Epicenter Cycling’s Guide to Caring for Your Mountain Bike
We know you LOVE your bike. Your bike makes you feel like a hero! You know the feeling: the dirt is tacky, you're carving turns, catching some air ... you can do no wrong. HERO.
And you ARE a hero, whether you're a weekend warrior, racer, or explorer. Getting on your bike means breathing fresh air, finding focus, and recharging in solitude or with friends and family ... all of which give you the energy to be the best that you can be.
To support you in being the dirt-slaying hero you are, here is a guide to maintaining the health of your steed.
Pre-Ride Maintenance and Safety Screening
When we suggest checking over your bike before a ride, we don’t mean ten minutes before you are heading for the trail head. Schedule some time when you won’t be rushed, and also have an opportunity to get something fixed if necessary.
Check Your Handlebars
Place hands on grips, press down with weight, and try to rotate them back and forth. If your handle bars have any movement make sure to tighten. This can be done very quickly at home with a 3-way hex wrench, usually 4 or 5 mm.
Long-term maintenance tip: Every year, lube the screws that connect the handle bars to headset with a squeeze of Park Tool grease + a Q-tip.
Check the Stem Tightness
This is the gap area where the headset meets the frame. To check, hold the front brake and rock the bike back and forth. If you feel any movement or play, first loosen the stem clamp bolts and tighten the screw at the top of the stem to a quarter turn more than finger tight. Then, straighten the handlebars and retighten stem clamp bolts.
Check the Bearings
These include: headset (feel for roughness, or vibration); front wheel (hold fork and spin front wheel; should spin nice and freely, no roughness); pedals (should spin freely, no noise); bottom bracket; rear wheel; rear shock, if full suspension. If this sounds like Greek to you, come by and we’ll demonstrate.
Check Your Brakes
Check the brake caliper bolts; make sure they are tight. Check pads for wear; make sure the pads are present and aligned, each pad an equal distance from the rim or rotor. Ideally, the wear on your pads should be equal, if this is not the case it may indicate an alignment issue.
Your brake levers should have enough tension to pull to about one inch from the handle bars. If your pads are worn and/or your levers are loose, we can help you get them adjusted properly.
Check Your Tires
Make sure your tire pressure meets the minimum psi; this info can be found on your tire. There’s a fine art to running different amounts of tire pressure depending on terrain. We will cover this in details in another post (plus other helpful tire tips!), but in general, you want to run the psi indicated on the tire to avoid pinch flats and other issues.
Be sure look at the tire tread. If tread is visibly bare in center of tire, it’s time to swap it out for a new one. Pop on over and our knowledgeable crew can set you up.
Check Your Wheels
Prior to hopping on your two-wheel vehicle always, always make sure your front AND rear skewers are secure and tight. It’s good practice to set levers to between the 12 and 3 o’clock positions so they cannot be opened while riding.
Also, check to make sure the wheel spins straight. If not, come see us before you hit the trail. If you don’t notice a wobble at this checkpoint, but do on your ride (wobbly climb or squirrelly descent), you know it’s hot time to get that rear/front wheel trued.
Check Your Seat and Seat Stay
Make sure the seat is properly aligned (by getting on bike or eyeballing), and routinely check to make sure nuts and bolts connecting your seat to the seat post are tight and secure. If you move the seat back and forth and there is any play, you will need to tighten the connecting screws.
Also check the seat stay (the ring that holds the post in place). Use a 3-way hex wrench (usually 4 or 5mm) to tighten clamp if needed.
Lube Your Chain
Lube your chain every 40 miles or at end of your ride if the bike gets wet or muddy. To effectively lube your chain, first be sure to clean it before applying the chain lube. You can use a chain cleaner such as Park Tool’s CB-4 Bio ChainBrite, or at the very least wipe the chain down with a rag.
To apply the lube, backpedal while applying a thin stream to one revolution of chain. If you have a quick release chain link use that as a point of reference to ensure you cover the entire chain. If you do not have a quick release, back pedal three to four full rotations to ensure that full coverage.
Before wiping the chain, ride around block, or back pedal for 30 seconds to a minute. Then, use towels to clean dirt/muck from the cassette on rear derailleur. And using a towel, put the chain between your left index finger and thumb (use the bottom chain, moving from cassette to front ring), and use same rotation pattern described above.
Too confusing? Feel free to ask our service department for a quick tutorial!
Pro tip: We use Dumonde Tech because it lasts the longest and is best in class for protection of your chain.
Check Your Suspension
Take a look at your fork (front shock) and rear shock (if you have a full suspension bike). If you notice a lot of grit, grime, or build up around your the seals, it’s time for some professional service to keep that cush under your tush. And of course, it shouldn’t feel like you’re riding a jackhammer. Our mechanics can work their magic and get that buttery feel back for you.
Fork (front shock): Let’s face it — forks are expensive, and unless intentional, not ideal to replace. Proper fork maintenance will make your fork last as long as your love … a LIFETIME! Your fork maintenance schedule is determined by your riding style and conditions. If you aren’t sure of how often you should service your fork, stop by and chat with one of our experienced, knowledgeable mechanics for a recommended schedule tailored for YOU.
Here’s an example of a maintenance schedule based on a conservative riding style and three two-hour rides per week:
At four months (yes, even in that first year of ownership!), get the lowers removed and cleaned.
At eight months, have the wiper seal replaced (this seal is responsible for keeping dirt out.
At twelve months, get a complete overhaul, which includes draining the old suspension fluid from your fork, removal of the fork’s lowers, and a thorough cleaning of the stanchions and lowers, followed by an installation of fresh seals and oil.
If you ride aggressively, and in particularly dusty or dirty conditions, you’ll obviously want to service your fork more frequently. Keep in mind that following a recommended fork maintenance schedule will keep your fork running smoothly for much, much longer than if you don’t.
Rear shock: The rear shock on a full suspension bicycle allows your back wheel to soak up impacts, providing you with more comfort and control on your trail days. We recommend servicing the air can every 100 hours, and the damper every 200 hours. Again, this depends on your riding style and conditions. Be sure to get a professional overhaul yearly to replace seals and suspension fluid.
Post-Ride Maintenance Routine
After your awesome date with your bike, you’ll want to give it some love as well. This might be a great time to run through the checkpoints outlined in the Pre-Ride Maintenance Routine so you are all set for your next ride, instead of scrambling at the last minute because your week got too busy.
And if your steed got dirty, here are some pointers for sprucing it up:
Use a hose to give it a rinse. Yes, a hose. You may have been cautioned against using a hose to wash your bike, but it’s important to know that spraying water on your bike will not cause damage. It’s HIGH PRESSURE that causes damage and can push out grease from bearings.
To avoid this, use a low to medium stream setting and take care not to directly spray the hubs, the bottom bracket, or anywhere with bearings. With this in mind, if you don’t have access to a hose, a water bottle will suffice.
If your steed needs a more thorough cleansing after an especially dirty ride, use a bucket of warm water and these supplies:
Brushes (we recommend the Park Tool BCB-4.2 bike cleaning brush set which includes a gear brush, a bottle brush, a combo bristle and sponge brush, and a frame cleaning sponge)
Solvent for the chain (you can’t go wrong with Finish Line Speed or Citrus degreasers)
Soap (Finish Line makes a great surfactant called Super Bike Wash)
Lube for pivots and derailleurs (Dumonde Tech is our favorite)
Dry your bike off well with a soft, clean towel. An old beach or hand towel works great.
Lube the Chain
See instructions on how to do this in the “Lube Your Chain” section above.
Other Necessary Maintenance
Along the way, you’ll want to maintain other aspects of your bike. This section may be a bit more information than you want to assimilate. But don’t worry, that’s why you have us. We’re happy to do the wrenchin’ so you can get out and play!
Whether you do it yourself, or put your trusted steed into our capable hands, we can’t emphasize enough the importance of regular maintenance. Worn-out parts degrade other parts, and that means unnecessary, expensive repairs. Regular maintenance will keep your machine running STRONG and smooth.
Our Service Team recommends the following TLC.
This is your bike’s “motor.” A worn drive chain does not feel good to ride! There are several components to look after in your drive train: the chain, the front chain ring, the cassette, and the front and rear derailleurs.
Chain: In addition to lubing your chain weekly, every few months you should check the wear on your chain. There is a special tool for this practice. Even with the most loving use, your chain will loosen over time (typically every 1,000 – 1,500 miles). This will cause increased wear on your cassette and chain ring, which may result in an expensive fix. Proper chain maintenance will extend the life of your front chain ring(s) and rear cassette.
Front chain ring: Keep an eye on your front chain ring. If the teeth start to look like little shark teeth (hooked), you should seriously consider replacing the component.
Cassette: This component will need replacement if the chain is skipping when you know you have a healthy chain.
Derailleurs: Ideal maintenance includes wiping dirt and grime from your rear derailleur after each use. If riding in dry conditions, wipe the pulley wheels with a rag and use a brush to clear dirt in between cassette rings every other use or so. For the front derailleur, you can use a brush to wipe debris from the chain ring and the space between ring and derailleur.
We recommend you get your dropper post professionally serviced every 200 hours. Servicing this component is intricate, and requires experience and precision, so we don’t recommend any DIY maintenance.
Your bike requires a lot of care, but you know it’s worth it! Here are a few other very important maintenance recommendations from our mechanics:
Pivot service every 300 hours
Cables and housing every 300 hours, for optimal performance
Bearings (headset, bottom bracket, and hubs) service every 300 hours
Brake bleed service every 1,000 to 1,500 miles
The above maintenance is incorporated into tune-up and overhaul packages we offer by our professional mechanics. We recommend that you tune-up your bike at least once per year; more often for frequent riders. Stop by to chat with our crew to determine the best service regimen for your bike.
You want your bike to last as long as possible, and the more regularly it is cared for, the better it will perform, and longer it will live. We are happy to guide you on DIY procedures, and on scheduling service. Whether you want to do the service yourself, or bring your bike into the shop, be sure to add regular bike care to your routine.
And … did you purchase your bike at Epicenter? Then remember you get unlimited FREE basic tune-ups for the life of your bike! Give us a call to schedule an appointment.
Save 14% on Parts and/or Service
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we want to help you give your bike the love it deserves. Save 14% on any parts or service you need … and not just on Valentine’s Day the 14th, but throughout the month of February. Get your coupon here.
Your bike makes you feel like a hero. Be a hero for your bike! The better you take care of your trusted steed, the better it will take care of you.