Continuing in classic Service Course Velo fashion, here’s another article on basically how not to spend money. Brilliant plan for a bike shop, right? I figure if I can save you a few duckets here and there when it comes to general maintenance and upkeep, then maybe you’ll take my word for it when it’s time to get some real service work done or do a major equipment upgrade. Anywhay, here’s a few tricks and tips I’ve compiled that I’ve found to make life with bikes a little easier and maybe even less expensive.
1. El Cheapo iPhone case. If you are the type that has an Otter Box style case for your smart phone, then pass this one up, but if you are like me and can’t stand how big and bulky those cases make your phone and yet don’t want it dying from sweat and rain, read on. Most of us know that in a pinch a standard ziplock bag works pretty well. They are kinda big and since they are designed to keep your pb&j’s from leaking, they are kinda wimpy. Go to your local bike shop and buddy up with the head wrench. Odds are good they’ve been stockpiling these little babies.
These ziplocks are made of tougher stuff than the standard sandwich ones. Plus, 95% of all smart phones fit down inside with just enough room for an I.D., credit card, and a $20. The best is that the touch screen function on your phone still works while snuggled up in the bag, so you don’t’ need to dig it out to answer calls, take pictures, sext, or update that ever so important Strava segment (heavy sarcasm on the last bit there). So why go to the bike shop for these? Because all sorts of small parts come in them and any shop would be smart enough to hang on to at least a few. You might have to bribe your mechanic to deplete their secret stash, but it’s well worth it. I keep one in my gear bag and one in my glovebox so I always have one handy.
2. Here’s a freebie that can save your bacon in a jam. (Great, now I’m hungry. mmmmm, bacon. mmmmm, jam.) Anyway, if you ever find yourself with a spare tube but no presta equipped means with which to inflate it, don’t worry. You are all set to McGuyver yourself back on the road as long as you can locate a gas station or anyone with a standard schraeder pump or compressor. Take the plastic valve cap you usually toss into the recesses of your seat pack .
Now grind the pointed end on the rough pavement or if you have a pocket knife, nip the tip off so it looks like this.
Now turn it upside down from the way you usually put it on a presta valve stem and thread it onto the little threads at the top of the valve. Voila, schreader adapter. It’s not perfect, but it will allow you to use that nice old lady’s ancient foot pump or the gas station’s compressor.
3. Speaking of presta and schraeder valves, there’s a few of you racier types that fancy the deep section rims. Have you ever flatted and the only spare tube you or your riding buddies had barely poked out above the top of the valve hole? Not much chance of getting a pump or CO2 on there, huh? Seeing this really sucks.
That little nub sticking out is going to make keeping a pump head on the valve a real chore. This is where those brass or alloy presta to schraeder adapters come in handy. In a pinch, you can use the plastic valve cap trick, but everyone should carry these nifty little fellers in their repair kit.
Now just switch your pump to schraeder and you’re set to go. The larger size also works to keep the valve from sinking into the rim when pumping up the tire, too.
4. Fenders are great on the mountain bike, but as the weather turns a bit nicer, all most of us ask is that we don’t come home with dirt on our face and in our eyes. Most of that stuff that winds up on your glasses actually comes off the tire before the tire clears your fork arch. That’s why all those little honeycomb crevices they like to put on the back sides of forks are loaded up with a seasons worth of grit. There’s a few over the counter options out there that cost a bit and work well and there’s some free ones that do okay but look crappy, but here’s a tip that looks pretty decent and doesn’t cost hardly anything. Go to your kitchen or to the market and buy one of those thin, flexible, plastic cutting boards.
Trim it to fit the space behind the arch of the fork and between the upper legs and then cinch it up to the arch with a couple of zipties and you’re good to go. It’s free if you can avoid getting caught raiding your kitchen, but it’s easier to color coordinate if you pony up the $5 at the store. Plus, you’ll have plenty of material make some for all your riding buddies. Just make them pay you a sixer or so for it and don’t tell them how easy and cheap it is. Also is it’s an excellent place for stickers and stickers will make you at least 13% faster.
Keep that bad boy on all year round. It weighs nothing, never gets in the way, keeps your grill podium fresh, and also keeps the fork from loading up with a year’s worth of trail gunk and deer poop.
5. Nitrile gloves are awesome, cheap, and come in quantities large enough that you can stash some darn near everywhere. They’re great for keeping in the back of the car for changing tires and in the tool boox for keeping clean during emergency repairs, but they also work well for some other things you might not think of. I use them under my regular riding gloves when I’m racing in the rain and it’s cold out. Regular insulated gloves always wind up soaking up a ton of water and weighing about four pounds each by the end of the race and your hands still freeze. Neoprene gloves are great, but they cost a bit for the good ones and don’t do you any good if you didn’t pack them. In a pinch I can always bum some off the 1st aid tent staff or neutral mechanical support, never mind the fact that any auto parts store has them by the caseload.
They also make cleanup worlds easier after the race. It’s really quite nice not to have a bunch of grit and grime all over your hand after you change out of your muddy kit. Just save the nitrile gloves for the last thing to be removed and it’s a much nicer experience.
This next tip about the gloves is for roadies, cross dorks, and serious euro snobs only. Pull on a glove to put your embrocation on and you won’t have to worry about accidentally getting some on your junk or absentmindedly wiping your nose with your hand afterwards. It lets you keep the hot stuff where you want it and not where you don’t. Just apply the embro and then peel off the glove. Bob’s your uncle.
6. Speaking of embrocation, did you ever notice how well it kicks in on the way home from the ride and once again the shower? The pros use special stuff their soigneurs put on a towel and have their legs wiped down for them, but I’m guessing most of us aren’t in the same boat. You need to use something with alcohol in it and you don’t want to waste whats chilling in the cooler on external applications. Go to the market and get yourself one of these.
Don’t worry. You aren’t going to bleach anything. It’s made by Clorox, but there isn’t any bleach in it. It’s mostly alcohol and it comes in handy dandy wipe form. If you’re a germ-a-phobe, then rest easy knowing it kills all sorts of germs and other bugs. Plus it comes in a bunch of scents including unscented.
If you don’t embro up, and you are a knobby tire type, you still should have some of these in the gear bag. Aside from the obvious ability to remove grime, the other thing they do very well is cut through and remove the oil in poison oak. Regular baby-wipes won’t cut it (pun intended). These are the bees knees for an after oak ride. They also make it easy to swipe your bike bits and shoes down so if there’s any of the poison oak on them (and there is) then you won’t get any later on down the road from touching your gear.
Now that you’ve saved all that money and made your life easier, you can feel free to come buy and spend all that extra loot at the shop. Just kidding. No I’m not.