These five simple MTB maintenance tips from pro rider and NavWorld Ambassador, Alan Gordon, will cut your bike service costs and help keep you safe on the trail.

Not looking after your mountain bike properly can end up a costly exercise in more ways than one. You either get the shock of your life when your bike mechanic hands you the bill, or components fail while you’re riding a tricky trail, causing you to wipe out and badly injure yourself. Fortunately, both these worse-case scenarios can be avoided by doing some simple maintenance yourself after each ride.

Professional MTB rider and owner of the popular Tzaneen Cycle Cafe, NavWorld Ambassador Alan Gordon, understands the cycling scene inside and out. The way he sees it, by purchasing a few affordable tools and looking after your own bike, you can save yourself some serious cash – not to mention a significant amount of frustration while out on the trail. “You could take your bike in for a simple service that should cost under R300 and walk away with a bill totalling thousands. Simply because you didn’t look after your chain and the knock-on effect damaged the entire drive chain,” explains Gordon. “This alone can set you back R5 000, even more, if it’s top end stuff.”

In contrast, a good DIY chain measuring tool costs a mere R150. And, if you want to take bike maintenance more seriously, simple bike tool kits – allowing you to dismantle your bike like the pro’s in your garage, are available for under R900. However, Gordon cautions: “At the shop, we often have to ‘fix’ DIY repairs. Some people don’t know what they’re doing and often make things worse than they originally were.” His advice: Before tackling any major work go online and do some swatting up, YouTube is a great resource. If you’re still not sure, take your bike to a specialist.

That said, taking care of the little things is easy and anyone can do it. Here are Gordon’s top five simple MTB maintenance tips you can perform at home to help keep your bike in tip-top condition:

1. Keep your bike clean
Keeping your mountain bike clean is one of the best things you can do for your bike and the first step of bike maintenance. That’s because it makes it much easier for you to spot any damage or wear and tear, allowing you to perform repairs before things become critical and break. Regular washing also prevents dirt build-up on your bike’s moving parts (which results in wear and tear) – so a clean bike actually goes faster than a dirty one. This is especially true for mountain bikes because they obviously get a lot dirtier a lot quicker than road bikes. As Gordon puts it: “A clean bike is a happy bike.”

2. Look after your chain
Maintaining your chain is critical. Sadly, neglected chains and damaged drivetrains are a common reason why many customers visit Gordon’s bike shop. However, by simply changing your chain before it becomes too worn out, you’ll save the rest of your drivetrain and hence a lot of cash. Says Gordon: “Investing in a cheap chain measuring tool can save you a lot of money. If your chain’s stretched beyond 0,5 mm you know the time’s close to replace it. Once it reaches 0,75 mm it’s time to get the job done.”

He also advises you regularly lube your chain to ensure minimal friction so that it doesn’t grind your drivetrain. Make sure not to overdo it with the lube, though – just one drop on each link will do the job. And, when you’re out riding in the rain wet conditions or through river crossings, it’s best you use a wet lube that lasts longer.

3. Make sure your tyre pressure is right
Good MTB tyres don’t come cheap. To make them last longer and minimise the chances of picking up punctures on your ride, Gordon advises you make sure your air pressure is right before heading out on a trail. “Tyre pressure is important. When it’s too low, it makes you slower and leaves you running the risk of getting a snake bite. Too high, and you’ll bounce around on your bike without enough traction to get around those loose surface corners safely.”

4. Watch your brakes
Brakes are a vital part of your bike. Making sure they’re in good working condition and properly adjusted can make the difference between making it around a gnarly corner like a pro or losing control and seriously hurting yourself. You can also damage other expensive components of your bike when it hits the ground hard. Check your brake pads, using a torch to assess whether they’re wearing evenly and replace them if they show excessive wear. Gordon elaborates: “Worn brake pads can also damage your disk or rim which can lead to costly repairs.”

5. Set your gears
Mountain bike gears are critical components – they work the hardest and are what allow you to hit the trails that you do. Adjusting and setting your mountain bike gears is a relatively simple procedure. However, there are a few basic rules that need to be followed in order to understand what should be setup and what should be adjusted. Fortunately, this task only needs to be done once, unless the part is removed or replaced. Says Gordon: “It’s always a good idea to have your local bike mechanic show you how to perform a basic gear set. You never know when you’ll be stuck beside the road with no one around to help you.” – (c) 2017 NavWorld

Check out this great YouTube video from UK-outfit BikeRadar showing you how to check for chain wear:

About The Author

Sean Woods

Originally a photographer for the Star newspaper in the bad old days, Sean Woods turned to writing after the first democratic elections in '94. The career shift paid serious dividends, culminating in him becoming associate editor for Popular Mechanics magazine with a number of technology writing awards under his belt. His interests include anything to do with boats, motorcycles and all those fancy tech gadgets that help the modern world go around.

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