What Terrain is Hardest on Your Bike?
Tips to prolong your bike’s life
Getting rowdy: Mountain bikes are designed to handle the most treacherous terrain, but every bike has its limits. Lucky for you, if you’re a rider who likes to ride the gnarliest trails possible, there are a few precautions you can take to help keep your bike running smoother longer.
The reality of buying a new bike is that it will never again look as clean as the day it left the bike-shop floor, but honestly, you shouldn’t really care. As a mountain biker, your bike is an extension of yourself, and every scratched or worn-out part has its own story to tell. Of course, we’re not telling you to just go out and beat up your new bike, but what we are telling you is that the occasional damage is inevitable. A little care, however, can go a long way in prolonging your bike’s life. The best way to protect your prized possession is to plan ahead with some preventive care. Start when your bike is brand new, or, if not, start as soon as you can. Prepare your bike for the current season, whether it’s summer or winter, and plan to do different types of maintenance depending on the type of terrain you ride. Someone who rides in the desert is likely to have different maintenance needs than a rider up in the Pacific Northwest. To prevent your bike from turning into an old jalopy, follow along with our next few tips. We promise your bike will thank you.
Extra protection: Bike Armor’s frame stickers are designed to be placed on your frame in places where cable rub may occur. These little stickers not only protect your ride, they also give it a little more personality.
Help keep your bike looking fresh by adding a little extra protection to it. We’ve had great luck with 3M 2228 rubber mastic tape; however, some riders many find it easier to purchase a complete bike protection kit from a company like Crankskins. The most important areas of your frame to cover are near your chain, as it can flap around on technical trails and literally beat the paint right off your bike. Other spots to protect are the bottom bracket and downtube. Riders who shuttle their bikes often or use a tailgate pad for transportation should place an additional strip of tape higher up on the downtube to prevent cosmetic damage.
Clear sticker kits are also handy to have, as they can be placed on your frame to prevent the cables from rubbing. This is a great way to keep your ride looking fresh and clean. As an added tip, we would suggest shortening your cables on your bike to prevent them from getting caught on things along the trail and to reduce the chance of cable rub.
Another great way to protect your bike is to buy a pair of crank boots. Crankarm guards are usually inexpensive, come in a variety of colors to match your bike and can save your cranks from scratches caused by rock strikes or crashes.
Shuttle guard: If you shuttle your bike often, you probably know how abusive tailgate pads can be, especially in muddy conditions. Adding a guard to your bike’s downtube can help keep your ride looking fresher longer.
WET WINTER MUD
Wet weather can wreak havoc on your bike if it’s not properly cared for. You never want to ride a bike hard and put it away wet. Trust us, your bike has a way of repaying the favor. It will squeak, mis-shift and pout the entire next ride. Treat your bike well and it will reward you. We love riding in wet winter conditions, but after every ride, we always make sure to properly clean our bike and lube the chain. This will prevent any build-up of rust and prolong the life of your expensive drivetrain.
Pay close attention to suspension components and the dropper post. Mud and dirt can cause a build-up of grit that can scratch stanchions and cause the seals to leak oil. If you’re riding in mud frequently, we would suggest using a fender to minimize exposure from mud being tossed around and also to wipe the seals clean as needed.
No matter how clean you keep your bike after you ride in wet weather, you will soon discover that water and metal don’t mix. Apply grease to your bike often to keep everything moving smooth. If you’re mechanically inclined, remove the bolts in your linkage to apply grease. Next, grease your headset, pedals and bottom bracket. If you have a threaded bottom bracket, you can go ahead and remove it to reapply grease. Nothing beats the feeling of riding a freshly lubricated bike.
DRY SUMMER HEAT
Surprisingly, dry and dusty trails can cause just as much damage to your bike as wet, muddy trails. The reason is because the fine particles of dirt can find their way into every crack and crevice of your bike. The same attention to your suspension seals and dropper post are necessary to keep your bike happy. Wipe off any excess dust from moving parts and keep your chain clean and lubed using a dry-weather chain lube, such as Clean Ride from White Lightning. Ideally, every mountain biker should have two lubricants—one for the winter and one for the summer—however, some all-weather lubes may work just fine for your local trails.
Summer heat may also cause riders to sweat more, which can drip onto your bike and cause corrosion. We’ve actually seen rusted stem bolts rust from excessively sweaty riders. Take care of your bike by washing it lightly after every ride, then apply a small amount of lube to keep all your components moving freely.
Chain guard: Clutch derailleurs have helped keep our chains from slapping around on the trails; however, a proper chain guard should still always be used to help protect your frame. If your bike doesn’t already have a chain guard, we highly encourage you to add one.
Some of the best mountain bike trails in the world are covered with roots and rocks, which help make the trail more interesting and fun, but have heavy consequences when your bike hits the dirt. Crashing on these types of trails is likely to cause the most damage to your bike. Bent crank hangers are probably the number-one problem, as it doesn’t take much to knock them out of whack, causing your shifting to go haywire. Riders who frequent rocky trails should always carry a spare hangar.
Downtube protection is another important thing to have when riding trails with smaller rocks that can be flung into the air by your front tire. A good blow from a rock to your downtube is likely to leave a large scratch or possibly crack your frame.
Purchase grips that have sturdy end caps, as these rougher trails eat up the corners of your grips. This will also help protect your handlebars from directly striking a rock or root.
Brake levers tend to see a lot of damage on rough trails, too, when a bike hits the ground. To avoid this, we often run the clamp’s bolts to our levers a little loose so they will move instead of snap or break.
Mud run: Riding wet and muddy trails can be hard on your bike if you don’t take the proper steps to protect your ride. If you truly want to prolong your bike’s life, follow our helpful tips.
Bike parks are notorious for wearing out bikes fast. Just take a look at the demo fleet at any bike park and you’ll see what we’re talking about. If you’re a rider who likes to head to the bike park, then there are a few maintenance tips you need to know. First off, running lap after lap in the bike park will quickly wear out the normal wear-and-tear items of a bike, such as its tires, brakes and suspension. When riding at a bike park, it’s best to outfit your bike with burlier tires that can withstand the abuse caused by barreling down the mountain at high speeds.
Your brakes are going to get a good workout too. Bike parks with long descents can cook your brakes and wear them out quickly. After shredding in the bike park, it’s always a good idea to check your pads and bleed your brakes when they start to feel mushy.
Suspension components take a serious beating at most bike parks. The combination of high-speed rock gardens and big jumps and drops give the oil in your suspension a workout. This type of riding will require riders to have their suspension serviced more often than if they just rode mellow local trails.