A Quick Mountain Bike Maintenance Checklist

One thing we all have in common is a need for speed and a trusty ride to get us there. Next time you come home from a ride, instead of heading straight for the couch, remember that your bike may be hurting just as much as you are.

After several months of heavy use, it's time for some maintenance. With just a few hours here and there, you can drastically improve the odds you won't be walking your bike home when your buddies are heading out for another loop.

Start With the Basics

After every ride you will need to lube the chain and pump the tires. Head to the local bike shop for some lube and rip up some old t-shirts for rags. Wipe down the chain before and after lube application to wipe away dirt and excess lube. Meanwhile, keeping the tires at proper pressure will provide more reliable bike handling, pinch flat protection and longer tire life. Proper pressure ranges from 35 to 70 psi depending on the tire, rider and terrain.

Every?three to five?rides, some more extensive maintenance is required. Developing a routine is key, as this allows consistent attention to every aspect of the bike. Do it in the order you like, just hit everything on the bike.

First off is the bike wash. If you have a stand, use it. If not, just hang the bike by the seat over whatever you can find. Start with a bucket of (hot) soapy water, an old wash cloth and a medium stiffness brush. Just use standard dish soap or car wash solution. Take off both wheels and rinse the bike down with a light hose spray, avoiding direct aim at the headset and bottom bracket. Now, get to work with the brushes and washcloth.

Advanced Maintenance

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Editor's note: The following areas of this story require an advanced knowledge of bike repair. If you are unfamiliar or feel unsure about completing any of these tasks, we strongly urge you to take your bike to a reputable mechanic.

While the wheels are off, put them in a truing stand and straighten them out. If you don't have a truing stand, just use the upside- down bike as your stand. Also, check the hubs to make sure they feel smooth and well-lubed.

Put the wheels back in the frame and start with the rear derailleur. Take the cable out of the frame guides (if the guides are slotted) by shifting to the large cog and then shifting the shifter to the bottom cog position without pedaling. This will create enough slack in the cable to enable you to pull it out of the guides.

Wipe down the cable where it sits in the housing and apply a light lubricant. Put the cable back in place and give it a tug to seat the housing sections. Now check to ensure the derailleur limits and cable tension are correct. Adjust as needed as per the manufacturer's instructions. Repeat on the front derailleur

Now you need to hit the brakes. Clean the cable as you did the derailleurs, except create cable slack by undoing the brakes as you would to take the wheel off. You will also need to make sure the pads are not worn out and?that they still make contact with the rim in the correct position.

Now ensure the bottom bracket and headset have not loosened up. Tighten them up if they need it. The final step is the bolt check. Tighten each and every bolt on the bike--even the water bottle cage bolts! Many races have been lost and rides ended prematurely simply because a crank loosened up or a cable pulled out.

Now your bike is set! Go out and enjoy your hard work.

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