Bicycles these days are more closely related to high performance motorcycles than the bikes of days past. Drivetrains are more complex, suspension is more technical, and innertubes are increasingly rare. These advances in technology means riders are able to ride further, ride faster, and tackle terrain that was unthinkable a decade ago. All of these are beneficial to you, the rider. It allows you to keep your mind on the trail ahead, and not on the bike beneath you. But when should you take a look down and think about what your bike needs? Our service department has put together this guide of what to do, and when, to help you keep your bike in top shape.
When your bike is new:
New bike day is one of life’s great pleasures. Our staff will work with you to make sure you are not only on the right size bike, but also on the right type of bike for the terrain you plan to tackle. Every new bike will need some setup though. Road and gravel bikes need to be fit to your body shape. Mountain bikes, with the addition of suspension, require extra setup. When you purchase a new bike, our staff will work with you to get you and your bike dialed for maximum trail fun. It is important for you, the customer, to get familiar with adjustments you can make at home. Do you know what that little knob on the bottom of your fork leg does? Do you understand the difference between low-speed and high-speed compression? Do you have the correct app downloaded to take full advantage of your electronic shifting? If it's been a while since you shopped for a bike, you may not even know bikes can have electronic shifting!
Now your bike is home and set up. Yay! There are things to check before every ride to make sure you are ready for a day of fun. Anything with air pressure should be checked. Are your tires still at your ideal pressure? Is your fork and shock sag right where you want it? A shock pump and tire pump is a handy thing to have at home for those pre-ride adjustments. Our terrain is pretty unforgiving at times. Take an extra few moments to look for any excess wear or punctures/cuts on your tires.
How about that drivetrain? The best time to clean and lube your bike is after each ride. Mild soap and warm water is just the ticket to wash off that trail dust. Just be careful not to use too direct, or too high of water pressure to rinse it off. After a bath, nothing makes your bike happier than a few drops of chain lube. Less is more in this case, as excess lube can lead to more dirt accumulating on components. Most chain lubes also have some form of solvent that makes applying lube easier, but this needs time to evaporate off so just the good stuff is left behind. Lubing your chain after each wash will give that solvent enough time to dissipate.
Chain wear can sneak up on you, and a chain replaced before its wear limit can save you from unnecessary wear on the more expensive components on your drivetrain. Do you have a chain wear gauge? It’s a small, inexpensive tool that should make a home in your toolbox.
Dust and dirt can accumulate on your suspension too. A rag in hand does a great job of cleaning those for seals and shock seals. Don’t forget the upper stanchions and rear shock shaft either. Any dirt on there can work its way past your seals and reduce the lifespan of your suspension. Droppers are essentially another piece of suspension on your bike. Make cleaning it and checking air pressure part of your routine.
Going fast is fun, but only if you can slow down when you need to. Don’t neglect your brakes either. Take a look at your pads. They are made of a metal “backer” with brake pad material attached to them. A good rule of thumb is that if your pad material is thinner than a dime, they’re due for replacement. Thin pads heat up more, fade quicker, and just don’t work well. Wait too long and you may cause excessive wear to your rotor, and that's not good! Speaking of rotors…did you know that each rotor has a minimum wear thickness? The minimum thickness is usually printed right on the rotor. A pair of calipers in your toolbox will help you make sure you still have plenty of rotor material left. Do you have to pump your brakes a few times before they feel firm? Might be time to get some fresh fluid in there, but more about that later…
Every 50 hours of riding:
50 hours of riding is roughly 6-months for those who ride a couple times a week. Your fork and rear shock work continuously while you ride to keep you comfortable on the trail. Dust seals wear out, get dirty, and oil breaks down. Basic service extends the life of your suspension and keeps you happy on the trail.
Every 3 months:
Fading away are the days of rubber innertubes that just require an occasional top off. Most bikes now come set up, or with the ability to convert to a tubeless setup. Tubeless is far superior in many ways, but does require a bit more care. Sealant flows around inside your tire to keep a good seal, and also plug up any small punctures you may acquire on a ride. These sealants are usually latex based, and do dry up over time. Hot, dry climates tend to dry out sealant quicker than others, so it’s important to make sure you have fresh sealant in your tires. We recommend topping off your tubeless sealant at least every 3-6 months. Storing your bike in a hot area (such as an uninsulated garage) may mean you will need to top that sealant off a little more often.
Every 100 hours of riding or annually:
If you ride a lot, 100 hours in the saddle may come quicker than once a year, but at a minimum, you should have your suspension serviced annually. All suspension has some form of damper that controls the speed at which your fork or shock compresses and rebounds. Keeping that damper working well keeps your tires on the dirt. Not all suspension needs a full rebuild every year…our service staff can help you determine what is best for you.
Brake fluid comes in two main varieties. Mineral oil and DOT fluid. Both need regular replacing, but DOT is particularly attractive to water. This water boils at a much lower temperature and will reduce the performance of your brake system. Water is also corrosive and can cause problems with the internals of your brakes if left inside for too long. Getting a fresh bleed on your brakes once a year will keep them happy.
Those pesky noises:
You never noticed that little creak when your bike was new! Don’t let those little noises get worse. Small creaks can be hard to find, especially with carbon fiber frames. Much like a musical instrument, sound can reverberate from one place and sound like it's coming from another. That small creak can also be a sign there's more going on with your bike. It may be as simple as a pulley or pivot needing some fresh lube, or it could be a new crack in the frame. Either way, it's best left to the professionals to diagnose what is going on.
Bearings and pivots:
Don’t forget about those moving parts. Bearings can wear and cause excessive play in components, as well as decrease performance. Most bearings these days are sealed cartridge bearings which are relatively cheap and easy for your mechanic to replace. Do you know how many pivots are on your bike? Are you sure? Full suspension bikes can have upwards of a dozen or more moving parts on the rear swingarm alone. Most of the time a cleaning and fresh grease can quiet them down and keep things moving freely.
Pre-ride inspection and post ride cleaning/maintenance can go a long way to protect your equipment. Catching issues early and bringing your bike to us can prolong the life of your components, keep your bike at peak performance and make every ride more enjoyable.
To summarize, these are the bike adjustment/maintenance milestones:
Learn about your bike and what kind of adjustments it has.
Work with us to set up your fit and suspension.
Acquire some basic tools to do preventative maintenance and pre-ride prep at home.
Before every ride:
Check tire pressure.
Check suspension pressures.
Inspect wear parts.
Test brakes, shifting.
After every ride:
Clean bike with mild soap and water.
Lube chain (remember - clean, apply, wait, wipe excess, go ride!)
Every 50 hours:
Basic fork and shock service.
Every 3 months:
Check and top off sealant
Every 100 hours or annually:
Full fork and shock service
Bleed brakes with fresh fluid
Creaks and clunks don’t need to ruin your ride. Get those noises looked at sooner rather than later.
Bearings wear out and can be replaced before they cause more damage or performance issues. We can always inspect your parts for wear and let you know the status of your components.