Bike maintenance is an enigma to me

bike maintenance is an enigma to me

By Larissa Connors

Iknow it needs to be done, I think about it on every ride when my drivetrain crunches away, or when I put away my dirty bike after a long gravel adventure. But somehow the actual act of taking care of my bikes is way harder than it seems it should be. 

Maybe this is the dilemma of the working cyclist. You only have so many hours in the day, so those precious minutes spent washing and drying the chariot that gifted you with 5 hours of sheer joy seems impossible upon the return home. This despite well planned intentions of taking care of her, all wrapped into the detailed to-do list you came up with on the last hour of the ride. Come home, recovery drink, wash bike, shower, vacuum, laundry… Then somehow that recovery drink and studying Strava takes way longer than it should and the bike wash is sacrificed for more pressing chores.

Or maybe it’s the curse of the professional athlete. I mean I never really had my own Brad Copeland, but I dreamed about my husband/mechanic washing my bikes for me as much as I dreamed about going to the Olympics… But somehow for the last 7 years I’ve ended up washing my own bikes and although Brendan is an awesome mechanic with magic hands, I’ve spent many many late nights in the garage doing the work on my bikes alongside him. Brendan is more likely to ask the prompting questions a good teacher uses: Oh, your drivetrain is noisy, when is the last time you checked your chain length? 

So it’s no surprise that my bikes suffer the consequences of my laziness/time crunched life. They don’t always get the love they deserve, and as a result that chain goes 3,000 miles without getting checked for stretch (this is a lie, I’m certain Brendan checked it at some point and said ‘you really should get a new chain’ to which I replied OK! And then never followed up). At some point in the last two months I was legit embarrassed to pass people on my gravel bike because the sounds coming from my drivetrain were so terrifying, and the fact you could see daylight between the chainring and chain confirmed that yes, I really should have swapped the worn out chain 6 months ago! 

This topic is on my mind because this past week I bit the bullet and purchased a new chain, cassette and chainring, and that along with a fresh set of Bokens has my bike feeling brand spanking new. You know that new bike feeling, shifting is so crisp, drivetrain so quiet, everything is blissfully smooth and efficient? I had no idea you could achieve that feeling on a year+ old bike with 10,000 miles on it. Maybe the contrast makes my refreshed bike feel even better than it should, but guys, it’s magic. Oh and the best part is that all the drag in my old drivetrain was really slowing me down, so I got some free speed this week, which may not have been ideal for my poor training camp partner Nikki who already has to force me to reign it in and keep the watts under control (she’s got long term vision and I have THIS INSTANT I WANT TO GO FAST impatience).

So if you’re anything like me and you don’t really do much but ride and put the bike away dirty maybe take an hour or so to go inventory the work that needs to be done. New tires make a HUGE difference no matter what discipline (I mean fresh rubber? There’s nothing like the grip of fresh rubber!). A new chain can save the life of your cassette and chainring, if you use the old chain too long you’ll damage the other parts of the drivetrain like me and need to replace all three. Those shifting issues? Well if you are still using mechanical like I am on my mtb they could be due to old, grimy cables and housing, swap that shit out for some freshies and you’ll have that fresh new shifting feeling! Oh and brake pads! Don’t neglect those buggers or you’re going to be in real trouble when the springs wear deep grooves in the rotors and then you have a heck of a lot to replace. 

Maybe I’m the only one who has to hit bike maintenance rock bottom before having the epiphany of the wonders of new parts, but some of these things are wear items, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who takes that for granted.


Larissa is a 2 × leadville100 winner, BWR winner, and rides for Voler Factory Gravel Team.

For more from Larissa, check out her website at larissaconnors.com or follow her on the grams at @larissaconnors.


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A peloton of riders at SBT GRVL