FRAME FINISH AND PAINT
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS TO GET MOUNTAIN BIKE ACTION
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