Garage Files – 7 Tricks To Make Your Bike Last Longer

Lifetime guarantees are the brainchild of bike-company marketing “suits” who are typically trying to sell you on new technology. They figure the built-to-last-a-lifetime hype will increase early adopters’ confidence in new technologies and convince riders to pull out the old wallet. However, we know a few tricks to get longest life from your bike.

MOUNTAIN BIKES DIE, BUT THEY DON’T HAVE TO DIE YOUNG

Mountain bikes do not last a lifetime, but there are plenty of tried-and-true ways to extend the life of your steed. Frames and components should be stamped with an expiration date or best- if-used-by date. Unfortunately, it is not that simple, because there are so many factors that influence your bike’s life expectancy. The environment you ride in, how hard you ride, how often you ride, your riding style, your physical dimensions, and how religious you are about performing preventive maintenance all determine how long the fuse is on each component. Oh yes, and let’s not forget destructive behavior. Crashing has a detrimental effect on life expectancy (both yours and your bike’s). Even if you didn’t snap, crack, dent or bend a part in your last crash, you shortened its lifespan. These are the things we’ve learned that can extend the life of your bike’s vital components.

Shelf-life extension: The most aggressive riders put the most abuse on their equipment, but even these guys can eke more life out of their components when they follow these little preventative-maintenance tips.

1-KEEP YOUR BIKE CLEAN, BUT DON’T GO OVERBOARD

Everyone likes a clean bike. It says something about the kind of person you are when you take care of the equipment that takes care of you; however, going overboard washing your bike by using a high-pressure washer can do more harm than good. Every time you wash your bike with pressurized water, you are guaranteed to force both water and contaminants into critical areas such as fork and bearing seals. Keep your bike clean, but find a balance between cleanliness and OCD. When you go for a muddy ride, it’s okay to give the bike a good scrub; however, if you’re washing your bike after every single ride, you’re shortening the lifespan of your suspension and drivetrain bearings. Let your bike enjoy the elements a little.

Oil-change schedule: We’re always shocked when we talk to some riders, even elite pros, who forgo scheduled maintenance on suspension components. Unless you’re okay with replacing entire forks and shocks on a regular basis, make a plan to change oil at least every season and then stick to it.

2-LUBE YOUR CHAIN, BUT AGAIN, DON’T GO OVERBOARD

A smooth-running drivetrain is an excellent thing, but you don’t get one by simply slopping chain lube onto your chain before every ride. Rather than mindlessly reaching for the can of spray lubricant before you hit the trails, assess whether or not your drivetrain really needs to be lubricated. We typically do this by listening to the drivetrain. If things sound like they’re running smoothly, don’t bother with applying more lubricant. If things sounds squeaky and dry, you’ve probably neglected the lubricant for a little too long. If things sound slightly dry, like they might begin to squeak on your next ride, it’s time to freshen the lubricants.

3-CHANGE THE OIL IN YOUR SUSPENSION MORE OFTEN THAN YOU THINK

We see this time and time again. Riders call us and say, “I just bought this fork three years ago and it’s already leaking oil.” Suspension components see a lot of abuse and need to be ser- viced regularly. You wouldn’t run your car for 30,000 miles without changing the oil, right? And if you did, you’d expect to see a hearty repair bill when something finally did go wrong. The same rule applies to your fork and shock. Both need to be serviced annually if you’re an active rider, and more often if you ride several times per week or frequently ride in wet and nasty conditions. Do the service, or expect your mechanic to tell you bad news when you bring your bike in for a tuneup.

4-FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS WHEN YOU BUY A NEW PART

Many cocky riders don’t think they need to read the instruc- tion manual when installing a new part, but this often leads to trouble. Bottom line, if you’re installing a lighter or fancier com- ponent incorrectly, it’s not an upgrade. It could cause serious damage to your bike and could even cause injury to you. Read the instruction manual, no matter how much your ego tells you not to.

Most important tool in the box: The torque wrench is a bit like the Yoda of any mechanic’s toolbox. It’s the wisest tool and should be used often, especially when working with the light- weight and delicate components that come on today’s bikes.

5-USE A TORQUE WRENCH

The fastest way to destroy a bike component is to over-tighten a lightweight part and strip the threads out. If you check the torque ratings for most components, you’ll be shocked to find that most bolts on a bike don’t really need to be all that tight. A torque wrench is a valuable tool, especially for riders who use the lightest components out there. If you don’t have one, plan to invest in one before ever doing work on your own bike.

Crash policy: When you do fail to keep the rubber side down, it’s important to give your bike a once-over to prevent yourself from doing more damage by riding with a broken part.

6-DON’T CRASH, BUT WHEN YOU DO, LEARN WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Crashing is an unfortunate inevitability when it comes to mountain biking. When you do fail to keep the rubber side down, it’s important to give your bike a once-over to prevent yourself from doing more damage by riding with a broken part. Once you’ve done the quick checklist and made sure your body is okay, check the bike to ensure things won’t go awry once you start riding again. Be sure to check the derailleur hanger, because if this is bent, you could send the rear derailleur into the spokes and destroy your wheel and frame. If you’re riding carbon, check for major damage that could cause fractures that could result in yet another crash. If you’re riding with hydraulic brakes, check to make sure the lines haven’t been compromised in any way that could cause a leak. Thinking logically after a crash can save hundreds of dollars in extra damage, not to mention that it could save you from a serious injury.

7-DEVELOP A PRE-RIDE CHECKLIST

Every rider should have a routine to go through before each ride. It will vary for different bikes and trails, but it should look something like this:

• Check that the drivetrain is running smoothly. If it’s not, apply the correct amount of lubricant before hitting the trail.
• Check tire pressure, preferably with a digital tire gauge. Even if it’s just the old squeeze test, it’s much better than experiencing an unexpected pinch flat.
• Check the suspension bearings, hubs and headset to ensure they’re tight but not binding.
• Ensure your spares kit is fresh and hasn’t been used on the last ride. It won’t make your bike last longer, but it will help you last longer on the trails.

Squeaky clean: Cleaning a bike too often will actually do more harm than good, robbing the pivot points and other critical moving parts of grease and lubrication. It’s a mountain bike, so let it enjoy the mountain elements.


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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. Start a subscription by clicking here or calling (800) 767-0345. Available from the Apple Newsstand for reading on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

Contact us via email at mbaction@hi-torque.com
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