Coach’s Corner

Coach’s Corner

In this article, my first as Head Coach at Viceroys, I want to kick off the season with advice not to scare newbies off but equally not to be too light on those of you that are seasoned hard triathletes.  So where do we start?  There is so much information out there now about how to train, what equipment you should have and what races to do.

The thing I see most often when training people is how little preparation they have done before the session.  I am not talking about warming up or what you are wearing, although these are important considerations and we can maybe talk about these things in another post, but planning what the session will involve and what you are going to get out of it!

Some sessions especially club or group sessions you may go into them a bit blind i.e. you aren’t really sure what you are going to be doing other than riding for a certain period of time, or running at the track, or even swimming at the lake.  But having a bit of a plan of what you are aiming to achieve during the session and some quick checks to do before the session will make you get so much more from each session.

One of the most common fails, is checking your bike before each ride. 

How many of you do a M Check before each ride? Why is this important? 

For many they just grab their bike and may press on the tyres to see if the tyres feel a bit soft, before heading out.  Whilst this is part of the M check, if that is all you do then you are winging it every time you go out on a ride.  You could be setting yourself up for an incident.  Also, just because you think your bike is fine or you did a M check on your last ride (so you don’t need to do one again), you need to do it as things do loosen over time and use, especially if you are transporting your bike in a car.

Every single ride I have done with groups this year there has been an issue with a bike.  Normally, someone gets a puncture, but there have been many other issues that are totally preventable which a simple M Check, which takes 2 minutes or less, could have solved.

For those of you that don’t know what a M Check is, it literally is a check over the bike in the shape of the letter M which checks all the major parts of the bike to see if everything is working and in good order. 

M Check Guide

  • You start with the front wheel skewer (the axle that runs through the front wheel that connects your wheel to the front forks of your bike).  Check to see that it is tight.  Ideally the skewer should be locked tight in alignment with the forks.  However, I like to have the skewer facing backwards towards the pedals at 90 degrees so you can get your hand in it easy and quickly release should you get a puncture, and it is easy to then get the wheel off.  If you have disk brakes, then just lifting the front wheel and banging on the top of the tyre to ensure the axle is tight will suffice.
  • Next check the tyre firmness.  Notice I didn’t say pressure, as without a gauge no one will know what the tyre pressure is just by pressing.  What you are looking for is it to be firm.  Any softness you should then maybe get a track pump and apply some air to whatever tyre pressure you are comfortable to ride on and what the tyres can take.  (Clue the air pressure the tyres should be is written in embossed print on the side of the tyre).
  • Next check that the front brake is working by spinning the front wheel forwards and pulling the brake. 
  • Then put both hands on the hoods of the handlebars and press your bodyweight through the hoods.  What you are checking for here is to see whether the handlebars are tight.  You don’t want to find out that they are loose when you are going down a hill!

You have now completed the first part of the M shape – basically a straight line from the skewer to the handlebars.  This should have taken about 20 seconds!

  • Next you are going to move downwards diagonally following the downtube of the bike.  Are the water bottle cages loose?  Just give them a wiggle and check the screws to make sure that they are tight.  Do you have water or electrolyte in your water bottles?  I see many people who don’t go out with a bottle!
  • Then check the cranks (the bits that the pedals attach to).  Just see if you can move them laterally as you shouldn’t be able to.  Then check the pedals are finger tight.  You would not believe how many times peoples pedals come off on rides.  This should be unusual as when you pedal you are tightening the pedals as to loosen you must go backwards, but it does happen.
  • Then we are moving back up the seat tube to the saddle.  Push down on the nose of the saddle whilst pulling up on the rear of the saddle.  Then try moving the saddle side to side.  Any looseness will result in the saddle moving and if it does you need to obviously tighten it.  Once again this is quite a common occurrence for the saddle to move during a ride.  Check any saddle bags are zipped up or lights are tight and are working.
  • Now we are moving down the last part of the M Shape.  Check the rear tyre firmness.  Lift the rear wheel and spin it forwards and check the back brake works and finally check the rear skewer.

This is the M check; however, a few more quick checks will also help you have a hopefully nonissue ride!

Check the bolts on the outside of the large chain ring.  Some people won’t have any depending upon the type of chain rings, but if you can see five bolts on the chain ring just put the end of your finger onto them and see if you can twist them.  You will be able to tell if they are loose and if they are, use an allen key to tighten. 

Check the tyres for any glass, flint, or cracks by gently running your gloved palm (make sure you have gloves on), over the top of the wheel whilst spinning it forwards and closely inspect the tyre as you do so for any debris or cracks.  If you have anything, see if you can fish out the offending material and you could put a bit of superglue in any cracks. 

Finally, check the chain and make sure it is not too loose or worn.  Apply some oil if it is dry, squeaking or you haven’t used your bike for a while. 

All of this should have taken you about 1 – 2 minutes but will ensure you are less likely to have an issue and make your ride smoother and more fun.

In the next coaching tip, I will explore what you should be asking yourself about each training session to get the most out of it.  If you have any questions or ideas of what you would like to be included in the future, please let me know.

Happy training!