Get Your Gear into Gear

by Jukka Valkonen January 18, 2017 3 min read

Get Your Gear into Gear

I recently competed in my 5th consecutive ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship, held in the beautiful, Snowy Mountains, New South Wales, Australia. I’ve been competing in multisport for 30 years, raced over 300 triathlons, many national and world championships, and this one was a highlight. The Aussies are wonderful people. Very friendly, love to chat, take pride in their country and what it has to offer, including dining and hospitality services. This ITU Cross Tri WC was the best we’ve had thus far, including the most technical bike and run courses we’ve seen. As I’ve previously mentioned, Hope, Luck, and Chance are unreliable friends. With the Internet and discovery sites like YouTube, researching race courses are easy, thus prep should be practical, not guess work.

However, what always bewilders me is the level of chance, risk, and general unpreparedness competitors take with poor gear prep, especially with their bikes. If one is competing in an international race, let alone a championship, ignorance isn’t the culprit. Laziness is. There, I said it. Below I enumerate the common things observed. It’s not a conclusive list.

  • Broken or bent rear derailleur hanger
  • Worn chain and chain rings
  • Broken spoke and/or nipple
  • Worn headset bearing
  • Worn brake pads
  • No or poor hydraulic brake pressure
  • Worn tires
  • Wrong tires
  • Poor shifting
  • Tubeless tires won’t seal
  • Bike just generally runs like crap

My dad was a machinist so I grew up around tools, tooling, metals and materials, terminology like tolerances, fatigue, heat treated, welds, etc. As a BMX racer, I experienced part failures. When I started competing in the triathlon and traveled for the first time, I was informed, “The more you take your bike apart, the poorer it will work.” I wondered why. “It’s because parts wear together. Once set and properly torqued, the bike is whole and works properly. Take it apart, it’s never the same.” Applying that, I have always avoided breaking down the bike as much as possible. These days, racers will strip a bike down to as many parts as possible just to try and avoid airline fees. But the above list isn’t about a tear-down and build, it’s laziness.

Racers must realize where they are racing will have a local bike shop that isn’t like their hometown shop. Expect they won’t have the same brand and small parts. Buy your own replacement parts like hangars and bring them. Clean your bike!!! Not only is it necessary, but it also provides the opportunity to make a close inspection, see if anything needs attention. Have your LBS get it race ready. Ensure it is. If you’re not capable of a proper breakdown and pack, have them do it, and show you how, so you can do it after the race. Invest in foam wrap, bubble wrap, and zip ties!!! Sure, airline bike fees can be an extra cost, especially for international. However, consider the risk you take by lying to the agent the gear is “land survey equipment” and then something happens like it decides to go survey land in another land. Stupid is as stupid does. The counter agent has power and authority. Be nice, be patient, and be human. A buddy who worked for an airline taught me early in my racing the following, “Look- the baggage handlers are industrial athletes. Those guys lift tonnage. What pisses them off the most are big, heavy cases because they are potential for injury. They will use lots of muscle to throw those around. Don’t load up your bike box.”

Whether it’s an Ironman, Powerman, Xterra, or ITU, if the race requires airline travel, it requires money and time. You’ve put the time into training and recovery, taken time from work and family, and given love to your credit company. Give time to your gear, especially bike. Show up like you mean it. A clean bike is a happy bike. A happy bike puts a smile on your face.

Jukka Valkonen
Jukka Valkonen

As the athlete ages, the years of training has provided a solid mental and physical base to draw from. However, "quality" becomes so important regarding training sessions, recovery, and nutrition. I've been taking MAP every day, and every race since 2003. Now being in my 40s, I am a consistently faster, stronger, and durable athlete than I was in my 20s and 30s. My old injuries flare up less, and I don't experience new injuries. My immune system is stronger, I sleep better, thus I am able to train more intensely every day than I did prior to MAP. I also compete year-round, and have more consistent podium finishes. MAP is not a supplement for me, rather, it's an integral part of a healthy, balanced diet.


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