Winter riding is the cold, hard truth of collegiate racing in the Northeast. There is only so much time I can spend training indoors before I have run out of Tour de France DVDs; the downstairs neighbors start banging on the ceiling; and I start having unbidden daydreams about crushing that peppy spin instructor’s iPod full of dance tunes under my cleat. Time to venture out onto the road.
As if the frothy mix of salt and slushy matter that is sometimes the byproduct of road treatment* weren’t enough, winter brings another hazard: enormous potholes that the salt eats into the roads. I hit a big one this morning and bent/cracked the rim on my rear wheel.
While the pothole was the immediate cause of this ignominy, two things put me at risk for catastrophic rim failure: (1) over-use of my rear brakes, a holdover from when I first learned to ride a bike and Dad told me to always brake with the right or I would go flying over the handlebars—I’m getting better about this; and (2) failure to keep my rim and brake pads clean. You see, all that sand and grit gets caught between the rubber brake pads and the rim, wearing a concave groove in the braking surface until it’s as thin and flimsy as a Coke can. Moral of the story: keep your rims squeaky clean, kids! (Except without the Squeak.)
Start by rinsing off excess sand with water, so you’re not just rubbing it into the rim. Beware of shoddy advice out there on the Interwebs; don’t use household cleaner (which can leave behind a film that slicks up your braking surface) or steel wool (unless you’re TRYING to wear down those rims). Mechanics I trust recommend acetone or rubbing alcohol, which evaporate without residue. Spray your chosen cleaner onto a rag and wipe those babies until they shine. (I’m talking about aluminum rims here. I know nothing about taking care of carbon rims, so feel free to chime in on the comments! Also, what the heck are you doing riding that nice carbon wheelset in this weather?)
I can’t complain too much about the life of this Mavic A-719 rim, which boasts about 8,000 miles of commuting, cyclocross, and and winter training. But maybe if I had taken better care, it could have made it to 10,000!
*I feel we should name this substance after someone we hate, Dan-Savage-style. Any nominees? Where are we on hating Lance Armstrong these days?