The Top Life Hacks for the Mountain Biker
“Hack” is a term used to describe an unconventional way to make a process easier. In this case, we’re talking about hacks that will make your bike setup easier, quicker and more precise. These are our favorite bike-setup hacks.
Remove the front wheel when straightening your stem. This allows you a much easier way to eyeball the stem to the front-wheel alignment without worrying about wheel alignment or tire wobble. For best results, use your dominant eye with the other one closed, looking straight down as you straighten it. Then, use the stem-clamp bolts to clamp it in place.
Zip-tie your cables together to prevent noise. This tip only works if your cables are cut to the proper length. When the cables are tied together like this, they aren’t allowed to rattle each other, and they are less likely to rattle on the frame as well.
Drill holes in your workbench to store your Allen wrenches. This makes them easy to find and easy to spot a missing wrench when you clean up. For extra style points, drill different-sized holes for each one so they fit snugly and sit straight up.
Buy a tackle box with compartments to store all your extra bolts. Every home mechanic has an old coffee can with a mixture of small parts, with everything from bolts to pocket lint to old lawnmower parts. These boxes are relatively inexpensive to buy, but allow for quick access to any small emergency part when you really need one. The only bummer is pouring out that can and actually sorting through all the bits.
Keep a multi-tool and spare tube in your glovebox. If you’re one of many riders forced to drive to the trailhead, be sure to have a minimum number of tubes and a set of Allen keys to save yourself a drive back to the house.
Always carry zip-ties in your pack or on your bike. If you carry a pack, these are easy to throw in and can fix many trailside issues. If you ride sans pack, sneak one or two into the cable guides like this for an emergency.
Never store CO2 cartridges or chain lube in your glovebox. These might be tempting items to store next to your tube and tools, but they could burst in the heat of a car interior and cause a big mess.
Only apply chain lube to the rollers of the chain. Adding lubrication to the outside plates of the chain will not help the drivetrain run smoother and will actually attract dirt and dust.
Use a hitch-mount safe to keep your keys secure while out riding. This one from Hitch Safe securely locks your keys and other valuables in the 2-inch receiver hitch that comes standard on many trucks and SUVs. This prevents you from not only losing your keys, but also from crashing on them if you were to carry them in your pocket.
Flea markets and swap meets are a great place to pick up high- quality used tools. You can usually even find the vintage ones that are “broken in” but made from the highest-quality materials.
Move your brake levers in for more control. The lever’s “hook” should line up with the tip of your index finger. This will give you more control and leverage on the brakes.
Don’t over-tighten your pedals, because they simply don’t need to be that tight. Pedals are specifically designed with a reverse thread on one side, which means they actually tighten themselves as you ride.
Remove the Presta valve caps. They don’t really do anything anyway. Schrader caps keep dirt out of the spring-loaded mechanism, but we’ve never had this problem with Presta valves.
Use titanium bolts for a chic look. Ti bolts are expensive, but a very cool way to shed weight and give your bike a custom look, especially to those with a trained eye. These titanium rotor bolts are available from TruckerCo in four different colors.
Always run your bar end caps right-side up. It simply looks like you care about your bike more when you pay attention to details like these.
You can use the level app on your smartphone to measure interesting angles like those of the head tube and seat tube. Be sure your bike is on a level surface and that the case you’re using is flush to get an accurate number. This head angle measured 24 degrees from 90, which means this bike has a 66 degree head angle.
Run your front-wheel QR slightly forward for speedy wheel changes. This makes it easier to change wheels and is still out of the way so it won’t snag on trail obstacles.
Storing your bike upright against a wall is a great way to keep your fork seals lubricated. This allows the internal bath oil to travel up to the top of the fork, which means your seals will be properly lubed right out of the gate rather than waiting for the first few miles of a ride for it to cycle up there.
Always lean your bike by the rear wheel instead of the handlebar. This is the most stable way to keep it from falling over.
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.