Take Care Of Your Mountain Bike By Following These Tips
How to care for your Mountain Bike
Want to extend the life of your bike?
If you know, deep down, you should be taking much more care of that mountain bike you spent hundreds or maybe thousands of dollars on, then you are right!
Just why some of us, including me, forget to do some simple, basic maintenance that could help our pride and joy last many more years, is anyone’s guess.
But it happens, and I’m determined to make sure that from now on, we all give our prized possession the love and attention it deserves.
Follow this guide and your mountain bike will reward you with many hours of trouble free riding in return. Ignore these pearls of wisdom and one day; you will be walking home!!
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- 1 How to care for your Mountain Bike
- 2 How to Clean your bike
- 3 How to lay your bike down
- 4 How to check your brakes:
- 5 How to check your wheels and rims:
- 6 How to inspect and lube your drive-train:
- 7 How to check your tires and know what pressure to inflate them to:
- 8 How to check your cables:
- 9 Always store it:
- 10 Conclusion:
How to Clean your bike
Right, let’s get started with one of the most basic things we should all be doing, and that is cleaning all the muck off after every ride.
If you don’t get it that dirty (shame on you!) then just make sure you give it a regular clean every couple of weeks or so.
Mud and grit build up in some of the more delicate parts of the bike, such as the drive train, will result in them wearing a lot quicker, or failing altogether.
So, it’s important to make sure you get all that stuff off before you go riding the trail again.
What you need to do:
Grab a bucket, soft sponge, towel and an old toothbrush plus some biodegradable detergent.
If you have a set of soft bristled brushes, then even better.
First of all, prop your bike up so that you can get all round it and then spray gently with water from above to remove all the loose dirt and grit.
It’s very important not to blast the bike from the side with a power washer or strong jet of water. This will just force the dirt into the pedals, hubs, etc. and maybe even compromise the bearings so don’t do it.
Once you’ve got everything off, fill the bucket with warm water and enough detergent to raise a few suds.
Then get to work with your sponge or soft brushes. Use the old toothbrush to get in all those places you can’t reach with your sponge such as the gears, chain and under the seat.
When you’re happy, you have got everything as clean as you can use a gentle spray of water from above the bike to rinse all the soap off.
Use the towel to dry off the frame, seat, handlebars, etc. then leave to dry completely. Bounce the bike several times to dislodge any water still hiding in bolt holes and other crevices
Once dry, remember to lube everything as you have probably washed any existing lube off. See the section below on how to lube the drive-train for more info.
Watch the following video on how to clean and degrease your bike.
How to lay your bike down
Strange as it may seem, how you lay your bike down if you don’t have anything to prop it up against, can save you a lot of trouble!
You should always lay the bike down on its left-hand side so that the derailleur and gears are on the upper side.
This will prevent the derailleur from digging into the ground or even worse, getting bent.
One word of caution, though, if you have disc brakes make sure the discs don’t get damaged as these are on the side you will lay on the ground.
How to check your brakes:
Making sure your brakes work has to be one of the most important tasks on your bike. They could mean the difference between life and death after all so don’t skip this task.
Inspect these at least once a week if you are a regular weekend warrior.
What you need to do:
If you have disc brakes, check the rotor for any signs of wear or buckling. Use a torch to look at the brake pads to see if they have worn down too much.
These are the small metallic pads that grip the disc rotor when you pull the brake lever. They wear down over time and so will need replacing at some point.
It can be a little tricky to see, but if the pads have worn down below 2mm, then it’s time to change them.
With hydraulic brakes, if they feel ‘spongy,’ it probably means they have air in the system. You should bleed the air to get a more solid feel. Get your local bike shop to do this if you don’t feel you can tackle it.
If you have the traditional type of brakes (side pull or rim brakes), then you will have rubber brake pads that grab the wheel rim to slow the bike down. Usually, they will have grooves cut into them. When the grooves disappear, it’s time to change the rubber pads.
It’s also worth taking a close look at the rubber pads and making sure there is no small stones or grit embedded in them. If there is, pick them out with a small screwdriver or similar as you don’t want them scoring the wheel rim.
Finally, spin the wheels and make sure both the front and back brakes work efficiently. Check, you don’t need to pull the brake levers in too much as well.
If you have to pull them all the way back to the handlebars, then they may need adjusting or the brake pads replacing.
If you’ve checked all that and still have a problem, then take it to a bike shop for further inspection.
How to check your wheels and rims:
You would think that you would notice any problems with the wheels themselves, but it’s surprising how many people miss this.
What you need to do:
They are relatively easy to check, just elevate each wheel in turn and give them a spin. If the rim appears to wobble as it’s going around, then it will need adjusting with a spoke wrench.
This is a simple procedure but take it to your local bike shop if you’re unsure what to do.
Also, check the wheels for broken spokes and dents or other damage. If you spot anything, you may need to replace the wheel.
How to inspect and lube your drive-train:
So, what do we mean by ‘drive-train’ exactly? Well, we’re talking here about the pedals, chainrings at the front, derailleur and the cassette on the rear wheel plus of course the chain itself.
The derailleur is the device that moves the chain back and forth across the toothed rings of the cassette, just in case you were wondering!
The drive-train is made up of some of the hardest working parts of your bike, so you will need to replace a part of it at some stage. The key is spotting it before it breaks completely.
This will always happen when you are miles from anywhere and facing a long walk back! You can count on it….
The chain is the usual culprit that needs changing as it stretches as you put the bike through its paces. As a guide, the chain will last for about 2-3K miles of normal use. Unless you like riding particularly rugged terrain.
What you need to do:
Unless you have a bike stand, you may need a friend to help you with this.
Raise the rear wheel so that it can rotate without touching the floor.
Now, gently rotate the pedals so that the wheel starts moving. While still moving the pedals, shift through all the gears and make sure the gear change is smooth and easy.
Check the chain and all the other components for wear or damage. Also, make sure the derailleur hanger (the part of the frame it bolts to) is not bent.
With the chain, it’s not that easy to tell from a visual check if it needs replacing.
Excessive side to side movement or the chain slipping when out for a ride may hint at trouble brewing.
The best way though is to buy a cheap tool from your local bike store that measures the distance across a certain number of chain links. If it’s over a set limit, then it means the chain has stretched too much and will need replacing.
Once you are happy that everything looks okay, then it’s time to apply some lube.
First of all, the chain – use a light lubricant. There are some good dry lubricants around that are nice to use and not too messy. Apply just enough to leave a light coating.
You may find this easier to do by propping up your bike against a wall and turning the pedals backward by hand. Then just apply the oil to the chain as it’s moving.
Pivot points – by this I mean any point where something pivots or moves. The derailleur body for example. Also, be sure to lubricate the brake and gear levers plus the pivot point of side pull brakes.
Be careful not to drop any lubricant onto the brake pads, wheel rim or brake discs!
Finally wipe off any excess lube, especially on the chain, with a clean, dry rag, and you’re done.
How to check your tires and know what pressure to inflate them to:
Checking the tires is straightforward and should be a part of your routine before every ride. Suffering a tire failure out on the trail is not much fun and can easily be avoided.
A tire blowout or lack of grip can be a very dangerous thing. It always worries me how many riders don’t replace them until they are almost completely worn out. Make sure you are not one of those.
What you need to do:
Your tires are the only thing providing grip so check all around the tires for any worn or smooth spots in the tread.
Look for any cracks or bulges on the sidewalls (that’s the part without any tread). If you find any, replace the tire straight away as it’s a burst just waiting to happen.
Buy a decent pump with a built-in pressure gauge and check them every time before you go out on a long ride.
The recommended tire pressure is usually printed on the side of the tire, but as a general rule, between 30-45PSi is where most people keep it.
Some mountain bikers like to adjust tire pressure depending on the terrain. If they’re riding on a difficult section where they need lots of grip, then they will lower the pressure a bit.
This helps increase the amount of grip a tire has as more tread is in contact with the ground.
When riding on smoother, dry terrain, they like to pump the tires up a bit. This decreases rolling resistance as there is less tread in contact with the ground.
Beware running with tire pressures too low, though. This can cause the inner tube to pinch when the wheel hits a rock or tree root. A sure way to end up with a puncture or rim damage.
How to check your cables:
You will come across two types of cable on a mountain bike. One is the standard twisted wire cable in a plastic shield. The other looks like a wire cable but is, in fact, a plastic tube filled with hydraulic fluid.
What you need to do:
If you have wire cables, then check along with their entire length for any fraying, rust or damage to the plastic housing.
Make sure you check where the wire cables enter the covering and the points at which they connect at each end.
You can also apply some dry lube to the wire where it’s exposed to help keep it in good condition.
With hydraulic cables, it’s even more important to check the plastic tubes for damage as even a small crimp or crack could leak fluid out. Take a close look at each end where they enter the brake levers etc. for any sign of leaking.
I probably don’t need to say this, but will anyway! Fix any problems with your cables before taking the bike out if you want a trouble-free ride.
Always store it:
Finally, in this list of top tips on how to care for your mountain bike, let’s look at how to store your bike if you are not going to use it for a while.
Always try to store it indoors if you can. Even if it’s undercover outside the moisture in the air will still start corroding any metal parts eventually.
Of course, if it is outside you will also need to make sure you secure it to deter opportunist thieves.
If storing the bike indoors, and space is a premium, look for a bike hook so you can hang it from the wall or ceiling. Most bike accessory suppliers will stock these. They look like the letter J, and the bike hangs from them by the front wheel.
There are also many types of bike racks, both wall mounted and floor standing which work great and may be more suitable if you have more than one bike.
One word of caution if storing in the basement or garage. Don’t leave it standing on a bare concrete floor for long periods as this can damage the tires. Use some cardboard or a piece of old carpet to stand it on.
I hope you have found this list of tips useful and can now see how easy it is to keep your mountain bike in tip-top condition.
Most of these tasks only take a few minutes, and if you make it a part of your routine every week or before you take to the trail, your bike will thank you for it!
So will your mom/dad/partner/friend when they don’t have to come and get you because your bike has broken down !!