Hello fellow mountain biking enthusiasts!
After an enduring winter season of tackling muddy trails and grimy tracks, it’s time to show our bikes some much-needed care and get them in peak condition for the upcoming spring and summer adventures.
We’ve put together a practical and comprehensive guide, sourced from both the internet’s vast knowledge pool and our trusted biking experts, to help you maintain your beloved mountain bike.
In this guide, we’ll be focusing on the crucial areas such as suspension, brakes, tyres, bolts and drivetrain, making it accessible and easy to follow. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or just starting out, this guide is designed to ensure your trusty bike is ready to hit the trails without a hitch.
So, let’s get ready to give your bike the attention it deserves, so you can enjoy a smoother, more reliable ride during the warmer months ahead.
Riding your bike through conditions filled with water, grit, and mud can significantly reduce the lifespan of your brake pads and lead to overall increased wear. To ensure your brakes are in top shape, start by removing your wheels and inspecting the amount of material remaining on each brake pad. Uneven wear can indicate misalignment issues. If you find that there is little or no material left on the pads, it’s essential to examine the brake discs for any damage.
With the wheels reinstalled on the bike, it’s crucial to check the brake lever’s feel when pulled. It should provide a distinct, firm bite point. If the lever feels spongy, this is an indication that you may need to bleed your brakes, a process that involves changing the hydraulic fluid. To ensure this is done correctly, you might consider visiting your local bike shop for a professional bleed.
Before heading out on the trails, test your brakes by repeatedly squeezing the levers to assess the feel. If the levers initially feel squishy but firm up after a few pumps, there may be trapped air in the system. While a small amount of air isn’t a major issue, it can lead to inconsistent braking performance, warranting a brake bleed. However, if the lever goes straight to the bar without improvement after multiple squeezes, it’s imperative not to ride the bike until the issue is resolved.
Assuming the lever feel is good, take a quick ride and perform a couple of gentle stops. Ideally, you should be able to stop using just one finger on the levers with minimal effort. Some noise is normal, especially if the brakes are wet or the bike has been unused for an extended period. However, persistent noise and a lack of braking power could indicate contamination of the pads with oil or grease, requiring attention.
In cases of pad contamination without spare parts available, a useful trick involves using talcum powder to remedy the situation, potentially saving your ride from being derailed. See the talcum powder method HERE
A squeaky bike chain or disc brakes aren’t a good sign, as they indicate the need for attention. Neglecting a noisy chain can lead to premature wear on your drivetrain. If you hear the chain making noise toward the end of your ride, it’s wise to lubricate it before storing your bike, ensuring it’s ready for your next outing. For optimal results, apply lubricant at least an hour before riding to allow it to settle into the links and avoid dust accumulation.
The drivetrain, comprising the chain, cassette, and derailleur, faces the most punishment in muddy conditions, where grit and water accelerate wear. To remedy this, start by rinsing the chain thoroughly with water and applying a degreaser, followed by a gentle brush scrub. Rinse again, avoiding high-pressure water jets. After drying for five minutes, apply a standard chain lubricant, ensuring each link is coated. See HERE for an extended explanation by Pro rider, Kenny Belaey.
Now, assess the gear system’s performance. Verify alignment, ensuring the derailleur lines up with the chain. In the top and bottom gears, confirm the jockey wheel lines up with the cassette cog; if not, use limit adjuster screws. Place the bike in a stand for easy wheel rotation and shift through the gears to check for smoothness. Adjust cable tension as needed to address lag. Consider replacing inner and outer gear cables if they are bent, twisted, or rusty, as this significantly affects shifting performance.
Extensive drivetrain maintenance tips HERE
A comprehensive bike inspection involves meticulously examining each bolt for tightness. For those who prefer a by-the-book approach, consult the manufacturer’s recommended torque settings for each bolt. It’s worth noting that various bolts, such as those securing your shifter, bottle cage, wheel axles, and especially the headset, tend to gradually loosen over time. As many pro’s say, it’s essential to routinely check and tighten them individually.
By adhering to this practice, you ensure the structural integrity of your bike and reduce the risk of components coming loose during your rides. Loose bolts can not only affect your bike’s performance but also compromise your safety. Therefore, maintaining proper torque settings on these critical components is a prudent and responsible approach to bike maintenance.
Your bike tires tend to gradually lose pressure between rides, especially if you’re using a tubeless setup. Therefore, it’s advisable to check your tire pressures and give them a quick top-up before hitting the road or trail.
While some riders rely on a simple squeeze test to gauge tire pressure, using a digital pressure gauge is the ideal method for obtaining consistent and accurate readings. This approach eliminates guesswork and ensures you head out with confidence.
Determining the optimal tire pressure can be a bit tricky, as it depends on several factors. Achieving the right pressure involves finding a delicate balance between factors like traction, rolling resistance, puncture resistance, and rim protection. Additionally, variables such as your choice between tubes or going tubeless, your riding style, the type of terrain you’re tackling, trail conditions, and even your wheel size all come into play.
As a general guideline, starting with tire pressures in the range of 20-30 psi is a good initial point. However, it’s often better to begin on the higher side and gradually reduce pressure by a few psi at a time until you find a pressure level that feels just right for your specific riding conditions and preferences.
Not sure when to replace your tires? Check this out.
Taking care of your bike’s suspension is crucial for a smooth and enjoyable ride. It’s not just about giving your suspension a quick wipe-down, especially after it’s faced the harsh challenges of winter.
Our number one tip for looking after your suspension is to keep those stanchions on your fork and shock clean and free of grimy buildup and dust. Trust us, it makes a world of difference. Allowing gunk to build up around the wiper seals is the quickest way to make a plush fork feel sticky. The grit can sneak its way past the seals and into the internals, turning your once-smooth suspension into something much harsher. Plus, if you leave it unchecked for too long, it can even wear through the coating on the stanchions.
So, why not treat your suspension to some professional love and care? Send them off to the pros for a little spa day. You’ll be amazed at the transformation in your ride – like getting your bike back in its prime. With this, you’ll be all set not just for spring but for a long summer of riding ahead.
Whether you’re an avid rider or a casual cyclist, these tips and tricks will ensure your bike is ready to conquer the trails, no matter the season.
Oh and one last thing before you go! This years Radical Reels Tour is screening two epic mountain biking films! Get your tickets here and dont miss out on the stoke! See ya there