Mountain (bike) lore.
December 11, 2015 9:23 AM   Subscribe

MeFites, how do YOU maintain your mountain bikes?

If all goes well on Sunday I will be the owner of a new mountain bike. I want to make sure I take care of it properly.

I found this excellent recent Ask, which pertains mostly to online resources. I'd like to ask the hive what THEY do to keep their mountain bikes in gear.

Information on which basics you do regularly will be especially helpful. I am not very mechanically inclined so when it's time to do things like replace the chain, the bike will go to the shop. Chain lubrication and cleaning, though, seem fairly simple.

Info on your riding patterns would be helpful too just so I have a basis for comparison. I'll be doing a fair amount of pavement/road riding and some offroad riding, often in muddy conditions. Also, I live in New England if that matters.
posted by Sheydem-tants to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Every spring I take my bike to the car wash and spray it down with pressure washer (water) and then reapply Purple Extreme Chain Lube to the chain, sprocket, gears, derailer etc.

I avoid bike shop 'tune-ups' as they are rather expensive (~$120). Whereas getting just your gears adjusted (if needed) or your disc brakes aligned (if needed) is always under $20.
posted by axismundi at 9:40 AM on December 11, 2015

i measure my chain when i remember (with a parks tool thing) and replace it as soon as it's stretched.

i oil my chain with dry lube (i live in a hot, dry, dusty place) when it is so dry it makes more noise than normal. i don't really clean the chain, except for wiping it with a rag. it's only oiled maybe 3 times before it's stretched and replaced.

adjust gears and align brakes when they have problems (or when rebuilding after cleaning).

i change my pads when the brake levers move a lot and the pad is clearly worn down. i've not had to bleed brakes yet which surprised me (tektro draco ii).

i inflate tyres once a week. i true wheels when i notice a wobble.

i clean the entire bike maybe once a year. repack bearings maybe every other year. last did all that a few months back when i also repainted the frame. i also replaced cables then, and it made so much difference i plan to do it more often (maybe every year).

the thing i buy most often is dry lube and chains. and inner tubes / puncture repair kits (not tubeless).
posted by andrewcooke at 9:45 AM on December 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

About once a month, a bucket cleaning, meaning no direct hosing, with an assortment of brushes and rags. Use a small toothbrush to degunk drive train parts. If I use Dawn soap, which is a great degreaser. Remove the wheels and clean everything gently. If your chain gets very dirty, it might pay to install a quick-link type system so you can take it on and off without a tool. Remember not to touch the disc brake rotors with your fingers and avoid getting them greasy. You might want to remove them prior to the cleaning, though I don't (I clean them with commercial rotor cleaner, available in an auto parts store). Wipe down with a clean cloth, then final dry in the sun. Ride as soon as possible; your goal is to erase all the work you just did!

Note that I live in Southern California and don't really ride in muddy/wet conditions so much.
posted by soulbarn at 9:56 AM on December 11, 2015

My maintenance routine is similar to those above. I'd note that on a modern mountain bike, often disc brake work and suspension work should be left to the professionals. Also, if you have internal cable routing, let the shop replace your cables, it can be a huge pain to do it yourself.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:08 AM on December 11, 2015

Agreed. Disc brake bleeding/overhaul can be a nightmare, requiring specialized tools, sometimes two people...
posted by soulbarn at 11:42 AM on December 11, 2015

I'm maybe a weirdo, but will clean and lube my bike as soon as it's noticeably dirty. Usually that means every other ride. I ride in southern Ontario, so, usually dry and dusty, occasionally muddy.

The cleaning process is well described by Soulbarn above.

Clean and well lubed components last a LOT longer before they require replacement, and I try to make everything last.

It also depends on where and what you're riding, but things failing or not working on a mountain bike at the wrong time can have serious consequences, and if you find yourself riding stuff with nasty potential consequences, it's prudent to keep stuff in happy working order.

I usually also get the bike tuned by a shop once a year, and my suspension rebuilt every 3. As above, leave brake bleeding to a shop.

In retrospect, part of the above is because I don't reeeeaaaallly think mountain bike technology moves as fast as the marketing arms of the manufacturers would have us believe. So a 7 year old bike is gonna be just fine if you keep it happy.
posted by Sleddog_Afterburn at 1:52 PM on December 11, 2015

Do NOT use a pressure wash or a car wash.

On a regular basis: clean and lube chain, with chain lube. I prefer the wax-based ones like Pedro's Ice Wax. Keep your tires inflated to the appropriate pressure. Check that your brakes work. That's it. It's not some delicate flower, it eats dirt.

With a new bike, your cables will stretch in a few rides. You'll know this by lagging shifts. You should be able to adjust them yourself with the barrel adjusters, start with quarter turns until shifting is back to crisp.

If you have rear suspension, a shock pump is good to have, because the bike handling depends on that being right.
posted by Dashy at 2:39 PM on December 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nothing on a bike is that hard to work on with little knowledge and experience, and it’s a lot easier to do regular maintenance yourself a little at a time instead of putting it off. Changing a chain for instance only takes a few minutes. Knowing how your bike works is at least worth it to know what the shop is doing.

Zinn And The Art Of Mountain Bike Maintenance by Lennard Zinn is one I’ve always liked, but I have an older copy (and older bikes).
posted by bongo_x at 2:56 PM on December 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

(not really related to looking after your bike much, but the post above reminded me that this book is f'ing awesome and you will love it. also, youtube has a video for just about anything you can think of, bike-maintenance-wise)
posted by andrewcooke at 3:47 PM on December 11, 2015

Always check that your brakes work and that your wheels are properly fixed to the frame/forks before you set out. Learn how to change brake pads and get a spare set to carry with you if you ever turn into a regular biker. Take some oil with you too just in case you develop a squeak that drives you (or your riding companions) nuts.

It's perfectly fine to use a pressure washer as long as you don't stuff the nozzel in any of the parts with bearings - which is obvious. My bike gets muddy on 5 separate occasions in the week and only gets washed on Sundays. If you don't have much time, most important is to wash off the chain and cogs because sand grinds the metal down. People get worried that mud will retain water and therefore promote rust but my bike is often muddy and has not rusted in the 6 years I've had it. I put thicker lube on the chain because it's so muddy and wet that lighter lube gets washed off fast - and I don't want to apply it every time I go out.

I ride to and from work through woods (16km with much up and down) 50mins each way on Tues and Thurs and do 3h rides on Sundays. Regular commute rides (I race myself) keep you on form for the weekend rides, otherwise you'll start to struggle (and lose motivation) if you only ride on Sundays.
posted by guy72277 at 2:11 AM on December 14, 2015

« Older You are not my vet, but I'm worried mine may be in...   |   Other snow Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.