A mountain bike is a great way to get out and enjoy the outdoors, and if you look after your bike it will last a long time. To help keep the elements at bay and keep you riding happy we have put together a few tips that will make it easier and safer to keep your new bike at its best.
Clean and shiny
Keeping your ride clean is a sure fire way to extend the life of your bike. Use a basic biodegradable cleaner, a sponge, a towel and an old toothbrush to clean everything: the frame, chain, chain rings, cassette, derailleurs, pedals, brakes, and seat. It is a good idea to use a bucket or a very soft hose as a strong jet from the hose can push water into places it should not be. When it's clean give the bike a toweling off and always go for a short ride to get the water out of the brakes etc.
Check your brakes
Brakes are vital to safe riding. It’s quick to make sure they’re in good condition and properly adjusted. Working brakes can be the difference between crashing or a flawlessly-maneuvered corner.
Check the brake pads have plenty of meat. Some bikes will have a brake that pulls pads against the rim while others have disc brakes.
Over time either style of brake will wear and need to be replaced – they wear quicker in muddy environments. For disc brakes look at the pads with a flashlight, check the pads are wearing evenly and replace them if they show excessive wear. If the brakes are soft, eg you can pull the lever in a long way without much braking, then it is a good idea to whip in to see us for a quick service. For brakes that pull against the rim, look at the wear indicators on the pad and replace if necessary.
Keep your wheels riding true
Wheels (rims) that are out of true, or buckled, can be horrible and dangerous to ride on.
Diagnosis is easy but it is harder to fix yourself. Elevate your bike and spin the wheels; both should move smoothly, without wobbling. A wobbly rim can be adjusted with a spoke wrench – but this is best done in store by one of our mechanics.
Regularly inspect and clean the drivetrain
A bike’s drivetrain includes the pedals, chain, chainring, derailleur (the thing at the back that moves the gears) and cassette (the cogs attached to your rear wheel). The drivetrain is important because it transfers the power generated by your legs to the rear wheel, which moves the bike.
Check your gears by going for a short ride and moving through them all. Shifting should be smooth and easy to perform.
Inspect the chain, chainrings, derailleur and cassette for damage (excessive wear, missing teeth, dents, scrapes, etc.). Note that small chainrings wear out sooner than large chainrings, and that the chain is the most frequently replaced component of the drivetrain (typically two to three chains for a rear cassette). A chain is much cheaper to replace than the rest of the drivetrain and waiting too long to replace a chain will wear down the other drivetrain components faster.
If shifting is not smooth, it’s best to take your bike to a repair shop to have it looked at by a professional.
Cleaning should be done with a product using a chain brush and degreaser. Once the chain is clean always re-apply lube.
Check both tyres
Mountain bike tyres offer traction with the ground, allowing travel over a variety of unlikely surfaces, like mud, rocks, roots and ladder bridges. In addition, they form a flexible cushion which helps smooth out bumps and thumps along the way, making for a more comfortable ride.
The ideal pressure will vary according to the terrain you’re riding, but as a general rule, you’ll want to keep your tyre pressure between 30-50 psi. Lower psi will provide more traction (grip) on technical and loose terrain, but is more prone to flats. Tyres go down over time so invest in a good floor pump with gauge and check tyre pressure often.
Check your tyres for splits, cracks or tears, especially along the side-walls (where the tyre doesn’t touch the ground). You’ll also want to check the tread for uneven or excessive wear, in which case you’ll want to have it replaced. Damaged tyres are prone to burst, causing a sudden loss of control—a potentially dangerous situation. Changing tubes and tyres is a simple fix that requires tyre levers and a pump to re-inflate the inner tube.
If you are unsure on what sort of tyres to fit, drop in for a chat with one of our staff.
Check the cables
Cables are either made of tightly coiled metal wire or oil caged in a plastic housing. Cables are what allow braking and gear changing and over time can wear out.
Inspect the cable and surrounding rubber housing for cracks, crimps, rust, dirt and looseness. New cables and/or oil make shifting and braking smooth, which increases bike performance. If braking/shifting is not optimal, get your cables replaced or oil changed at your local bike shop. Unless you're well trained in this task, changing cables/oil can be tricky and time consuming. Schedule replacement every 2-5 years based on use. If you ride your bike year-round, consider replacing your cables/oil yearly.
Add chain lube
Chain lube coats the chain and other components of the drivetrain, helping them last longer and work more efficiently. High quality lubes also reduce the build-up of dirt and grime, which helps increase performance of the moving parts.
What to do: Apply lubricant evenly to the chain while slowly rotating the pedals in a counter-clockwise direction. Spin it for a good five seconds to allow it to penetrate the chain fully. Also, remember to lube moving parts on the derailleur, the pivot point on the brake levers and any exposed cable wire. Then wipe off excess lube with a clean, dry rag, especially on the chain. You want the lube inside the chain but not on the outside to attract dirt and grime.
Take care of your suspension
Your suspension is what makes your ride a pleasant experience. When you get home a small amount of time will help keep it working well and prolong its life.
Suspension forks generally have oil inside which helps to lubricate the bushes and seals within the fork, allowing it to move smoothly and without friction.
To keep the oil in and the dirt out, suspension forks contain a number of seals. Firstly, there is the external dust seal – at the top of the fork to keep the muck out. After each ride when you clean your bike take a rag and wipe carefully around the seals to make sure they are clean. Also inspect it looking for damage, like streaky metallic lines on the fork. If you see damage, or the forks are dry, drop in to your local Reid store for a service.
This list is not exhaustive but it is a great start to ensuring your bike rides well in between proper servicing. We’d recommend a full service at least once a year depending on how much you ride.
To learn more about taking care of your ride, here are a couple more articles that could be of interest; How to take care of your Bike & 'How to set up your MTB brakes - Mountain Bike Brakes'.