Maintaining your mountain bike will not only increase it's longevity, but it's also an important step to ensuring your safety on every ride. Hitting the trails can be dangerous enough -- make sure your bike is ready to handle what you take on!
1. Keep Your Bike Clean: Use soapy water to clean off packed-on mud and debris. Make sure you focus on the wheel hubs, head set, and chain arm to thoroughly wash away dirt that could harden and decrease mobility. Finish up by rinsing several times until all the soap is removed. Cleaning your bike will help maintain its intricate parts and keep it running smoothly.
2. Check for Broken or Loose Parts: Giving your bike a meticulous overview every now and again ensures that you're not missing something major like a crack or a bend. For obvious safety reasons, it's imperative that mountain bikes are in top condition, and an occasional review of the body will help determine if something needs fixing or replacing. Pay particularly close attention when examining the stem and shocks.
3. Examine the Tires: Look to see if there are any bulges or inconsistencies on each tire. Remove any foreign objects that might have gotten lodged in the tread, and check for holes or slits. Test to make sure there is enough air and that the valve isn't damaged. Finally, be mindful of the tread -- when it gets too worn, it's time for some new tires.
4. Test Your Brakes: It's critical that you have good brakes and levers when mountain biking. Spin your wheels and test each set of brakes individually. Give your bike a test run on the street and check all the brakes before and after each ride. Take a look at the brake pads and replace them when needed.
5. Spin the Peddles: Do a visual check of the peddles to be sure they aren't damage. Give them a spin to make certain there is nothing caught up in the chain. They should rotate smoothly on their own. Check that the rear derailleur is functioning properly and that the crank arm isn't cracked or bent.
6. Keep Your Chain Oiled: It's important that the chain is fitted properly and not sagging anywhere. Look to see that it isn't tangled or broken in any spot. Use a bike chain lubricant that keeps it circling evenly to promote a steady ride. Pay close attention to the chain rings themselves and make sure they are well lubricated.
7. Try Out the Gears: Take your bike on a trial run before deciding to go for a more serious ride. Test that the gears work for both uphill and downhill, and that the cassette is in good working condition. Your gears should function without heavy peddling, jarring, or having to force the shifters. Replace faulty gears before riding your mountain bike again.
8. Check Your Spokes: By testing the tautness of each spoke you'll be able to tell if your rims are in good shape or not. Examine the rims for dents as well. If a spoke is loose or broken you should get it repaired before your next ride. Spin the wheels to visually check the alignment and both axles. If your wheel stops or stutters it may be because of a bent rim.
9. Examine the Frame: Check out your bike from every angle to determine if everything is in its correct position. Make sure your frame isn't bent and that your stem is aligned with your headset and suspension fork. Do the same check with your saddle, seat collar and post. It's imperative to have everything aligned and operating smoothly when mountain biking.
10. Have Your Bike Serviced: Unless you're a total gear head, you may not be able to fix major problems by yourself. With moderate use, a mountain bike should be serviced by a shop every few years. Obviously, if you do extreme trails every week you'll need to take your bike in more often than someone just riding for recreation once a month. Be aware that bikes left unused for a season or two might need a little extra TLC before they're trail ready.
*Abby McMillin loves being a part of the cycling community. From urban streets to rural trails, she loves an opportunity to experience it all on two wheels.
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