The idea of working on your bike can be a little daunting for new riders but a bit of regular maintenance performed before each ride will make your bike time more enjoyable and keep your steed performing like new for longer.
If you’re driving to the trailhead to meet up with mates perform these checks before you leave home or get there early so they don’t have to wait around while you fiddle with your bike.
Pre-Ride Maintenance Checklist:
- Fork, Shock, and Suspension Linkage
Your tyres will normally lose a bit of pressure between rides, especially when running a tubeless setup so check your pressures and give your air a top-up before heading out.
A good squeeze works ok for a lot of people but a digital pressure gauge is ideal for taking consistent readings so you take away the guesswork and hit the trails with confidence.
How Much Pressure Do I Need In My Tyres?
The annoying answer to that question is...it depends.
The right amount of pressure involves achieving a fine balance between optimal traction, rolling resistance, puncture resistance, and protecting your rims from damage. Then there are other factors such as whether you’re running tubes or tubeless, your riding style, the terrain, trail conditions, and even the wheel size.
Somewhere in the vicinity of 20-30psi is a good place to start, but it's better to start high and come down a few psi at a time until you find something that feels right.
Try using a tyre pressure calculator like this one if you have no idea where to start.
Not sure if your tyres need replacing?Read our article about it here.
"It's always a good idea to test your brakes before you go flying into the first corner and realise that you can't slow down."
At some point, you’ll experience that heart in mouth moment when you hit the first descent and grab a handful of brakes but they don’t work as well as you expect them to.
Test your brakes before you hit the trails by squeezing the levers a few times to test the feel. If the levers feel squishy but get firmer after a few pumps you might have some air trapped in the system.
A small amount of air isn’t a complete deal breaker but it can cause inconsistent braking performance so you should arrange to get your brakes bled. If the lever goes straight to the bar and doesn’t get any better after multiple squeezes it’s game over time and you shouldn’t ride that bike until you get it sorted.
If the lever feel is good, have a quick ride perform a couple of gentle stops. You should be able to use one finger on the levers to stop without much effort but your brakes might be a bit noisy if they are wet or you haven’t ridden the bike for a long time.
A bit of noise or squealing is normally ok and will go away once the brakes heat up, but if they are really carrying on and lacking in power it’s possible that your pads could be contaminated with oil or grease and you’ll need to do something about it.
This talcum powder hack might just save the day if your brakes get contaminated and you don't have any spares handy
Check out these articles on how to set up your disc brakes properly:
Even the fanciest drivetrains will need the occasional adjustment to keep the shifting nice and crisp. Slow shifting or skipping gears can normally be corrected with a couple of turns of the barrel adjuster but you do need to have some idea what you’re doing to avoid making things worse.
"Turning the barrel adjuster anti-clockwise applies more tension to the cable to help the chain shift onto a larger cog (an easier gear). If your shifting is hesitating or getting hung up when shifting into an easier gear, try turning the barrel adjuster anti-clockwise 1-2 clicks at a time to increase the cable tension."
"Turning the barrel adjuster clockwise releases tension on the cable to help the chain shift onto a smaller cog (a harder gear). If your shifting is hesitating or getting hung up when shifting into a harder gear, try turning the barrel adjuster clockwise 1-2 clicks at a time to decrease the cable tension."
If the shifting is really bad and the barrel adjusters aren’t helping you might need to run through a checklist to get to the bottom of it. This video from Park Tool is very in-depth but it will arm you with everything you need to know to get your gears feeling super crispy again.
"A squeaky chain is a dry chain and will cause premature wear to your drivetrain."
Squeaky clean isn’t a good thing when it comes to bike chains (or disc brakes). A squeaky chain is crying out for some lube and will cause premature wear to your drivetrain if it’s left for too long.
If your chain starts getting noisy towards the end of your ride it’s a good idea to lube it up before you put your bike away so that’s it’s ready to go for next time.
"Equip your tool box with a dry lube for normal conditions and a wet lube for those wet, muddy days."
"Hold the bottle over the inside of your chain and apply a steady stream of lubricant while backpedalling to apply at least one drop to each link of the chain."
"Backpedal slowly for around 30 seconds to help the lube get into the rollers and inner links where it's needed."
"If you’re using a dry lube you can normally skip this step (check your instructions though) but a wet lube needs to have the excess removed so it doesn’t attract too much gunk."
For best results, lube your chain at least an hour before you head out, that way you’re giving it a chance to evaporate any solvent and settle into the links so it won’t just attract a heap of dust as soon as you hit the trails.
Want to go more in-depth on how to clean and lubricate your drivetrain?Check out our Ultimate Drivetrain Maintenance Guide!
Fork, Shock, Suspension Linkage:
Our number one tip for looking after your suspension is to keep the stanchions on your fork and shock clean and free of grimy buildup and dust.
Allowing gunk to build up around the wiper seals is the quickest way to make a plush fork feel sticky. The grit will work its way past the seals and into the internals, making your suspension feel harsher, and it can even wear through the coating on the stanchions if left unchecked for too long.
"Giving the stanchions and wiper seals a wipe down with a microfibre cloth before each and every ride will show your suspension that you love it and will keep it feeling plush for longer."
"If you have a dropper seatpost, show it some love before each ride as well."
"Much better :)"
If you have rear suspension it’s also a good idea to give the pivots a check over to make sure nothing has worked its way loose over your last ride. Stand next to the bike and hold the frame to gently lift the rear wheel up and down a few times. It should feel rock solid, without any clunking. If you do notice anything strange there might be a sneaky loose bolt in there somewhere that needs to be tightened up.
Is your bike making some funky noises and you can’t work out why? Find out how to silence creaks and squeaks on your mountain bike.