You’ve got your bike and here you are, looking for a mountain bike maintenance checklist? Congratulations!
It’s always a good idea to do basic mountain bike maintenance to avoid awkward situations of having to repair your bike on the road or in the middle of a forest.
Most people slip up on basic maintenance because they are mistaken that it’s a herculean task. In reality, it takes much lesser effort than it would if you are to repair it in the middle of a race or while you are on the trail.
So, where do we start?
Here are the basic tools you would need for the maintenance of your mountain bike:
We know the tools that are required for basic maintenance. Now let’s move on to the pre-ride check.
Pre-Ride Mountain Bike Maintenance Checklist:
Do this basic check and you are good to go. But what do you do with your bike after you’ve come back from a long ride? Let’s find out.
Mountain Bike Maintenance Checklist How To’s:
Below are some helpful How-To instructions associated with maintaining your mountain bike.
How To Center The Wheels
Spin your mountain bike’s wheel and if they are not spinning freely, it could be because of the rotor rubbing on the brake pads.
In such cases, it is possible that either the rotor is bent or the brake fluid must have expanded due to moisture. In this case, your break would need a bleed.
However, you may be able to conclude that the bleed is in order if the rotor is rubbing constantly on both pads. If the rotor is rubbing only on one side, then there may exist an alignment issue.
In any case, it will be a good idea to bleed your bike in case you have not bled it for a while. But, is it hard to bleed MTB brakes? I think it is not.
Two important things to keep in mind are:
It is a simple process that aims at purging out the air bubbles that may get trapped in the hydraulic fluid.
Now if you are wondering what things will you need in order to carry out the process? , no issues, we have got your back and recommend the following tools.
- A reliable bleed kit that contains bleed adaptors, syringes, and a user manual.
- Bleed blocks that will help in keeping the caliper pistons in the reset position during the process.
- Brake fluid which is typically DOT or mineral oil, which can be chosen based on the model of your brake.
- Essential tools are required for removing bleed port screws, brake pads and adjusting the position of your caliper or brake lever.
- Protective equipment.
- Paper towel or rag to deal with the mess.
Let me spice up this mountain bike maintenance checklist with this step-by-step process of bleeding the brake:
- Step 1: Mount the bike and remove the wheel. A flat-bladed screwdriver or a piston press would come in handy to insert between the disk brake pads. Push the pistons into their bores.
- Step 2: Now the pad retaining pins must be removed, and the pads must be pulled out of the caliper. Once you’ve done this you can insert the bleed block.
- Step 3: You have to loosen the brake lever bar clamp using a 4mm Allen key. Keeping it horizontal to the ground, rotate the lever and tighten. Use a 4mm Allen key to loosen the brake lever bar clamp. Rotate the lever such that it is horizontal with the ground and tighten.
- Step 4: Now, with the help of a 2.5 mm Allen key, remove the bleed lot screw that you will find on the top of the lever’s reservoir.
- Step 5: Next, using a pick, remove the tiny O-ring. This may sometimes come out along with the cap. Now you can thread the bleed cup into the bleed port in a clockwise direction; make sure not to overtighten.
- Step 6: The bleed nipple or valve must be opened, and pushed on the bleed hose. The bleed hose must be connected to the bleed syringe and then fill the mineral oil. To remove air bubbles you can invert the syringe and squeeze it out.
- Step 7: Now place a 7mm ring spanner on the bleed nipple and attach the other end of the hose to it. If your brakes are non-series Shimano, you can instead insert a 3mm Allen key into the bleed valve.
- Step 8: Give a quarter-turn using the spanner or the Allen key. Force oil through the system using a syringe. Make sure that you close the valve before the air enters the caliper.
- Step 5: With the help of a zip tie, attach a bag to the end of the hose; detach the syringe. Keep the hose in a bag, pointing down. Secure the bag using a zip tie. Pump to an extent that half of the fluid remains. Close it after fifty percent of the oil in the bleed cup has drained out.
- Step 6: Close the valve and detach the hose. Next, unsettle air bubbles, if any, by tapping the brake hose all along.
- Step 7: The bleed port cover must be replaced. The cup’s plastic plug must be installed, and the cup should be removed.
- Step 8: The bleed spot screw and the O-Ring must be restored, without tightening excessively.
- Step 9: The bleed block must be removed, and the brake caliper must be cleaned using a paper towel. The lads and the wheel must be put back in place. Ensure that the brake lever is firm before you take your mountain bike out on the trail.
How To Do Gear Adjustment
Gear adjustment is an important part of your mountain bike maintenance checklist. If there’s trouble shifting gears up or down in one click, check if your gear cables are stretched, and if they are, you will have to re-index your gears.
In case the gears are indexed properly but the chain keeps dropping off the chainrings or the end of the cassette.
This normally happens due to poorly set up derailleur limit screws and you would need to adjust it to function well. A bent derailleur hanger could be the other reason why this could happen.
If you notice that your mountain bike’s chain shifts significantly far in one direction, irrespective of the rear gears being properly indexed, it could be because of a bent rear hanger that needs to be straightened or replaced.
This could have happened when the bike is damaged due to a crash or a similar incident. In rare cases, it also happens because of the limit screws.
In case you face a sticky or slow upshifting of the gears, while the downshifting works just fine, you may want to consider replacing your cables. If your mountain bike’s chain slips, jumps, or misbehaves in general, you may want to check your bike’s cassette, chainrings, and chain for wear.
Look out for a shark-fin-like profile on your mountain bike’s cog teeth or chainrings to know if it’s time to replace your chainrings, cassette, and chain.
Check out this video about how to adjust the gears of your mountain bike like a pro.
How To Lube Your Mountain Bike’s Chain
Your bike’s chain is the most prone to wear and tear, compared to any other component in your bike. Hence, it’s important to take an utmost care of your bike’s chain for durability and great functionality. But when should your lube your bike chain?
There is no hard and fast rule here, as it depends on the frequency of your ride, the conditions in which you ride your bike, the type of lube used, and how well you take care of your chain.
Depending on these factors, you may have to re-lube every day, or once every month. The best indication for re-lubing could come in the form of sound; yes, the squeaking, grinding, squealing, creaking sound.
Nevertheless, here’s how to lube your chain when it’s time to:
- Degrease if your chain has accumulated dirt from last rides. You can use soap and water or just use a toothbrush to remove the dirt, depending on how much dirt is accumulated.
- While it’s not always necessary to degrease, it is important to do it when you are changing the lube brand, or if there’s a lot of grit or dirt accumulated on the chain, or when you are changing from dry to wet lube, or vice versa.
- Backpedal the chain and apply a drop of lube on every link/roller.
- To make sure that the lube is distributed effectively, you can slowly run the chain up and down the cassette. Wipe off the excess lube using a rag.
- If you’re using wet lube, remember that you need to wipe it twice. You can probably give a second wipe when you are about to hit the trail.
- It is always a good idea to rest your mountain bike some hours after applying the lube. However, you can always overlook this if you have no provision for wait time
- Bikers recommend degreasing your chains using a degreaser if you are shifting from dry lube to wet lube or vice versa.
If you are new to the concept of dry lube and wet lube, let me demystify it for you. Dry lube, which has a lighter consistency, is initially wet, but dries immediately, forming a lubricating, protective layer.
Dry lubes work best when you are riding in dry conditions, but could accumulate dirt when riding in wet or muddy trails.
On the other hand, wet lube has a stickier consistency and acts as a water repellent. Hence, it’s always recommended to use wet lube if you are planning to ride on wet trails.
My recommendation for dry lube would be Muc Off C3 which is a ceramic lube that is specifically formulated for dry and dusty conditions. For wet lube I will recommend using Finish Line Wet Bike Lubricant. Made for extreme conditions, Finish Line wet lube is one of the long-lasting, water-resistant lubes available in the market.
Check out this in-depth video on how to lube your mountain bike chain correctly.
How To Check Your Mountain Bike’s Headset
Adjusting your mountain bike’s headset is an easy affair, on the other hand, a too loose or too tight headset can lead to a very uncomfortable riding experience. A headset that is not properly adjusted, can result in a damaged headset or frame.
If your headset is too loose, you would probably feel a repeated knocking sensation through your bars and can be detrimental to its parts. If your mountain bike’s headset is too tight, it may not turn freely.
Hold your front brake on with one hand while simultaneously holding the other hand at the meeting of your bike’s fork crown and lower headset cup. Now slowly rock your mountain bike back and forth.
If you feel a knocking through the hand that is holding the lower headset cup, you could conclude that your headset is loose. Hold on to the top tube of your mountain bike and loft just the front portion of your bike an inch or two off the ground.
With no hands-on handlebar, check if the wheel flops from side to side. If it does not, your headset may be too tight and may need some adjustment. See the video on how to adjust headset.
How To Check The Pressure of Your Mountain Bike
Wondering what is the tire pressure required for your 26/27.5/29 inch mountain bike, and how to check if there’s enough pressure on your bike tires?
There’s no single right answer, as the pressure required would depend on various factors, including the riding style, the terrain, and even personal preferences. However, mountain bike riders widely accept that low-pressure tires give the best riding experience.
Modern bikes are mostly made to run perfectly on low-pressure tires, as it gives more grip and deforms around roots and other similar obstacles rather than bouncing on them.
Lower pressure tires also make climbing up the hill and descending easier. While there is no known disadvantage of riding low pressure, it is not ideal for the pressure to go down beyond a limit.
So how do you identify that line?
Essentially, your mtb tire’s pressure depends largely on you. But what about you are the determining factors? Let us find out:
- Weight of the rider: Typically, a bike that’s ridden by a heavier rider will need more pressure than the one that’s ridden by a lighter rider.
- Your trail preference: You may be able to ride perfectly fine on flow trails, with low-pressure tires. However, if you are riding on rocky trails your bike tires would need more pressure.
- Your riding style: A hard rider, who loves hucking to flat, or to ride straight over rock gardens, would need tires with better pressure than a light rider, who is looking for more grip on the trail.
- Your bike’s tube and rim setup: A tubeless bike normally needs tires with lesser pressure. Similarly, if your bike tires have a wider rim, you may be able to run your bike on low pressure, as a wider rim will give more support and better volume to your tires.
However, if you need to check your mountain bike’s pressure using a pressure gauge, check out this small video on how to check your mountain bike’s pressure the right way.
I hope this mountain bike maintenance checklist will help you take care of your bike like your own baby.
All the best.
P.S. If you have found this guide to be helpful, consider checking out our resource on how to upgrade your mountain bike.
Also review our maintenance deep-dives on individual MTB parts like chains, chainrings, and tires, more to come soon.