Cycle Oregon gives you the perfect opportunity to achieve total oneness with your bike – to make it a natural extension of your physical self. That’s only possible if your bike is the perfectly running machine it was built to be. Squeaks, clicks, ticks and clunks make this illusion impossible. These noises may well be robbing you of efficiency and even doing damage to your mount. They most assuredly harsh the buzz of your fellow riders, so proper etiquette dictates that you address them.
Before you take your first pedal stroke of Cycle Oregon, it’s important that your bike be as ready as you are. And, because every pedal stroke you take getting ready for the event is actually part of the event, the time to get your bike dialed in is NOW. Here are some suggestions on how to make that happen:
1) Get yourself a bike fit – People come in many shapes and sizes; bikes don’t. Having your bike perfectly fit to your body will make riding more comfortable, reduce your chances of getting a repetitive stress injury and improve your performance. This is something we can’t stress enough. The best time to get a bike fit is right now. Just do it – you’ll be glad you did. Don’t wait until just before the event. In fact, don’t make any major changes just before the event.
Today there are more professional bike fitters than ever before. Most work in full-service bike shops, but some cycling-specific physical therapists and coaches also do fittings. One good place to find a local fitter is to consult the list of dealers of Bike Fit Systems products. Of course, if you’re in Portland, you can visit any of the six Bike Gallery locations in the metro area.
2) Find a seat you can learn to love – In theory, it’s possible to ride all day every day for a week without your butt hurting at all (don’t count on it happening to you, but some say they have had this experience). It surely is possible to keep the discomfort to a minimum. At the beginning of the season, even the perfect seat will cause your nether regions to be a bit tender, but as you progress, this should be less and less of an issue. If it isn’t, you might want to begin the quest for a better seat.
Before you begin the quest, make sure you have a proper bike fit. If you don’t have the right seat height, cockpit length, seat angle, etc., no seat will feel right betwixt your silky thighs. Also make sure you hike up those bike shorts. The pad needs to be in the right place and to get it there, you usually need to stop just short of a complete wedgie. Start your quest early enough that you’re done long before the event. Cycle Oregon isn’t the place to learn you have the wrong seat.
It’s a good idea to work with a quality bike shop on this project. Most will let you take a seat out for a spin to test it out. If it isn’t the right one for you, provided you return it in as-new condition, they’ll exchange it.
3) Tune it up – Sometime between when the rains stop in your area and the event, do some basic maintenance. Make sure the cables are in good shape and lubricated. Make sure the bottom bracket is greased. Make sure the derailleurs and brakes are adjusted. Make sure the drive train is clean and lubed. Should any problems arise on the ride – big or small – the folks at Bike Gallery will get you taken care of, but you should plan to show up to the ride with your bike in sound condition. If you want to outsource your tune-up, it’s a good idea to give your local shop a head’s-up a month or so before you need the job done, just in case all your fellow riders have the same idea.
4) Pedals – A lot of new riders have a fear of clipless pedals (it’s understandable, since there’s a reasonable chance you’ll fall once or twice as you learn). The benefits of clipping in to clipless pedals are numerous. They help you become more efficient and they help keep your foot in the right spot on the pedal (provided they are adjusted properly). You’re going to get there eventually, so just do it and get it over with. And do it before you get your bike fit, as dialing in your cleats is a key part of the process.
5) Tires – There’s starting off on a big tour with new rubber on your rig is a great way to go. You’ll have good traction in all weather conditions and the chances of getting flats are diminished. We’re all big fans of 25mm all-season tires like the Continental Gatorskin. Many argue that these tires actually offer LESS rolling resistance than smaller tires at any particular tire pressure, but most of us have better things to argue about. Either way, they provide a nicer ride on rough roads, and flats seem fewer and farther in-between.