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Essential Mountain Bike Maintenance and Set Up Tips

Step by Step Guide to Mountain Bike Set Up and Maintenance

Bought a mountain bike and wondering just what you’ve got yourself into? While we can’t protect you from accidents on your bike, we can help reduce the chances of accidents due to rookie mistakes. This checklist will serve as a guide to take you through the process of setting up your mountain bike for the first time, particularly for downhill riding, as well as all about mountain bike maintenance, for once you’ve started your adventures.

Why should you take extra care setting up and maintaining your mountain bike? Well, the benefits include better performance, reduced chance of parts breaking while you ride, fewer interruptions on your journey, and a higher likelihood that you’ll use (and enjoy using) your bike long-term.

 

How to set up a mountain bike


parked road bike, close up on seat.

  • Adjust the saddle height and handlebar height to suit your frame. Mess around with this as long as you have to. If it’s not right you simply won’t be getting the best out of your bike.
  • Check your tyre pressure and use a track pump to top them up if needed. This is important for every use of your bike, whether first time or after being left in the garage for a week. You can take it a step further and buy a pressure gauge to get the specific pressure of each wheel.
  • Chain lube in liquid form is great for a super-quick chain and drive system treatment. Place the tip of the bottle onto the chain and squeeze lightly as you backpedal, then backpedal again while holding a cloth around the chain to wipe off the excess. This will treat the entire chain in seconds. If your bike is fresh off the factory line, you just can’t assume it’s been lubricated. If you keep your chain well lubricated you can also reduce the time spent cleaning it.
  • Use lubricant on your suspension seals (and on the chains while you’re at it). Silicone aerosol lubricants are particularly good for thorough maintenance of suspension seals, as you can spray it directly onto the seals as well as the rag you use. Do the same to your shock and dropper post.
  • Squeeze your brakes and check your brake pads. While the chance that these will be broken on a new bike is low, you definitely don’t want to take a chance on your first time going downhill with it.
  • Use a torque wrench on all the bolts to check they’re tight, as they might have become loose during their time in the store and on their journey to you.
  • Use a shock pump to keep the pressure high on your shock – and be sure while you’re doing this that you don’t lose your dust cap. The pressure won’t go down too fast without it, but dirt will find its way inside as you ride.

 

How to maintain your mountain bike

motorcross bike on a muddy track

Yes, a lot of these steps are the same as those needed to set up your bike, mostly because they’re so vital to keeping it running smoothly. Get your equipment ready and keep it in a handy box near the bike – you can find a good run-down of cleaning products on bikeradar.com.


Print this list off and keep it wherever you store your bike, for future reference, and for best results go through the list after every ride.

 

  • Take some soapy water and a clean rag and scrub away every speck of dirt you can see. Change the water if you need to – if it gets too mucky you’ll just be moving the dirt around rather than washing it off.
  • Turn the bike upside down and spin the wheels. You want them to spin smoothly and freely. If they snag at any point you’re going to have to take them off the bike and check/clean them thoroughly.
  • Use a torque wrench on all the bolts to check they’re tight.
  • Check your tyre pressure and use a track pump to top them up if needed.
  • Lube your chain and drive system by holding the lube over the chain and back pedalling.
  • Clean and lubricate your suspension seals, shock and dropper post.
  • Squeeze your brakes and check your brake pads.
  • Use a shock pump to keep the pressure high on your shock.

 

If you’re just reading this in preparation for what having a mountain bike might entail, we’d love to take the opportunity to recommend our five favourite models here

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