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Mountain Bike Maintenance 101: 5 Great Tips to Get You Started

Guest writer Amanda Wilks of Mountain Bike Reviewed.

Bike maintenance isn’t the best part of owning a mountain bike. If anything, keeping your gear in workable shape may feel more like an obligation than a fun opportunity, but that doesn’t make it any less vital for the sake of your ride’s longevity. Knowing how to take care of what you own can save both money and time in the long run up to the point of potentially saving your bike from a catastrophic failure later in its lifespan.

Unsure where to start? Most aspects of basic bike maintenance are common sense yet there are always aspects that aren’t blatantly obvious until after you’ve spent time riding and growing accustomed to the hobby. Modern mountain bikes are generally easy to care for as long as you know what signs of wear to watch for and keep on top of regular maintenance schedules.

Mountain Bike Maintenance 101:

1. If It Gets Dirty, Wash It

You’d be surprised how many riders equate an off‐road bike with a mud‐encrusted lawn ornament. Unfortunately, the nature of man‐made materials means corrosion and wear are imminent if you take your bike out for a shred and then leave it to fend for itself until your next ride. Proper bike washing followed by re‐lubrication of moving components means less corrosion or even damage to sensitive parts on top of helping your bike look as good as it possibly can.

Keep in mind how over‐washing can be more troublesome than under‐washing in some cases, especially if you aren’t entirely familiar with lubricating parts yet. There’s no need to scrub away every micro‐speck of dirt you see.

a mountain biker with a dirty bike that is need of some mountain bike maintenance

Image: Selle San Marco

2. Learn How to Lubricate Your Drivetrain and Chain

Already a pro at scrubbing up a dirty bike? Go a step further and brush up on how to make the most out of protecting your bike’s moving parts through proper lubrication procedure. If you hear metal grinding against metal, chances are you’re overdue for a few drops of bike grease after cleaning away old lubricant.

Don’t use traditional greases like WD‐40 for this purpose as it has a tendency to become sticky or tacky over time; Instead, use lubricants specifically formulated for exposure to the environment and make sure to clean those moving parts properly before a re‐greasing.

3. Maintain Your Tire Pressure

Tubeless tires are gaining traction, yet nothing can save you from a flat if you don’t take the necessary time to check tire pressure between rides.

It’s one of the quickest and easiest parts of a maintenance routine that can save you from hitting a jagged piece of terrain without proper air pressure to cushion the blow and prevent a flat, which means you’ll be spending time in the mud prying off the old tube and trying to fit a new one on. Stop that madness before it happens, and you’ll thank yourself later.

4. Keep A Maintenance Checklist

Just like a motor vehicle, a mountain bike requires monthly and yearly maintenance in areas that might be difficult to remember without a little help from a schedule. Even weekly checks might go undone if you aren’t on top of your weekly routine, so keep a bike maintenance checklist handy to double check and ensure you haven’t forgotten a vital step in the past few months.

Maintenance checklists also help you keep track of necessary bike tools that you may be missing. Nothing saves time like having a tool before you think you may need it, especially for jobs that may require shelling out for a bike technician’s valuable time if you can’t take care of them yourself.

two mountain bikers and their mountain bikes getting ready for a ride next to a car

Image: Troy Lee Designs

5. When in Doubt, Ask

While a troubleshooting sheet is an essential first step for finding the cause of most bike maladies, don’t be afraid to take your bike to a local bike shop if you aren’t certain about an incurable problem.

Even a small warning sign such as a slight slip in your brakes or an uneven ride can point to problems with your brake system or your suspension, which are best attended to before catastrophic failure. Many bike shops will diagnose problems for little to no money, so if it turns out your bike emergency was more like a bike hiccup, you can always take it home to correct any issues on your own.

Conclusion

In a way, taking care of a bike can be a fulfilling part of your hobby that adds a sense of accomplishment to the exercise and fresh air you get while taking your mountain bike down a trail or even on your daily commute.

Spend a little time getting to know your bike, check regularly for signs of distress, know in advance what a serious problem will take to repair, and you may not wind up waiting by the side of the road for an emergency pickup. Prevention is worth its weight in flat tires, after all.

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Amanda Wilks

Amanda Wilks

Community User

Amanda Wilks is a writer, veteran MTBer and sports advocate.