There are two types of people in this world. Those who love the intricate mechanics of bikes and those who do not.
I fall into the category of not. Many a friend has tried to explain simple mechanics, and I try my best to listen; yet every time I find my head drifting away to somewhere more pleasant, like Dirt Merchant or ALine.
As I become more seasoned, I’m beginning to understand the importance of regular bike maintenance and setup. It can be crucial to your development as a rider; such as, gaining confidence from a consistent setup and knowing exactly what you can and can’t do on the bike.
I’ve done research on experts through to beginners and compiled a top 5 of important bike tips, for those who are mechanically challenged, like myself. These tips are aimed to keep you on the trails, increase longevity between services, and as a whole, make you more aware.
1. Who is Allen Key and where do I find him?
Tools. Having your own set of tools and knowing how to use them is critical to getting the job done. If I don’t have my own set of tools with me, or access to them, I avoid the task at hand. Here are the contents of my basic tool box that keep my wheels rolling daily:
- Allen keys Range of 1.5mm – 10mm
- Dry lube the most simple to use, lube on/lube off
- Cleaning tools keep on top of washing your bike! Having good cleaning products help me find the motivation to keep it clean.
- Pressure gage Always keep your tire pressure consistent. Top-tip, write it in your tool box.
2. Bolt check
Check the bolts displayed below are tight. Usually a 4mm, 5mm and 6mm allen key is all that is required for the majority of the bolts on your bike. This should be a regular practice especially for the bolts around the suspension linkage area.
3. Tire pressure
Getting the right tire pressure can make all the difference as it is your bikes contact with the trail. It can be difficult to determine the correct tire pressure as there are many variables such as rim and tire width, type of tire sidewall, weight and style. If your tire pressure is too hard the bike can feel over responsive and sketchy, if it’s too soft it can feel slow and unstable.
Overwhelmed? Me too. As a general guideline for most mountain bikes and trails, rear tires should have 22-32psi and the front always 2-3psi less. Have a play around on the same trail with different tire pressures and note on your phone what pressures feel good, bad, or horrible!
Lubing your chain which will increase the longevity of the drivetrain, which we all know are not cheap if neglected. Keeping your bike well lubed keeps it running nice and quiet, and keeps the gear shifting responsive. Keeping your chain lubed is the most simple form of bike maintenance and should realistically be checked before every ride. Bearings and head sets are another element that needs to stay lubed – however I like to pass this one off to the experts.
5. Suspension set up
Suspension set up determines the way your bike will handle and feel. Having your suspension set up correctly can completely transform the way your bike feels, as well as giving you the confidence you need to continue progressing.
Suspension set up is based around finding a balance between sensitivity and support. Sensitivity being the way a bike handles and responds to small movements (small bumps, corners), and support being the way a bike absorbs the bigger hits like the landing of a step down or a big hole on the trail.
This is a huge element of mountain biking and delving into this topic is like opening a can of worms – so my advise here is: Take your time to research this element OR if you are like me, seek specialist advise for your set up and servicing. Simple.
Insight from the people for the people
I asked around the local riding ladies of Queenstown for their top tips when it comes to beginner, budget and limited bike maintenance:
“Buy chain lube” – Kara
“What is bike maintenance?” – Kara again
“Train your boyfriend to fix your bike? Mine still needs work” – Savannah
“Mine is to wipe dust and mud off the suspension, I’m sure there is a word for the part that goes in the bottom bit” – Zoe
“Bolt check, spoke check” – Sav
“Do not use pressure washers around the joints, suspension and bearings, it makes the dirt go into the tight spots and wears stuff out quicker” – Heather
“Don’t squeeze your brakes when the wheel is off, the pads get stuck and you have to separate them with a knife” – Annie
“Bolt check! Especially pedals, I gave mine a quick once over one time and my pedal nearly came off in my hand” – Brydee
“Water your chain if you forget to lube it and you’re half way up a climb” – Charlotte
“Take the most care to not scratch your stanchions!!” – Lucy
Chores or chores?
It’s okay to not be okay at bike maintenance or enjoy it. Fortunately, the internet is a fountain of knowledge on all aspects, so if you are ever stuck turn to your friend google. Luckily, the mountain bike community are a good bunch, if I have ever needed a second opinion or help, someone will always be willing to lend a hand, simply for, the love of it.