Smart Ways to Make Your Bike Last Longer

Smart Ways to Make Your Bike Last Longer

Got it covered: The most common and effective way to protect your frame’s finish is with a polyurethane adhesives kit, like this one from All Mountain Style.

 

Not long ago keeping a bike for more than a season or two would have seemed about as likely as riding it to the moon. But, big improvements in materials and technology have led to game-changing improvements in reliability and durability. That (coupled with a “settling of the dust” with new standards in wheel sizes, geometry and suspension design) means that nearly any new bike today can go more than a couple of seasons with the proper care. At a time when bike-shop repair bills can feel more like highway robbery, it’s more important than ever to protect your investment in your bike. The key to saving over the long haul is to limit the depreciating impact of all those trail miles. Here’s how we keep our bikes riding and looking new for many seasons.

FRAME FINISH AND PAINT

The best and worst way to go uphill: Shuttling rules, and your bike hates you for it. It seems no matter how carefully you load your bike into the shuttle vehicle, there is a 101-percent chance of damage from shuttling. Maybe, for not suffering through the climb the old-fashioned way. Thankfully, some frame protection can minimize the impact of shuttling damage for those days when you get lazy and hitch a ride up.

 

 

 

 

 

Know your machine: There are different kits to fit all types of bikes. How much protection you need depends on the conditions you ride in.

You just shelled out for a new bike. It wasn’t cheap, and chances are it will take a while for your bank account to recover from that day you finally decided to plunk down your hard-earned cash on that sweet new ride. If you did your homework and bought the right bike, perhaps this will be the last time in a great while you need to lay down such an investment.

Frame and component manufacturers spend tons of time and effort making their bikes aesthetically pleasing, so it makes sense to protect that expensive paint job. Thankfully, there are many options out there to help protect your investment. Our favorite frame protection kits are usually comprised of some type of either polyurethane or vinyl film that’s tough and abrasion-resistant but also thin and pliable enough to mold to the shape of any bike frame. These films are not designed to prevent dents or cracks from major impacts, like the plastic or carbon downtube protectors included with many frames. Instead, they are simply an abrasion guard for your frame to protect the finish. These frame-protection kits vary from the do-it-yourself, peel-and-stick variety to custom-cut wraps that are best left to the professionals to install.

All Mountain Style Honeycomb: The frame kit comes in several different versions with different-shaped pieces to fit your frame. All Mountain Style frame protectors are easy to install, with a peel-and-stick approach that any DIY mechanic will love. The protection itself features a thicker Honeycomb construction that’s abrasion-resistant and has held up to many muddy rides—and the bike washes that follow them—on several of our test bikes.

 

 

In any case, what you are getting with a frame wrap is the knowledge that the paint you just paid through the nose for will look every bit as pretty when you peel up the protector at the end of the season as it did when you left the bike shop.

WHEELS AND RIMS

 

What’s in the box: CushCore’s system comes with liners and valves. All you have to do is install it with your favorite sealant and hit the trails. Some riders even customize it further and only run the liner in the rear tire to minimize the weight penalty. More inside: Tire liners are not a new idea. But ones that actually work well on a mountain bike are somewhat new. Products like CushCore use a foam liner that sits inside the tire to protect the rim during an impact and also provide sidewall support for the tire so you can run lower pressure and improve traction.

Putting stuff in your tires to prevent flats is nothing new. Thorn-resistant liners, tubeless tapes and sealants, and a wide array of other products have been around almost as long as inflatable bike tires. Recently, though, a new breed of tire inserts have cropped up, offering not only flat-tire prevention but also protection for the wheels they are mounted to. Since the wheelset is second only to the frame in terms of dollars invested protecting those hoops is most certainly a worthwhile endeavor.

Cherry internals: Even if your suspension fork and shock don’t show it, they need attention at least once a season if you ride often. The internals use o-rings, pressurized pistons, and many precision moving parts internally. Those moving parts need to be lubricated to work properly, and the oil degrades over time. If you neglect the recommended service intervals, expect your mechanic to have some bad news for you the next time your fork or shock “doesn’t feel very plush” anymore. Photo by Katie Jane Photography

 

 

 

 

 

Tire inserts work differently from other flat-protection products. This is based on a new concept that includes a foam or pressurized rim protector that lives inside the tire to not only protect the rim from impacts but also provide support for the tire sidewalls and improve riding characteristics. These add-on products are typically easy enough to install for home mechanics and can help extend th life of rims dramatically by virtually eliminating dents and dings from sharp impacts.

SUSPENSION INTERNALS AND LINKAGES

Rock it, stick it: Even if you never crash, frame damage will still happen. Rocks somehow find a way to get airborne and fly like heat-seeking missiles to blow up your paint and graphics. Giving your bike some armor in key places, like the underside of the downtube, can save your bike’s chic looks.

 

 

 

 

 

Bike protection isn’t always about sticking on a protective layer or bolting on a protective cover. Sometimes, the best protection isn’t protection at all but rather preventive maintenance. Suspension components are a bit of a mystery to many riders. They’re sealed up, and as long as they were working well on the last ride, riders think they’re going to work well today, right? Riders should know that they don’t have to understand every detail about the internal workings of their suspension components, but what every rider should understand is that that internals need attention periodically.

A bike’s life extended: Prolonging the life of a bike can be easier than you think. These easy-to-use tips will save you money over the life of a bike and let you ride your bike into the sunset, not into early retirement.

 

 

 

 

What that period is can be quite perplexing. How often you have your suspension overhauled depends on many factors. Those who log tons of training miles or ride frequently in wet or harsh conditions may need to have their suspension serviced up to two to three times a year. For most of us, though, once a season is sufficient. If you really want to be precise about it, suspension companies include a maintenance schedule with their products. Since your bike doesn’t have a built-in odometer, an app like Strava can be very useful to track mileage and hours to take the guesswork out of knowing when it’s time to do that ever-important oil change.

DRIVETRAIN AND SHIFTING

Links in the chain: Drivetrains wear out in a very specific way. The chain wears out before the rest of it. If you don’t change your chain enough, you will do damage to some of the most critical parts that drive your bike. Photo by Katie Jane Photography

Bike drivetrains wear out in stages. If taken care of properly, critical and expensive components like the cassette and chainrings can last for many seasons without fail. If ridden without care, though, parts that are designed to wear more quickly can cause premature wear on the rest of the system.

As a bike drivetrain wears, the chain takes the brunt of the abuse. The pins, plates, and rollers that can withstand thousands of pounds of force when new will slowly degrade. As those parts move together in sync with the rest of the drivetrain, they ever so slowly wear down with every pedal stroke. As a result, the once tight tolerances between chain pins become looser. This is commonly referred to as “chain stretch.” If a stretched and worn-out chain is neglected and used for too long, even if it’s not broken or causing shifting issues, it will cause damage to the cassette and chainrings by wearing that looser chain pin spacing into the teeth.

Then, when the chain is finally replaced, usually after an on-the-trail failure or after the bike shop mechanic rolls his eyes at you as he reaches for his chain-checker tool, the new chain won’t mesh with the rest of the drivetrain. Because the old chain has left its mark on the other components, they must be replaced, too, leading to a steeper repair bill.

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