Garage Files: To Replace or Repair?

Mountain biking is a gear-intensive sport, and that’s part of the reason we love it so much. New gear is half of the fun, whether it’s the newest drivetrain, suspension or cockpit widget, you simply must have it to be considered “the cool kid on the mountain.” That said, though, unless you’re a sponsored pro rider, you’re probably going to have to walk the fine line between replacing worn-out, smoked components that keep your bike from running at all and balancing the bank overdraft fees from when you “just gotta have it.”

The Mountain Bike Action wrecking crew goes through a lot of components, and we’ve learned when it makes sense to repair a part or when it’s better to just throw in the towel, go for a new one and prepare to take the heat from the girlfriend when the credit card bill comes due and you have to head to In-N-Out instead of a sushi restaurant on date night. We understand. Learn from our experience.

1. This 2008 Stumpjumper may have seen better days, but it’s far from dead. This bike has plenty of miles left in it before it’s “put out to pasture.”
2. The most common reason for bikes to be “permanently” retired is a flat tire. However, 95 percent of flat tires are easily repaired at home with just a spare tube and a floor pump.
3. However, sidewall slices are a deal-breaker. Every so often, about once a month, inspect the sidewalls of both the front and rear tires on your bike. If there are cuts that allow the inner tube to protrude, it’s better to just bite the bullet and replace the tire rather than try to patch it.
4. A failed patch job will allow the tube to push its way out from the tire casing and expose it to the elements.
5. Typically, this means the tube will pop within the first few minutes of riding.
6. Truing wheels is both a science and an art, and knowing just how much life you can get out of a wheelset before it’s time to replace it takes experience.
7. The guideline we abide by is to check and true the wheels regularly. As long as you can still add tension to the spokes and pull the wheels back to straight, keep running them.
8. When spokes or nipples start to break, take it as a sign that the entire wheel is stressed. There’s no shame in replacing one or two spokes on a wheel to get “just a few more” miles out of it. However, several spokes breaking within a short time is a very clear indicator it’s time for a new wheel or, at the very least, new spokes.
9. You wouldn’t run your car without changing the oil from time to time. Neglecting this type of routine maintenance causes damage to internal parts that’s irreversible. Rebuilding your suspension regularly is one of the best ways we know of to save money in the long term. Simply replacing the seals and bath oil about once a season will keep the super-slippery coatings on the internals running properly.
10. Even if the proper maintenance has been done on a fork, it’s still possible to damage a fork beyond repair. Scratches in the stanchion tubes from crashes or improper transporting of your bike typically mean the end of a fork’s usable days.
11. Cables and housing need attention periodically. Depending on the conditions you ride in, this could be as much as two to three times per season. If your shifting feels a little rough, chances are this is your culprit. To check your cables, use the release lever on the shifter to release the cable tension, and then pull the ferrules back from the housing to inspect. If the cable-housing ends look frayed like this, it’s time for new ones.
12. If the housing ends still look crisp and unfrayed, just a few drops of your favorite lubricant on the housing ends can do wonders to decrease friction and improve shifting performance.
13. Derailleur hangers are intentionally made to be more pliable and brittle than the rest of the frame and shifting components. They’re the weak link in the system, so if your rear derailleur does sustain an impact, you avoid damaging the more costly parts, like the frame and derailleur. It’s always a good idea to have an extra hanger in the toolbox just in case.
14. A quick and easy way to check the alignment of the hanger is to stand behind the bike and check to see that the pulleys of the rear derailleur are parallel to the cogs of the cassette. If your derailleur looks like this, it’s time for some maintenance.
15. Derailleur hangers can be straightened once or twice, but after that, the metal becomes fatigued and it’s better to just replace them. If you are going to try to straighten a hanger, one quick and easy way is to remove the derailleur and use a crescent wrench for leverage to tweak it back. Just don’t be too disappointed if the hanger breaks off rather than bending back into place.



Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun. You can start a subscription by clicking here or calling (800) 767-0345. Also available from the Apple Newsstand for reading on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

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