DIY : Did you know these things about mountain biking? I did not! [7 things]
When I started out riding mountain bikes I had no clue. All the little tips and tricks those who would prevent any further damage on my bike and those who would improve my riding had to be learned along the way.
1. The Chain Has To Be Replaced Every 1000km (~620 miles)
As I tend to ride a lot of difference in altitude and not that many kilometers my friend over at my favorite bike shop suggested me to replace the chain every 1000km. As more, I ride the chain itself starts to stretch and the wear on each individual chainring is increasing.
If the chain is brand new the spaces between each link are perfectly adapted to the chainring “teeth”. Now if the chain starts to stretch itself over the course of a year those spaces don’t align anymore with the “teeth” of the chainring and the force we apply with each pedal stroke is transferred to the chain on only a few contact points rather than on a larger area if the chain is brand new.
To be honest I ride roughly 1500 km a year and I change the chain every year. If you maintain your bike very well, which I don’t, you should check your chain every now and then if it has to be replaced or not.
Here is a good guide on how to measure your chain with a vernier caliper
(There are also dedicated tools for measuring it but I guess vernier calipers are more common)
2. Braking Pads And Disc Braking Rotors Have To Be Replaced At Least Once A Year
This is heavily affected by how many kilometers and especially how much difference of altitude you ride through a year.
In my case, it is roughly 1’500 km with 30’000 to 45’000 difference in altitude (meters) Which means I replace my breaking pads one to two times a year.
The rotors are changed roughly every year, depending on the wear. I measure how thick/thin they are and compare it to the minimum thickness which usually can be found on the disc brake rotor itself. A vernier caliper works best to check the thickness.
3. Front Fork Pressure Charts Are Way To Conservative
Once I started to understand how my suspension is working I finally bought a shock pump. I have probably ridden without one for a year. Shame on me :D. I checked this little chart which usually is somewhere hidden on the inside of the front fork, at least it is the case for Rockshox forks. I guess it is similar for Fox forks.
I set up the fork with the pressure indicated on the chart.
160 — 180 LBS (72–81 kg)
85 — 105 psi
After I while I met my friend and I told him about my latest change on my bike. He quickly told me that these charts from the manufacturer are way to conservative for our kind of riding. We here in South Tyrol, Northern Italy are used to steep technical trails. With a lot of roots and stones covering the trail. Therefore he suggested to at least put 2 bar / 30 psi more than the chart suggests.
I tried it out and it worked perfectly as the front fork was way to soft before.
4. The Hook On The Tire Lever Holds The Lever In Place
I never really knew what this hook on the tire lever was for. Until I check out one of I guess Seth’s Bike Hacks videos.
As we all know getting tires on or off the rim especially if you have tubeless tires can be quite a challenge. Even more, if your tires are brand new.
I took me often several tire levers to get the tire on the rim.
And my biggest problem was to keep the tire lever in place. Just placing them between the rim and the tire wasn’t enough to make them stay in their position. Just before the tire would actually snap into his place a tire lever would fall off and I had to do everything again.
In the end, I was able to get the tire on the rim but it was always a hard battle between me and the tire.
Things changed when I watched Seth’s video. As he mentioned that this little hook on the end of the tire lever was meant to fixate the lever on any spoke while holding the tire in place. I always thought the hook would be another neat tool to get the tire of the rim. Wrong.
5. Fewer Chain Oil Is Better Than Too Much Chain Oil
In certain cases, more is better. But not for oiling your chain.
I usually apply just enough oil on the chain to lubricated each individual link, those parts which actually move and could cause friction within the chain. The oil/lubricant shouldn’t cover all of your chainrings and your whole drivetrain.
Once the oil is applied I usually grab the chain with a cloth and I spin the pedals a few times until the whole chain cycled through my hand a few times to wipe off any excess oil.
By removing all of the excessive oil we reduce the risk that dust and sand is sticking to the chain. Which would increase the friction between chainring and chain but also between each individual chainlink tremendously.
Therefore don’t worry if you oil your chain not consistently as it is better to go on a ride with a “dry” chain than a greased one.
Disclaimer: The region where I ride, South Tyrol, is famous for 300 days of sunshine a year, therefore, we mostly ride in dry conditions. I assume greasing your chain in more wet conditions is more important.
6. Tires Have To Be Changed Almost Every Year And They Are Expensive As Hell
Before buying a bike I never thought about all the things which have to be replaced within one year. Tires included.
I didn’t know they have to be replaced roughly after one year of riding. As more tarmac roads I was riding as faster the nobs on them started to vanish. I roughly ride 1.500 km a year. Half of these kilometers are on tarmac roads as I like to start from home and ride the whole tour with my bike, even if that means riding for one hour on the cycle path to get the trail uphill itself.
What I usually do is; I only buy one new tire a year and I mount it on the rear. As the rear tire is used up way more than the front tire. Probably as the rear tire slides way more over the trail completely locked out by braking than the front tire. And usually the side walls of my rear tire start to leak and the tubeless sealant starts to come out of the tire while sealing those little holes.
The leaking on the sidewalls has been extreme this year, probably due to me riding one time with extremely low tire pressure while riding the Ötzi Flow trail and applying extreme pressure while cornering which probably deformed the tire a lot results in small little cracks.
Furthermore, I completely lost sight of prices and money while purchasing tires. I’m riding the Continental Trail King 2.4 ProTection Apex 27,5 x 2,4″ which costs between 40€ and 50€. While purchasing them it didn’t felt cheap nor expensive. But only until when I purchased tires for my car. The tire for my bike was roughly half the price of my car tires. Then I realized how expensive they are.
7. “Loose” instruments don’t break on crashes
Not tightening your breaking levers, your shifting unit etc. all the way to the maximum can have a few advantages. Especially if you crash, which in my opinion is part of the sport.
I once had mounted a bell on my enduro bike to let people know that I want to pass them on the cycle path. The bell itself latest probably for one year until that I crashed.
It was no hard crashed but the angle was that “favorable” that my handlebar slammed into the ground and destroyed the mountain of my bell. No more people annoying.
From there on I tried to loosen all the other stuff which is mounted on my handlebars just a little bit, just in case, if I would crash again, they can move a bit and absorb the crash.
Sure this method won’t save you on all of your crashes but it can help on the smaller crashes.
By the way: the best way to protect your bike is to leave it at home and never ride it 😀 But I guess nobody bought his bike just to look at it. 😀