polish is what makes a new chain feel so smooth.  (You can also see the specially shaped edges that improve shifting.)

This is the chain pin of a worn chain.   Many things cause chain wear.  As the chain pivots at every link, the metal erodes a tiny bit.  Metal upon metal friction causes faster wear.  A good chain lube will get in between the different chain parts and act as a friction barrier.  Less friction = less chain wear.  This chain was poorly maintained and there was no lube on the inside of the links.

Dust and dirt will also increase friction in a chain and rapidly accelerate chain wear.  The problem many people have is that too much chain lube will attract dust and dirt.  So the benefits of the chain lube are offset by the increased crud on their chain.

Some points about chain maintenance:

1)  Some people will use a degreaser to remove the factory lubrication from a new chain and replace it with what they think is a “better” lube.  What they don’t realize is that these chain parts are actually coated in a special grease before being assembled into a chain.  Here is a picture of the guts of a new chain.  You can see that there is grease even in the innermost parts of the chain.  This original lubricant is the best for breaking in a new chain.  If you want to take the excess grease off the outside of the chain, just take a rag soaked in degreaser and run the chain through it.  But there is no need to degrease a brand new chain.

2)  We often see bikes come in with black chain lube specks all over the rear of the bike.  The chain is wet to the touch and jet black.  If you run your fingers through the sludge on the chain it will be slippery but it will also feel gritty.  Too much lube!  The oil slick on the chain attracts dirt and the dirt gets sucked into the chain parts and your chain wears out much sooner than it should.  Its like pouring sand into your car engine.

3)  We are often asked, “How many miles should I go before I lube my chain?”  Well, that’s an impossible question to answer.  Different riding styles, riding conditions, types of lube, and cleaning are all factors in how long a chain lube will last before needing to be refreshed.  The best solution is to listen to your chain as you’re pedaling.  A new chain or newly lubed chain should be fairly silent.  As soon as chain noise becomes apparent its time for some lube.

4)  The other most often asked question regarding chains is “What is the best chain lube?”  The short answer is that which lube you use isn’t as important as how you use it.  At the moment, our service shop is using Dumande Original, Dumande Bio, and I’ve just begun testing Dumande Lite.  My previous favorite was TriFlow, another good all around lube.  There are many more out there and each particular lube has pluses and minuses based on the  type of use, climate, and degree of maintenance you are willing to put up with.  We may consider a review of different chain lubes in the future but for this article we’ll focus on maintenance.

How to lube a chain:

So you’ve had a new chain installed by the professionals at 😉 and you’ve put some miles on it.  Things don’t seem as smooth and quiet as when it was new.  Its time for some lube.

1)  The first step is to clean your chain of the old lube(Remember, this is not a “new” chain but one that has been broken in already).  Lubes work best when they are not mixed with different formulas.  Pick one and stick with it for the life of the chain.  You can either remove your chain and clean it in degreaser (Citrus based or something like Clean Streak) or use an on-the-bike cleaning tool like the Finish Line or Park Tool offerings.  Be sure the chain has had a chance to dry off before going to step 2.  Wipe the chain through a dry rag until the residual degreaser is gone.

2) With the chain on the bike, apply ONE drop of lube on each roller of the chain.  I like to do this on the lower section of the chain as it sits on the bike.  This way, the lube is already where it needs to go and won’t get flung off the outside of the chain as it spins around the first time.

3)  Turn the cranks for a minute or so (or ride the bike).  Is the chain quiet now?  Can you hear yourself think again?  Now run your finger along the top edge of the chain.  You should see a slight wetting from the fresh lube working its way through the chain parts.  If its still totally dry, repeat step 2.

4)  Take a rag and wipe off the excess lube from the length of the chain.  This is VERY important!  Repeat this until a clean rag comes away mostly clean.

5) Go ride!

So how about you?  How do you clean or lube your chain?  Any chain lubes that you think we should try?  What problems do you have with chain maintenance?

Bicycle Chain Maintenance Mon, 26 Jul 2010 20:12:13 +0000 Your chain has more moving parts than any other component on your bicycle. There are 424 moving pins, plates and bushings on a typical length 10 speed bicycle chain. No other component on your bike, including your shifters, is as complex- or neglected.

chain lube 001

When our power is measured to the watt and drag is calculated to the gram one of the least expensive ways to improve performance is with regular chain maintenance.

Chain maintenance falls into two categories: Cleaning and Lubrication.

Nearly everyone’s chain is too dirty. An accumulation of dust, road film and dirty lubricant becomes sticky and abrasive, accelerating wear on your chain, chainrings and cogs. It slows you down, it ruins your components. The first step to chain maintenance and lubrication is cleaning. Service Manager and former team mechanic Joe Bianculli summarized chain maintenance well, “The best pro tip I know of is to simply wipe down the chain after every ride—people can even have a glove in the garage, along with a rag. Simply back pedal the chain thoroughly (through the glove or rag). It is not necessary to re-lube every time.”

Bianculli’s recommendation helps remove excess grit that becomes stuck in chain lubricant and accelerates wear. If his protocol is followed regularly it is unlikely additional chain cleaning will be needed. If not, a chain cleaner with bio-degradable chain cleaner will be needed to remove the dirty lubricant residue. If the surface of your chain has a sticky, gritty dark residue it is beyond needing simple lubrication and requires thorough cleaning.
Once a chain is adequately clean and free of contaminated lubricant either from regular wiping or from the use of a chain cleaner, or even removal of a chain to clean it, it is ready to be lubricated.

“The other thing that people need to know is that the chain does not need—and should not have—lube all over the chain because it attracts grit. A chain should only have lube on the rivets themselves.” Says’s Bianculli.
Lubricant should be applied on the inner circumference of the chain to avoid overspray if aerosol lube is used and to help centrifugal force drive the lubricant into the links and pins of the chain. Lubricant applied to the outer circumference of the chain is generally slung off the chain where it becomes a dirty residue on chainstays and the bike frame. Bianculli points out that drip application lubricants are more environmentally friendly, generally less expensive and avoid overspray altogether. Pundits argue aerosol lubes inject lubricant under pressure, driving into chain components and blasting away dirt and foreign matter not removed through cleaning. They can waste lubricant and create overspray. For most home maintenance, drip application lubricants may be the better choice.

chain lube 003

The keys to chain lubrication and maintenance according to pro technician Joe Bianculli are:

1. Quickly clean your chain after every ride to prevent build up of wear producing grit.

2. Use drip lubricant sparingly on the inner circumference of the chain to drive lubricant into the moving links of the chain.

3. Do not over-apply lubricants. Wipe excess lube off your chain after application.

4. Consider drip application lubricants over aerosols for better environmental interaction and less overspray and waste.

5. Emphasize regular chain cleaning and lubrication over more drastic degreasing done less frequently. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.