Having a well maintained mountain bike is essential for your safety and enjoyment of the trails. Nobody wants to be “that guy” who breaks down on the trail because they didn’t properly check their bike before riding. So here’s some tips on how to do a bike check before you ride, and it won’t take long! But note: you should do this a few days BEFORE you ride so that if there’s an issue, you can fix it BEFORE you ride!
Before every ride:
- Clean and oil the chain. Get a Finish Line Grunge Brush. Put your gears in middle ring front, middle rings in the back. Rotate the chain backwards while the brush is over the chain and be sure to use the pointy brush end to clean the cassette rings and derailleur pulley wheels. After cleaning, oil the chain. We all have our own preferences on chain lube and it depends really on where you’re going to ride. So have a variety of oils that work well in dry, wet, and muddy conditions.
- Reset the wheel skewers. Unlock the wheels one at at time. Reset each wheel into the frame and fork, making sure the brakes aren’t rubbing, and close the skewers.
- Check the brakes. Get on the bike, ride it around a bit and make sure the brakes are working.
- Check the cables and tighten the screws. First, tighten the bolts that hold your derailleur cables in place. If you have mechanical brakes, tighten those as well. Ride the bike around and make sure every gear works (front and back).
- Check the head set and bars. Hold the front brake and gently rock the bike back and forth over the front wheel. If there’s any play, tighten the headset. Also tighten the headset screws on the handlebars.
- Check the seat height. Once you’ve found your “sweet spot” during riding, etch a mark on the seat post (note, don’t etch a carbon post – use tape instead). Before every ride, reset the seat post height to your “sweet spot”.
- Check tire pressure. Depending upon where you’re going, make sure you have the correct tire pressure. For big mountain rides, you’ll probably want to run 30-40 PSI. The higher the pressure, the less resistance you’ll have on the dirt. This could be good, or could be bad.
- Check for tire wear. Look for missing nobbies, exposed tube or tire belt, etc.
- Tighten the seat mount. (Where the seat meets the post.)
- If you have the taper type of cranks (allen bolt keeps it in place) ALWAYS tighten those screws before every ride.
- Tighten the pedals to the crank. It doesn’t have to be super tight – just hand tight.
- Tighten all the suspension joints. (Don’t lube them – they are designed with sealed bearings that have their own lubrication.)
- And lastly, if you use clip-in shoes, tighten the bolts that hold your clips in place.
This is just a quick bike check / tune up. After any EPIC trip, you should do a more thorough check of all the components of your bike. And once in a while, take the bike to the shop for a complete overhaul which includes tearing down the bike, cleaning it, and rebuilding it.