Don’t get caught: We know it is Monday morning and you are supposed to be starting work or school. There are a lot of great tips here and it will take some time to take them all in. Bookmark this page and come back on your own time. We don’t want to be the reason you get busted.
Dawn dish soap is the best degreaser: We have used just about every product out there for degreasing everything from drivetrains to suspension components. Concentrated Dawn dish soap (the same stuff you find by your mom’s kitchen sink) beats out just about every other bike-specific degreaser, and it only costs a couple bucks. Use it for drivetrains, frames, and suspension components with a scrub brush and a hose.
Washing your bike is bad, but do it anyway: If you wash your bike regularly, you will do damage to the bearings with the water that gets trapped inside, unless you pull your bottom bracket, headset, and suspension bearings periodically to minimize the impact. Don’t skip the second step. Putting a bike away wet will shorten its life significantly.
Tire sealant needs to be replaced: Stan’s and other tire sealants dry up over time. If you haven’t had a flat in months, chances are you’re carrying around a rat’s nest of latex rather than flat protection. Remove your tires every few months to refresh your supply of sealant. Bonus if you get a latex statue that looks like a famous person.
Run two fronts: Front and rear tire recommendations are not hard-and-fast rules. Front tires usually corner better, and rears usually brake and accelerate better. Experiment with two fronts rather than a front and rear combo. You might be surprised how far you can lay it over in the corners. While we’ve seen it done, rear tires don’t usually work well as fronts.
Furniture polish works great as a frame polish. Bonus: It acts to repel some of the dirt that tends to stick to your frame and has a nice lemon smell. Just be sure to spray it on a rag first to avoid overspray on brakes and other components.
No need for lube: Shifter cables have an internal sleeve that rarely, if ever, needs to be lubed. Rather than messing with dropping lube on your cables, just replace them. Chances are, lube will just attract more dirt and won’t solve your shifting woes. New cables probably will.
That’ll buff right out: Rubbing compound, the same stuff you use to take out minor scratches on your car, will take out most any cable rub marks on a bike frame. Buy a tin and keep it in your garage.
Just flip ?em: If you have reversible brake levers (ones that can be run on the left or right side), you can flip them once to make your cockpit look brand new. Simply disconnect the hoses; swap the levers to the opposite side; re-connect them with the appropriate fittings, and bleed the brakes. This can be especially helpful if you’re sprucing up your bike to sell it. Just be sure to let the buyer know you’re not trying to pull a fast one on him.
Zap-strap it: Zip ties used to hold rogue cables in front of the bar can keep noise down and save the finish on your frame. Choose a routing where the rear brake and rear shifter run together so you can tie them together, as these are usually the most problematic.
Flip it over: Storing your bike upside down the night before a ride will make the fork feel better. When you store the bike upside down, the fork’s bath oil will migrate above the bushings and rest against the dust wipers. That way, right out of the gate, everything in the fork is lubed properly. Warning: be sure your brakes are bled perfectly before attempting this, as air bubbles in hydraulic brakes tend to surface on a bike that’s stored upside down.
Q-tips are priceless: Small and sensitive components, such as brake pistons and fork stanchions, need to be cleaned periodically. Q-tips are ideal for sneaking into small spaces and work perfectly for these finicky components. Simply soak a Q-tip in isopropyl alcohol and get ready to detail.
Short-term comfort: Pointing your saddle nose down won’t make it more comfortable. In fact, it will put more weight on your hands and probably make your ride less comfortable. Find a saddle that works for your body and mount it level.
Bonk protection: There are about 20 calories in a Jolly Rancher hard candy and about 200 milligrams of sodium in a salt packet. If you’re out of food on a death-march ride, this can be the difference between finishing and bonking hard. They weigh almost nothing, last forever, and will taste amazing if you’re struggling through the last few miles of a long ride. Throw one of each in your hydration pack and forget about them until you really need them.
Free speed: Finding small rollers to pump off of is the easiest way to build speed when descending. Learn to bunny-hop off of even the tiniest lip on your favorite trail, and pump the backside. It’s always fun to get something for free.
Save a hardware store run: If you have a stripped out bolt, often a similarly sized Torx wrench has just enough purchase on the rounded part to extract it without a drill and EZ-out setup. Use a T-25 for 4-millimeter bolts and a T-30 for 5-millimeter bolts. Even if it fails, you’re right back where you started.
Don’t do this: Don’t drive your bike into the garage when it’s on the roof of your car. Instead, put your riding glove on your garage door opener when you finish a ride to remind you that your prized possession is about to meet its demise.
Don’t gorilla fist it: Properly torquing bolts is critical on all components. Pedals are the most frequently over-torqued part on a bike. They just don’t need to be that tight to stay on. Go just slightly tighter than you can go with your hands, and that’s it.
Velcro it first: Most gloves and other protective gear can go through the washer without issue, but the Velcro fasteners will stick to everything else in the load. Close the fasteners first.
The collector: You don’t want to throw your hydration pack in the washing machine. This won’t hurt the pack’s material, but it will take you two hours to untangle the straps (and everything else that was in the wash). It’s best to use soap and water in the sink and let it air dry.
Stock up: If you find a riding short that fits perfectly, buy five of them. If you have five shorts in heavy rotation, they will last you years. If you buy different shorts, you end up wearing the one you like best the most often, so it wears out first.
No sand blasting: You don’t want to blast your shoes with a hose. It may cause the material to become brittle. Use a damp sponge. That pretty much does the job on most materials. If you are lucky enough to have a compressor in your garage, blowing off your shoes is the best way to clean them.
Storm shelter: Always have a thin, nylon jacket stuffed in your hydration pack or jersey pocket. More than protection from rain, the jacket will help retain body heat should you bonk, or it can be used to get water from a stream or melt snow to use as drinking water. It can take the chill out of a descent if you are soaked with sweat.
Don’t remember, write it: Paint markers (small pens that dispense a thin line of paint) are indispensable toolbox additions. They are awesome for marking seatpost height adjustments, bar positions and adjusting-knob positions. You can even scribble notes on your tires to remind you of tire and suspension air-pressure settings.
See the trail: The sport glasses you wear for cycling must have replaceable lenses, and you need three different tints. Use smoked lenses for bright conditions, yellow for overcast conditions and clear for night riding. Never ride without glasses.
Balancing point: A helmet light mounted near the center of the helmet will feel lighter than a light that mounts towards the front of the helmet.
Secure it: More night riders have been injured due to a battery that pops loose and goes into a wheel than any riding situation. Check mounting brackets and hardware and add your own strap to the battery.
Pick pocket: Don’t carry a battery in a jersey pocket. If you fall, the impact could be concentrated in this area; and friends, that’s gonna hurt. Mount the battery on the bike or in your hydration pack.
Pre-ride mistake: Eating a salad before a ride is a mistake. It is too hard for your body to digest the greenery and exercise at the same time.
Clean the mold: Hydration pack companies sell micro bacteria cleansers. Stick with those instead of home remedies and you won’t damage the bladder, create a bad aftertaste or get sick.
Measure, don’t pour: Don’t fill your hydration pack’s reservoir. Measure your water. A hydration pack with a full 100-ounce bladder, tools and repair necessities weighs ten pounds. The same pack with two bottles worth of fluid in the bladder (good for most two-hour rides) weighs 5.5 pounds.
Chasing problems: Suspension takes the most blame for ill-handling bikes. While that may be fair, first inspect your wheels. Spokes that are not properly tensioned will give any bike a loose feel.
Weather report: Air pressures (tires and suspension) change because of temperature and elevation changes. Even if you set your ideal pressures the night before a ride, you should check them again when you arrive at a distant trailhead.
De-pressurize: Never take a CO2 bottle on a flight (in your luggage, bike box or carry-on). These bottles are not permitted on flights, and new security screening techniques will reveal them. The fine for this offense would force you into bankruptcy.
Ring in the new: A bell mounted to your handlebar will do more to keep trails open to mountain bikers than any other product. A quick ring will let hikers, runners, cowboys and other trail uses know you are coming before you arrive. On highly used trails, use a bear bell (a bell that hangs from your bars and rings all the time).
Relax: Relax your facial muscles under hard efforts. Look at photos of top racers during an event. Notice that their facial expressions are calm, relaxed and confident.
Inventory: This is not a lame tip–no matter how lame it seems. When you have a problem on the trail, take a complete inventory of what’s in your hydration pack, saddle pack and jersey pocket before you give up. Hundreds of riders have walked home with a flat tire, broken chain or wrecked derailleur, only to find the tool they needed to fix the problem was hidden in the bottom of their hydration pack.
THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS TO GET MOUNTAIN BIKE ACTION
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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