Now that you have your own bike and some gear, it’s important to make it last. There are a few things that you can do that are pretty quick and easy and that should make your bike last for a long time.
There are a couple of basic premises that guide all of the mountain bike maintenance suggested below. The first is that your bike will collect dirt and dust when you ride, and that these things can really muck up your parts. The second is that your bike needs to work well to keep you safe, so safety inspections are essential.
Hose it Off
As soon as you get done with your ride and it’s feasible, hose your bike down. You don’t need to use a heavy stream of water. A spray or a mist is fine and will remove most of the particles that you need to get off your bike. Doing this as soon as possible after you ride will keep things from drying on your bike, which can make them harder to remove or allow them to do more damage. Do feel free to use a stiffer spray if you need to dislodge a stubborn piece of muck.
Check Your Brakes
Good brakes that are working well are key to staying safe and taking corners the way you want to. If your brakes aren’t working well, you could suffer some significant injuries out on the trail. Start your assessment by looking over your brake pads. You may want to use a flashlight to make sure you’re seeing them clearly. When they get low, replace them. If you notice uneven wear, it’s time to check your wheels.
Next, test the brakes on a short ride. If they feel loose, there may be a bubble in the fluid. Pump the handle or turn the bike upside down. If that doesn’t help, take it to a professional. If they feel soft, look at the pads again and check for a leak in your hose. Repair the leak or replace the hose before you take the bike out again.
Look Over Your Tires and Wheels
Your rims keep your tires in contact with the ground and should be even and not rub on your brakes. If they wobble just a little, you may be able to fix them with a spoke wrench (or have a pro show you how if you haven’t done it before). If they wobble a lot or the adjustments don’t reduce the wobble, it’s time to replace your wheel. Similarly, if your wheels are significantly dented, replacement is safer than trying to fix them. This can be a good time to upgrade to rims that are beyond the standard.
Test Your Fork
Getting small particles down in your fork can cause big (and expensive!) problems down the road. Test your fork after every ride and wipe down the stanchions. If it sticks or doesn’t bounce back up quickly and smoothly, you probably got grit down inside of it that needs to be cleaned out. Check the fork’s air pressure after every ride, and the oil levels as well. Most forks require a special lubricant, so keep that on hand and make sure you know how to change the oil. Know your fork’s manufacturer specifications or keep them accessible, because each one is slightly different.
Care For the Drivetrain System
Your drivetrain includes the chain, derailleur, cassette, and chainring. It’s basically the system that takes the power from your legs and makes your bike move forward. Without it, the bike won’t go anywhere, so be sure to include it in your maintenance habits. Start by getting as much dust and dirt out of the system as possible. Lube your chain with your lubricant of choice. Many bikers use too much lube because lubing properly takes time. Go link by link, adding just a bit of lube, then wiping off any excess. If you don’t do this, the extra lube will just attract dust and dirt, rather than protecting from it.
Deep clean your chain every month or so, depending on how much you ride. Use a gentle cleaner and make sure you get deep into the components, removing all of the dust, dirt, and other debris that you couldn’t get to with water. You can use a toothbrush or a bottle brush to get into all of the nooks and crannies. There are special chain cleaners out there, but save these for an annual deep clean or for times when you accidentally use too much lube.
Wash Your Bike
Using the same gentle cleaner that you used for your chain, wash the rest of your bike. Make sure you clean off the frame, the fork, the cables, and the brake pads. Many bikers spend a lot of time keeping their tires shiny, because it looks nice, but this doesn’t do much to actually keep the bike clean. You can inspect as you go and get two things done at once.
Maintaining your bike may sound like a lot of work, but most of this can be done in just a few minutes. Taking this time after your rides will make sure that your bike lasts as long as possible and will help you know if anything is going wrong so you can fix it before it causes an accident.