As much as I’d like to, I don’t have any crazy inside line to jesus or anything, but over a few decades of riding there’s a number of simple things that I’ve found that seem to work to make a bike feel fast or at the very lest a little feel a little more like it did when it was new. They’re all pretty easy to manage and take very little time, but they’re also things that people are known to get lazy about or skip all together in favor a few more minutes on the bike.
1. Clean Your Chain/Drivetrain: Many people know or at least recognize that this as a fine way to improve the shifting performance of any bike and keep any resistance the chain might develop when rolling over the cogs and chainrings to a minimum, yet most of us are lax to keep the driveline tidy.
A really simple way to encourage drivetrain cleaning at home on a regular basis is to keep the following close to where you store your rig(s): two rags, citrus degreaser like Pedro’s Pro J and a light lube like Pedro’s Go! (which is suuuper light) or 100% biodegradable Dumonde Tech G-10 (we avoid lubes that come in aerosol cans by the way).
As you finish a ride, grab the rag you use only with the citrus degreaser, soak it with the stuff, grip the chain and turn the crank in a counterclockwise direction to run the chain through the rag. While you’re under the hood take a quick second to wipe down the chain and seatstays and look for any cracks on the frame or abnormal wear on the drivetrain components. Shouldn’t take you more than a minute for the first step.
Next, grab whatever light lubricant you’re using and drizzle lube on the chain as you again rotate the crank counterclockwise. After you’ve applied a good amount of lube to the chain, wipe ‘er down with your second rag (which you use only for lubricant.)
Finished! Shouldn’t take you more than two minutes to complete the whole thing and your bike will feel very much like new. If you’re doing this every-other-ride or so, you’ll actually be able to do it very quickly because your chain won’t be too dirty or dry and you’ll be in good practice.
2. Inflate Your Tires: Sure, sounds simple, but a lot of people that are just starting to ride might not be aware that checking tire pressure before every ride is not just good for preventing flat tires, but makes any bike ride a little bit better.
We probably fall on the low pressure side of the equation here (and I’m sure that what I’m about to say will cause some debate internally), but 115 to 120PSI for most good clincher tires seems to strike a balance between fast and dangerous to us. It’s possible to ride tubulars with a little more pressure, but above 120PSI you start to lose the suppleness that glued-on tires are known for. For those that crank their tires up beyond 125PSI, I read some literature from Continental not too long ago that stated plainly that anything that point was completely inconsequential in terms of lowering rolling resistance.
If you don’t have a good floor pump, get one. They’re inexpensive and a good one will last a decade or more. We’re somewhat partial to the Lezyne Floor Drive series of pumps.
3. Triple Check Your Seat Height: Seat posts have always had a tendency to slip, but with the advent of carbon frames and seat posts, they're more likely than ever to unintentionally drop. If your post happens to sneak down a tiny bit each ride, you’ll soon find yourself a centimeter or more below an optimal setting. Not sure what your optimal setting is? Get a bike fit from a pro. Using formulas and trying to make sense of it at home is rarely a recipe for success.
4. Replace Your Cleats: The only reason this came to mind is that I just replaced the Look Keo cleats on my shoes a few rides ago. Huge difference! Better engagement, less slop while pedaling and a much more crisp release. Costs less than $20 and will make a measurable improvement in your next ride. In fact, use the opportunity to check the position of said cleats on the bottom of your shoes. Not sure how to do that? Look for a post that gives an absolutely foolproof method for locating your cleats from AC’s fit guru Craig Upton in the near future.
5. Change Your Bar Tape: Do I really need to say much more than that a bike with clean bar tape is a hell of a lot faster than a bike with some raggedy old bar covering. Others may be swayed by new fangled tape, but I stick with the good, old Cinelli cork ribbon in white or black only.
BTW: So-Real Sonoma thanks to Levi and the World's Fastest Dentist Roger Bartels or Pine Flat Road