The best part about racing is periodically having to completely overhaul your bike and discover bits that are caked in crud, rust and might otherwise destroy your chances of a happy ending if they are not cleaned and lubed and replaced where necessary.
The guys at my local bike shop are awesome – they love to discover bearings which are beaten to cubes of crap. They love to reveal inner and outer bearing races which are sagging in the middle and peeling back layers of cheap composite material.
I love hearing their hushed, reverent stories of thrashed bottom brackets, and barely rotating head tubes. It makes me almost as happy as hearing about worn chains and teeth on cassettes that are ground to indiscernible stumps. Rust and sodium damage propels me to a whole new level of delirium. I have been known to get chubby when the chain measuring tool is produced.
All these discoveries used to be like the names of far-away places on a barely legible map on a worn wooden table in a smoky tavern somewhere close to a crow crying and a heavy rain falling. Now, they serve as a crisp and fresh reminder of all that is right with the world – like a hummingbird hovering at the beach drinking nectar deeply from abundant hibiscus; admiring the ocean spray and dancing water.
I have come to embrace the process of overhauling my bike. I enjoy the financial analysis of replacement vs repair. I love analysing the incremental cost of a new wheel set vs the replacement of a rim. Nothing makes me as happy as measuring a gram per dollar calculation. But it’s not just the metrics that I enjoy about the process – it’s also the human element I love.
For example, I love the look on the head mechanic’s face as all these things are explained to me in a seemingly well-practiced solemn tone precisely harmonized to caution again the dreaded “dnf” and calibrated perfectly against my perceived wallet strength.
I know he’s trying hard to please the store owner, and trying to keep my trust and also tell me what I need to hear. Which can be financially stressful. It is after-all not an inexpensive business overhauling equipment, least of which is high end amateur cycling gear. But man, it is fun to have these conversations, which I weld into my bike-brain, where I try to store every last crumb of information.
Maybe the slightly wider rims will hold the tubeless tire better and give me a wider rolling resistance, leading to less chance of burping the tire. Maybe the old rusted nipples on the inside of my 5 year old rims will be better off replaced along with new spokes. Who knows? In the detachment of the moment from racing it’s way too easy to cheap out. But then, I remember what I hear from racers who taco their wheel sets all the time. Plainly speaking, I don’t want to be the guy who had his race ended at the 600km mark because I was too cheap to replace old worn gear.
New high end gear is the best. My new XTR crank looks fucking amazing, like it’s been hewn from an exotic alloy called “badassthemite”. The dark smoky alloy and carbon finish is impressive to say the least. It glimmers like a disco ball at dawn.
As is my XTR derallieur, which is not only low-profiles to avoid hitting rocks, sticks and other annoying ride-ending objects, but is also clutched, which means I can engage a mechanism to put more tension on the chain and avoid chain slap on the fast downhill, especially fast bumpy downhill sections.
All these purchases were the result of many conversations at the store, much googling, and endless discussions with other trusted friends and fellow riders.
My bike is suddenly starting to look like a new machine. Hang on, how much does that actual new bike cost? Maybe it’s cheaper to buy a new one every two years instead. Ah, the analysis never ends. Just make sure you keep your bike in great shape so your racing and your rides don’t end with swearing and sad, sullen walking.