Cycling, Gear, Podcast

Bike maintenance 101 and become your own mechanic with Jimmy Seear | EP#115

 April 2, 2018

By  Mikael Eriksson

Bike maintenance 101 and become your own mechanic with Jimmy Seear | EP#115

Jimmy Seear, co-founder of Ventum, former pro triathlete and an extraordinary bike mechanic discusses basic bike maintenance, how to clean your bike and when, and other things you have to know related to caring for and maintaining your bike to save you both headaches, speed, and money. 

Discuss this episode!

  • Let's discuss this episode and the topic in general. Post any comments or questions in the comments at the bottom of the shownotes. Join the discussion here!

In this Episode you'll learn about:

  • A clean bike is a fast bike: how to wash your bike and when.
  • Basic bike repairs you need to know. 
  • What tools do you need in your bike maintenance toolbox.
  • What's the best way and the best resources to learn more about cleaning, caring for, repairing, and maintaining your bike?

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About Jimmy Seear   

00:40 - 

  • Jimmy is the co-founder of Ventum.
  • He is a former pro-triathlete.
  • Jimmy is an extraordinary mechanic for anything on wheels!

Jimmy's background in bikes 

4:36 -

  • I was a professional triathlete for 13 years.
  • Ever since I started the sport I was a bike mechanic.
    • I've worked with some professional cycling teams, and some bike shops.
  • I've also worked on my own products and designed my own products - Ventum is an example of that.
  • I'm always trying to make bikes better and more efficient.
  • I think my mechanical knowledge gave me an edge when I was competing, especially with the amount of travel I had to do when racing.
    • A big advantage is knowing that if something happens when you travel with your bike, you can fix it.
      • E.g. if your derailleur hanger gets bent, or your gears are out, you can adjust them.
  • I got taught early on from a mentor that "a clean bike is a fast bike".
    • If it's clean it's going to ride as efficiently as possible.
    • The bearings, the gears and the chain will all be working the way they're meant to which will help you go quicker.
    • If you don't take care of your bike it will add drag and slow you down.

What bike maintenance should everyone do themselves?

7:00 - 

  • If an athlete travels and packs their bike in and out of a bag, you need to learn how to do this.
    • You can't always rely on a bike shop in a local area to pack it for you.
  • In terms of general bike care, regular cleaning is important!
    • 10-15 minutes should be enough, give it a quick clean.
  • Know how to adjust your brakes, tweak your gears and adjust your headset if needed.
    • Headsets can come lose which affects the safety of the bike.
    • It's important to learn how to check it, and then how to tight it if needed.
  • If your bike is making noises, it needs some attention.
    • This has probably actually gone past the point of needing attention.
  • After every ride, if you get a little dirty or ride in the rain, you need to clean it.
    • If you let it sit overnight, the moisture will build up and react with the metal parts of your bike.
    • This can create corrosion or rust, and further headaches down the line.
  • Taking care of your bike will help it last longer and it'll save money in the long run.
    • If you take care of your chain and cassette, they won't wear out as quickly.
  • Try and give it a wipe down after every ride.
    • I would use a smooth dry rag.
    • If you need more moisture, I use a 'Mr Sheen' which is a wood polish.
  • If you've got dirt on your wheel rims or in your chain or cassette, use a bit of degreaser.
    • This would be more of a monthly maintenance tool.
  • For example for me, if I went out riding and my bike got quite dirty, I clean it after that ride. However if I go out on the road and it doesn't get that dirty, I'd leave it to be ridden again.
    • I would at least degrease it and give it a very good clean once a month.
    • I would take the wheels off, clean the brake pads etc.
  • It depends a lot on the weather you ride in and how much you sweat.
    • Sweat can be damaging for a bike so you need to get it off.
    • You can just wipe it off with a wet cloth.
  • The big monthly clean should involve:
    • Getting a very good degreaser and a bucket with warm soapy water.
      • Make sure you get a bike safe degreaser so you don't damage the paint.
    • Take the bike apart - take both wheels off.
    • Spray degreaser on everything and give everything a good scrub with it (don't use a very hard brush).
    • All the grime should be off the bike and it should look nice by the end.
    • You really want to get in on the jockey wheels on the derailleur and get into the tight spots with degreaser.
    • Once you've given it a good degrease, hose it down and then give it a good scrub with the warm soapy water.
    • Hose it all off and then try and dry it as best you can.
    • Use a rag on the chain and run it between your hands - you'll see how much dirt comes off!
      • Don't forget to re-oil the chain, but try not to over oil it.
      • Go from the rear derailleur on the top surface of the chain and go from there to crank.
      • Spin the cranks as if you're riding to move the oil around.
      • Then wipe off the excess with a rag, which will stop it getting messy on your first ride.
  • Shifting and braking should be better, and your bike will last longer and ride more efficiently after this big clean.
  • Tools needed:
    • Oil.
    • Degreaser.
    • Soap.
    • Bucket.
    • Rag.
    • Brush (not too hard).
    • Hose (if you have one).
  • If you have access to a bike stand it helps a lot.
    • If you don't have one you can turn your bike upside down so it's resting on the hoods and the saddle.
    • However you need to be careful because you don't want to knock it over and damage the bike/scratch it.
  • If you don't have a bike stand it may be safer to keep the wheels on.
  • It depends on your situation - I've known people to clean their bikes in the shower!

Bike maintenance when you train indoors

15:41 - 

  • It still needs cleaning!
  • There's a different type of dirt to worry about when training indoors.
    • Everybody sweats on the indoor trainer and it's very corrosive.
    • It drops into the bolts on the headset and over the handlebars, or the bolts on your saddle clamp and seat post.
    • Sweat can run down the frame and drip onto the rear gears.
  • Sweat can damage bolts and bearings, and your chain.
  • You don't want to let sweat sit, wipe the bike down as soon as you finish and put some oil on it.
    • If you let it sit for a few days with sweat on it, it won't react well.
  • After you've cleaned it and put oil on you can put polish on.
    • Car polish or wood polish work well.
    • But you need to be careful not to get it on your brake tracks or your disk brakes.
  • Polish will help dirt not to stick to your bike when you go riding so it'll keep your bike clean for longer.

Mechanics and basic bike maintenance 

17:55 - 

  • I'll start with gears, which can be mechanic or electronic.
    • With electronic, shifting should be good and you shouldn't have to adjust it.
    • If you notice a lag in the shifting, learning how to adjust them will be helpful.
      • Most bike mechanics in shops will be willing to share this with you, it's not complicated.
    • At the shops I've worked at it was almost more frustrating when people thought they knew what they were doing so tried to fix it, but then brought it in because it wasn't fixed and they'd made a mess of it.
    • It's better to get someone to show you in person how to do it so you can ask questions as you go.
      • Videos online can help but they aren't as good.
    • With mechanical gears, the cables will stretch over time so you'll need to get them adjusted.
    • With new cables they will need to be adjusted more frequently.
    • Find someone you trust who can teach you.
  • Brakes are similar.
    • If you're swapping between wheels you may need to adjust your brake pad width or the compound of your brake pad.
      • You might have to put in something more suited for a carbon rim or an alloy rim.
    • Learning this from the manufacturer will be best as it's often individual to that wheel. 
      • E.g. if you use an FSA alloy training wheel and switch to an Enve carbon wheel, Enve has a specific brake pad to use with that wheel because an Enve rim is wider than an alloy rim.
      • Most bike shops can teach this easily.
  • Headsets is the last big one - if they're loose it can become dangerous because they are involved in the steering and braking.
    • You'll notice there's a knock in the front end if you're braking and the headset is loose.
    • You can feel it if you put the front brake on and move the bike back and forth holding the handlebars.
    • Learning how to adjust the headset is important.
    • I recommend people find people they trust to teach them how to do it.
    • It's easy and it's a good safety aspect to learn.
      • Understanding how the bike works is going to make sure you know you're in tune with it.
  • With the chain of your bike, if you don't clean it it'll wear out quicker.
    • All the links can wear out, especially if there's dirt/grime/sand in there.
    • Most people will tend to ride a chain for too long, and at that point it wears out your chainring and your cassette quicker.
    • If you replace a chain a little more regularly, your cassette will last longer so it'll cost you less in the long run.
    • Typically at shops we recommend that you run 3 chains to every cassette.
      • If you're over using a chain you will likely only get 1 or 2, which will be a lot more expensive.
    • I would normally change my train after 2500-3000km, depending on conditions.
      • If you ride in snow or grime or off-road, you may need to change it more regularly. 
    • You can buy chain checker tools from people like Park Tools which are simple and inexpensive, but a good way to keep track of your chain.
  • If you drive your car for a year or two years without a service, it'll come up with issues when you do. If you look at a bike in a similar way - the more you ride it the more regularly it will need to be serviced.
    • Having 2 big services a year will only help the bike to stay in good condition, working the way it should.
    • 2 times a year is a good number of services.
    • Find a mechanic you trust and build a relationship with them. You need to be sure that your bike is safe.
    • You brakes need to be working properly and your gears need to be well maintained.

Becoming a better bike mechanic

25:04 - 

  • Learning in person from a mechanic you trust is the best way.
  • There's a couple of companies such as Park Tool that offer a range of tools you can use.
  • Pedros is another one which have good tools, as well as books and videos.
    • They explain bike maintenance from basic to very experienced and everything in between.
    • They're a good resource to use and tap into.

Toolbox essentials

26:00 - 

  • For most bikes you will need allen keys, and maybe a screwdriver.
    • For example, with a Ventum bike we try and minimise the amount of tools you'll need to work on the bike. You can now work on a bike with just 4 tools.
  • If you can understand what size allen keys you need on your bike, as long as you have those and they're good quality you'll be set.
    • Poor quality allen keys will round on the corners which can easily damage bolts.
  • You need a decent quality toolkit that has everything you need to adjust your own bike.
  • Look at Pedros or Park Tools as they have specific bike tools, and will have everything you need to be able to work on your bike. 

What if bike mechanics are out of your comfort zone?

27:16 - 

  • Bike maintenance might seem scary or complicated but bikes are extremely basic.
  • As long as you can get someone to teach you, or watch videos to learn how they work, they're actually easy to understand.
  • As with anything, if it's new to you it'll seem complicated, but the more you learn about it the simpler it'll seem.
  • E.g. asking a bike mechanic about a problem with your rear derailleur and getting them to walk you through it.
  • Having a good teacher to help you understand the bike will help.
  • Once you understand the bike, it'll help you in the setup of your bike.
    • You can make the bike more comfortable for example, by setting the brakes up the way you prefer them.
    • Some people might prefer brakes tighter, or more spongy.
  • Learning how the bike works will help you learn how you like the bike to be set up for you and the way you ride.
    • This will make your more comfortable on the bike and you'll enjoy riding more.
  • Also if you're out on the road and you have a mechanical issue, you'll know how to fix it!
  • For example, knowing how to change a tire if you get a flat is easy, you just need someone to teach you.

Ventum Z

  • We're re-launching the Ventum Z at a more entry level price point.
  • It's a slightly different front end, but the same frame shape.
  • It's all about getting a lower price point.
  • We'll be doing a frameset, a mechanical version and a DI2 version.
  • Go to to check it out! 

Rapid first questions

31:45 - 

  • What's your favourite book, blog or resource related to triathlon or cycling?
    • I'm going to be coy on this because Leanda Cave has allowed me a pre-read of her book she's about to release and I would say that is an extremely good resource for all aspects of triathlon.
    • I think it comes out later this year.
  • What is your favourite piece of gear or equipment?
    • Of course I'm going to say a Ventum bike!
    • I do also like my Pioneer powermeter. It's great, and I love playing with all the features. You can see the balance between your right and left leg and see if you're pedalling in circles.
    • I don't know how many people are using road power meters off road but I'm testing those at the moment and having a lot of fun.
    • Diaa (Ventum co-founder) and I have fun competing over who can get the maximum power output on rides.
  • What do you wish you had known or done differently at some point during your career?
    • I have to say nutrition.
    • I feel a lot of people haven't done nutrition correctly and get caught up in marketing. A lot of nutrition companies try and paint everyone with the same brush, but every body is unique in how it sweats, uses calories and manages fluid.
    • A good friend of mine, Darryl Griffith from Shots Nutrition in Australia, has written a very good book which says you need to learn what your body needs.
    • It's something Darryl taught me, and I wish I'd had it earlier in my career, but I did get to work with him for a good 8 years. Understand your nutrition because it's your fuel that will help you go quicker.

Key takeaways

  • Clean your bike regularly - probably more often than you currently do!
    • Remember it doesn't need to take long, you can get a lot done in 5-10 minutes.
  • Do two services at a bike shop/with a mechanic each year.
    • Check in the interim whether anything needs fixing yourself, but get the experts to check it over twice a year.
    • This will go a long way to prolonging the life of your bike and making it perform optimally.
  • Learn the basics from a bike mechanic that you trust.
    • It will give you confidence and proficiency.

Links, resources & contact

Links and resources mentioned

Connect with Jimmy Seears

Connect with host Mikael Eriksson


Hi! I'm your host Mikael,

I am a full-time triathlon coach and an ambitious age-group triathlete. My goal is podium at the Finnish national championships within the next few years.

I first started the website Scientific Triathlon in autumn 2015 as a passion project to share my learnings with a larger triathlon audience. Later on, in early 2017 I started the podcast That Triathlon Show. 

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Let's discuss this episode and the topic in general. Post any comments or questions in the comments below. I'll be here to reply and take an active part in the conversation, so don't be shy! 

Mikael Eriksson

I am a full-time triathlon coach, founder of Scientific Triathlon, and host of the top-rated podcast That Triathlon Show. I am from Finland but live in Lisbon, Portugal.

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