It’s Sunday morning and you get ready to head out. After a couple of pedals your gear skips but you don’t dwell on it and keep on chugging along. You hit your favorite trail and start picking up some speed. Suddenly, you pedal but it’s as if nothing happened. You look down and what do you see? Your chain has come off the chainring and the rear wheel cassette. You my friend have committed one of the capital sins of biking. You neglected bike maintenance. Shame on you.
Making sure your mountain bike is at top performance conditions is key to having an amazing and safe ride every time you hit the dirt trail. Here are some things any rider should do before heading out and after getting back.
Brake check, brake check, brake check
That adrenaline rush mountain bikers feel comes from picking up speed going downhill and out of sharp turns. Having great brakes makes for a safe ride so that speed can be controlled to an appropriate yet still exhilarating level. This is some simple maintenance but possibly the most important. Take a look at the brake pads and make sure they aren’t too worn down from use and that you don’t have to press too hard on the brakes in order for the wheel to come to a full stop. Finally, ensure that they are aligned on each side, they only make contact where they need to, and that brake pad wear is even on both pads. Otherwise, it’s time to change for some new ones. For those who use hydraulic brakes instead of mechanicals ones, it’s a good idea to ride around outside the house and pump the brakes to make sure there aren’t any bubbles in the fluid or that you don’t have to press too hard to come to a stop.
What’s the drivetrain you say? It’s the part of the bike that allows you to move. Remember when your chain came off or when that gear suddenly skipped without you shifting to it. You need to take a look at the state of your drivetrain. You should check the chainring and rear wheel cassette for any bent or missing teeth. The derailleur shouldn’t be making contact with the chain when the bike is still. Take a look at the pedals and guarantee they are fastened tightly. And lastly, the chain. Make sure it is properly lubricated and runs smoothly as you move the pedals slowly and that there are no strange noises. Pick up some speed and go through the gears to make sure they are not skipping but rather transitioning smoothly.
And they should do so without brushing up against the pads (unless you hit the brakes) or wobbling around. Bike tires give you that most important grip to make sure your ride is smooth and exciting. Riders must check that tire pressure is between 30 and 45 psi for optimal traction conditions. Next, check how much wear and tear the tires have. If you notice a part where there is much more wear than other parts, then it’s time to change the tire. Spokes should not be loose, tighten any loose ones with a spoke wrench.
Great suspension equals smooth ride
Another key component for a smooth ride when mountain biking is the suspension. Before hitting the trails put some pressure downwards to make sure the suspension goes down and comes up in a smooth motion. If not, then you might want to add some oil to lubricate the fork. Give it a quick clean to remove any dirt from the seals that might have lodged itself in the suspension system during your last time out. When you get back from riding do the same. Having clean suspension stanchions is key for a smooth ride, don’t neglect this.
Nuts, bolts, & skewers! Oh my!
A basic step in basic mountain bike maintenance is making sure the nuts, bolts and skewers are tightly fastened. You wouldn’t want a brake cable to come off or a wheel, would you? Didn’t think so.
One final tip, after you come back from riding don’t forget to clean up the bike. Mud and dirt are synonymous with mountain biking and not washing it off will guarantee that your bike will fail sooner than later.
Here’s to great smooth rides and to a conscious mountain biker. Hit the trails and enjoy.