Mountain Bike Maintenance Mistakes To Avoid

Considering all they go through mountain bikes are pretty tough things, so they don’t need that much maintenance to keep them going. However, there are a whole bunch of basic maintenance errors that people make, so here are ten of the best ones and how to avoid them.

So, number one, over-tightening bolts I often see people hanging off Allen keys on tiny little bolts. That is not a good thing, you don’t want to do that. So you’re either gonna snap the head off the bolt or you’re actually gonna damage what you’re trying to tighten. So for example, if you’re over-tightening a handlebar stem clamp it could damage the handlebar if it’s a carbon bar, or you could crack the stem clamp itself.

If you find you’re having to tighten these and you’re worrying about this, you want to use some sort of an assembly compound. It’s a really good thing to use on both the seat tube and the seat post and in your stem clamp. It means that the bars can grip, you can tighten them up to the sufficient tightness. You don’t have to over-tighten them. So pay attention to the tools you’re using.

Always use the best tools that you can afford, and the reason for that is worn tools wear out bolt heads, and what you don’t want to happen is wear out the bolt heads so that you’re rounding them out, you can’t remove them from your bike. So always pay attention to the actual heads of your Allen keys, in particular the smaller ones and the ones like a four mil that you use constantly and quite high torque applications relative to the size of the Allen key. What you’re looking for is a nice, straight, sort of square edge on all of them and a snug fit. If there’s any movement when you use it inside the bolt the likelihood is you’re gonna damage the head of the bolt. Pay particular attention to stuff like the lock on bolts on your grips, which are sometimes 2 1/2 or three mil.

Tighten your bolt that you actually have to tighten quite significantly, so make sure you’re using decent quality Allen keys that are not worn out. The next classic is over spraying lube so it goes all over your disc rotor. It doesn’t necessarily have to be lube, it could be degreaser, it could be some water displaced that you’re spraying around your chain and cassette just to drive out the moisture after you’ve washed your bike. If you insist on doing that, make sure that nothing can go near the disc rotor So you can wedge some shop towel in there.

Also take into account if it’s windy and you’re doing it outside because the tiniest bit of mist you get from anything vaguely lubricating, when it goes near your disc rotor your brakes are done. So in an ideal world if you did have to use a spray lube, spray down the bottom of the chain here, on top side of the links, but in an ideal world use a bolt lube. You get exactly what you want and you don’t use quite as much. Next up is internal cable routing raid. So that is the common phenomenon that happens when you simply cannot get your internal cable routines through the bike, and you obviously lose the plot in the workshop.

So ParkTool make a really cool kit for this, but if you don’t mess around your bike that much, you might not want to get one of these. So there are two other really cool things you can do to do this. So, there’s two cool options. One of them I borrowed from my friends over at GCN, and this is sort of a sheet that goes over your inner cable. So some internal cable routines have a system where the outer cable stops into the frame, and it’s just an inner cable, so you get a cable, run it through the frame and then it meets with the stop again straight into the outer into your rear area.

So if that’s the case, before you remove your inner cable, if you just snip the end of it off, run some of this along the cable, push it through so you’ve effectively got an inner routing, take the cable out and you can run the inner cable straight back through again. Really good stuff that, well worth keeping. So the other really cool thing to get ahold of is one of these little red barb connectors. So these come in RockShox reverb seat posts, so even if you don’t have one chances are one of your riding friends will. And it can be found in the little clear bag with the instruction manual and the little sticker.

It’s a little red anodized barb connector, and the sole purpose of this is for pulling new section of hose through your frame using your existing reverb hose RockShox designed this to work with the hydraulic hose, but it works equally as well with a regular section of outer cable. So you can use this to pull through outer cable, just for your gear transmission for example, by simply threading it through the existing section, just like so. Use it to pull it back through the frame. Perfect little alternative to the ParkTool internal cable routing kit and it costs only a couple of quid.

So quite often another classic mistake we see is people struggling to remove their pedals from their bike. Of course when you’re removing your pedals with an Allen key like in this particular case, it’s very easy to accidentally skin your knuckles. So if you’re really stuck this is a great little method using your foot. This is last resort of course, to get a pedal off without actually damaging your hand.

So if your pedals are firmly stuck and you need to remove them, assuming that yours do require an Allen key, this is the way you’d do it. Firstly a rule to remember is your pedals both undo to the back of the bike. So that is when your bike is on the wheels, to the back of your bike. So, what you want to do is have the pedal bear the bottom of the stroke, insert the Allen key in the back and it gives yourself the best mechanical advantage to just push down and undo that pedal. But sometimes if you haven’t got any grease in your threads and your pedals are firmly tightened you’re gonna have to put your foot in there to help do that.

In the first place you want to make sure you use some grease on the threads of the pedal. No need to go crazy, just a tiny bit of some decent saw grease. In this case just a bit of spray grease, just enough just to keep the threads lubed slightly so they don’t sort of seize into the threads on the crank. While on the subject of basic maintenance like making sure your pedal threads are greased, washing your bike upside down. Often seen people doing that in car parks and stuff.

If you’re gonna do this really try and avoid getting water near the headset because the seals on the headsets aren’t that good and they’re certainly not gonna keep water out at this point. And definitely do not get host parts or jet washes anywhere near your headset barriers if your bike’s upside down, ’cause what you’re gonna do is force out the grease that’s in there and it’s gonna get seized up and you’re probably not even gonna notice that until it happens. So, another one we’re all guilty of from time to time is removing bits from your bike to service and not quite remembering the order they go back on the bike. In particular for the bottom bracket, so you have spacers quite often, it’s gonna be easy to forget which side the spacer was on. So when you remove your bottom bracket from the bike, lay it out on your workbench in the order that you removed it from.

Simple and the same goes for the headset because there are a lot of parts in a headset, and I just removed the lower race from this one, there’s really fine sort of plastic washer here. If you don’t remember the order of where that goes it can create problems later on. So, same thing applies. Remove them for inspection, put them in reverse order on your workbench so you can clean them, inspect them and reinstall them without having any bits left over.

Quite often at the car parks and trail centres and riding spots, I often see people struggling to put their front or rear wheel axles into the bike. The common one is always the front and it’s normally the maxim or something like that. The reason for that is they get dried out and they just don’t slide in properly. I’ve seen people jabbing away and hammering them in. The simple thing is maintain them just like you would any other moving part.

They’ve got a cam inside, you should be lubing that and looking after it just like any other part of the bike. Add a bit of spray grease on there, just a tiny little smidgen, we’re just helping it slide in to make sure it doesn’t stick in place. Just think, every part of your bike is some sort of moving thing, so look after them. Something that we quite often get asked on. Ask GMBN is which sort of lube or grease should I be using? So you’ve got to bear in mind there’s various different types. You can’t just deal with one to do everything.

So let’s start with lubricants, so to start with on your chain you’re gonna need a selection, so at the very minimum you’re gonna need a wet lube and a dry lube. Simply put, the dry lube is for summer-based conditions, so dry weather, and the idea is it’s a very thin lubricant and it doesn’t attract too much dirt and other stuff that’s gonna wear out. The wet lube, that’s designed for wet conditions and it’s a much thicker, more viscous liquid that’s gonna stay on the chain even when it gets saturated in bad conditions. The benefits of that are it stays in place, but it will attract dirt to it, so you’re gonna have to maintain that a bit more often. With greases, generic greases like PTFE or lithium grease, you can use these in most bearings and stuff on the bike.

But specific places you can’t use them, around the carbon. So if you’ve got a carbon seat post on your bike or your frame is carbon for example, you’re gonna want to use some sort of assembly compound So that’s a carbon specific grease that’s got particles in it that help grip it so you don’t have to over-tighten the bolts around it. That stuff is really, really good for any sort of assembly compound to use around seat posts or handlebar clamps for example. And the next ones are suspension-based greases and lubricants.

So there’s obviously delicate seals inside, suspension forks and your shocks, so you’re gonna need either a silicon-based lubricant or a dedicated suspension lube or grease. There are various different types on the market, and it is worth investigating because a tiny bit goes a long way and you can keep that in your toolkit for a long time. Also it’s well worth keeping some spray grease, so when you don’t want to use your expensive grease just for smaller jobs you can use it on pedal axles, jockey wheels that don’t have the expensive bearings in them, any small sort of miscellaneous parts. And also actually if you’ve got a roof rack on your bike, for holding your bike, you know it’s the upright arm holds the down tube of your bike. They can squeak quite a lot, the spray grease is excellent on those.

And finally the other classic we see is poorly adjusted limit screws on the rear area. Now gear shifting rarely goes out, and when it does it tends to be for two reasons: either the cable is stretched so you get some slightly baggy shifting, and the whole idea is to take out that slack using a barrel adjuster at the shifter end, or you might have had a crash and bent your mech hanger. So, that is the only actual time that you really need to adjust your limit screws. What you don’t want to happen is for your rear mech to allow the chain to drop over the top of the cassette and into the wheel. Because three things can happen there: you an damage your chain or snap it, you can snap spokes in your rear wheel of your bike, which of course does no good, and the final one, it can rip your whole mech clean off the bike.

Really expensive And quite often I see people whose gears may be a bit bagged I’m suspecting that they just need to adjust the barrel adjuster, and I’m seeing them fiddling straight with the screwdriver or an Allen key, trying to adjust the limit screws on the rear mech. Don’t be fooled into that because once you set limit screws in the first place, you basically don’t need to adjust them again. Hopefully some of those classic mistakes will be useful for you, and hopefully you won’t be repeating those.