6 Simple Ways to Tune a Mountain Bike 🚲

Recent stats show that there is an increase of nearly more than 500% in trail usage as well as overall sales in the mountain biking realm [1]. While riding a mountain bike is a great experience, the challenge is that you need to make sure your bike is in the best shape always. The majority of mountain bike lovers are constantly trawling the internet for the latest hacks to improve their riding experience. Taking your mountain bike to your nearest bike shop always sounds like a good idea to make sure your bike continues to perform well but the expenses associated with it can eat up into your overall riding experience.

That’s why in this article, we’ll be sharing 6 of the simplest ways of how to tune a mountain bike without breaking your wallet. We hope that these tips help you to maintain the condition of your mountain bike and enhance your riding experience.

Clean the Chain

The chain is one of the most essential parts of your bike. It’s one of those things that you literally can’t do without, and that’s why it should always be the first area of concern. To kick start the tuning process, you must always begin by cleaning the chain first.

For starters, simply remove it, soak it overnight, and clean every roller with a clean cotton swab. If you can, also use a pipe cleaner and apply any cleaning solvents at your disposal. This is one of the easiest chain cleaning methods to get rid of gunk from the chain and inspect it for damages.

Despite being the cheapest chain cleaning method, you will need to have a lot of time on your hand to get it done. But what if you don’t have too much time to spare? In this case, simply get a chain lube and apply it all over the chain. Once you’ve covered your chain in lube, grip its lower end with a clean towel and pedal towards the back. This way, the lube acts as a degreaser and you’ll be gently scrubbing the chain. Only stop when it looks sparkling clean.

For those who might have some money set aside for tuning, consider buying a chain cleaner. But before you put it into action, remember to read the instruction manual first and follow each step for the best results.

Clean and Lube the Cassette

For those who didn’t know, the cassette is located on the rear wheel of your mountain bike and it forms one of the integral parts of your drivetrain. Given that the cassette controls riding speed, finding the best way to tune it will guarantee a quality riding experience.

It’s common knowledge that lubricants usually prevent friction buildup, and the general lack of regular lubrication ranks as a top cause for most of the common bike problems [2]. This means that if you fail to check on this for more than a month, your bike might stop functioning smoothly. On the flip side, many might fall into the trap of over-lubricating and run the risk of turning their mountain bikes into dirt magnets.

To tune your cassette well, make sure that you first wipe it clean with a degreaser before lubing up. Simply apply a few drops on each chain groove while pedaling backward and run the gears interchangeably. Consider using wet lube for wet weather conditions and also if you normally mountain bike on trails with streams or through rainstorms.

A Quick Pro Procedure

Disassemble and take off the rear tire, floss through the cassette cogs with a rag for cleaning purposes, then apply your lube directly on the cassette. Just make sure that you wipe off any excess lube.

Center the Brakes

Brakes are an essential safety tool in any locomotive, meaning that you must ensure that the brakes on your bike are in perfect working condition. To help you tune your brakes for maximum mountain biking experience, loosen the brakes from the bike frame, and center position them so that they are evenly spaced from the rim before tightening the caliper. You might need a wrench to readjust and position the brakes with ease. While at it, take time to inspect the brake performance and check pad conditions. Always plan to replace worn-out pads as soon as possible.

Adjust Rear Derailleur Cable Tension

If you had dismantled the rear wheel to fine-tune your cassette and chain as well, it’s time to reassemble everything back together. Once you’re ready, engage the smallest gear possible, upshift once, and keep a watchful eye on the upper derailleur pulley to see if it aligns with the immediate cog on the cassette.

If you notice that it is near the tire, immediately turn your bike’s barrel adjuster in a clockwise direction. If it’s further away from the tire, simply turn the adjuster in a counter-clockwise direction to help fix it.

If your chain happens to skip gears, this might be an indication that your cable tension is loose.
To fix this, put the bike in a repair stand, down-shift to the smallest cog, turn your barrel adjuster on the back derailleur to a one-half turn in a clockwise direction, and upshift once. If your chain doesn’t skip to the activated cog, turn the derailleur by another half-turn. But if it starts to jump multiple cogs with a single shift, you might have gone too far. Simply undo the last half-turn to correct your mistake.

The most important thing to remember here is not to turn your barrel adjuster by more than one-half turn at any given moment, as it might create more cable tension and that would worsen shifting.

Check the Bolt Torque

Bolt torques on your mountain bike are some of the smallest parts yet most crucial, especially when it comes to reliability and safety. Properly torqued bolts often loosen up with time, making it very important that you continuously check them through their service life and look for new fittings.

To check and fix your mountain bike bolt torques, simply use a fitting bike torque wrench and pay special attention to its stem bolt torque.

How Often Should You Tune Your Mountain Bike?

Tuning up your bike is one of the best ways to maximize your mountain biking experience. However, it’s important to note that bike tuning is always dependent on overall usage. The more you use your bike, the sooner you’ll need to tune it accordingly.

In other words, experts recommend that you should tune your mountain bike at least once every year (for those who rarely use it), and once per month for those who bike daily [3].

Summary

Taking your bike to the bike shop for tuning at the local bike shop can be a little frustrating, especially if you’re riding on a tight budget, and this doesn’t have to be the case. Use all the above-discussed tips to not only improve your cycling experience but also to ensure that your mountain bike is in tip-top condition at all times. Remember to take it for a quick test drive afterward to make sure that everything is working smoothly.

That said, just keep in mind that you might need to do some more readjustments during the test run before you get that smooth ride.

Citations

  1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/timnewcomb/2020/07/13/amidst-cycling-surge-sport-of-mountain-biking-seeing-increased-sales-trail-usage/?sh=228dda183ddf.
  2. https://cycle360.com/get-your-bike-gran-fondo-ready-with-cycle-360s-diy-top-tips/
  3. https://www.bikeride.com/tune-up/
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