TMB Team Insights: Mountain Bike Repair Basics

TMB Team Insights: Mountain Bike Repair Basics

We want you to be able to be your own basic bike mechanic, so we created this list of bike repair basics as tips for you. These simple checks go a long way in avoiding costly bike repairs in the future, keep your bike safer, and will allow you to spend more time simply trail riding. As the local go-to Sedona mountain bike rental and repair bike shop, we see all kinds of repairs that could have been easily avoided. Simple checks like keeping your wheel axles tight, air in your tires to avoid rim strikes, or a slightly loose derailleur that throws off your shifting. In fact, here at Thunder Mountain Bikes, we do these basic checks every time one of our Sedona mountain bikes go out.

Pre-Ride Bike Inspection

mountain biker inspecting bike pre-ride

Make it a habit of yours to always do a simple pre-ride bike inspection. While your mountain bike most likely appears to be fine and ready to ride, it only takes a few minutes to check some bolts, bike chain, and tires. If you’re riding mountain bike trails as rough as the ones we have in Sedona, we’d recommend these simple checks before every ride or at least every other ride. For smoother bike trails or road biking, every couple rides should be fine. The tools we recommend are basic: Multi-Tool with a full set of allen wrenches (like this Crankbrothers M17), Floor Pump with a gauge, bike chain lube suitable for your area (wet lube for rainy area, dry lube for the desert), and a rag. For a Sedona mountain bike, we prefer this awesome bike Chain Lube that minimizes dust and dirt buildup in your drivetrain to keep it running smoother.

Air, Brakes, Chain

trek slash bike pre-ride inspection air brakes tires

How much air pressure should you use?

How much air pressure should you use? When it comes to mountain bike tires, there are many variables for how much air pressure is needed. This depends on which mountain bike tires you have, which rims you have, terrain you ride, and tubeless vs tubes setups. First of all, if you haven’t already, we highly recommend going tubeless. This allows you to run lower air pressure without pinch flatting. When using a tube, we recommend being 30 - 35 psi at all times, in order to avoid pinch flatting the tube. With tubeless you can run much lower pressure, which means better traction and suppleness. But, too low of air pressure can be detrimental, as a protruding rock can push through the tire and dent or crack your rim. Or, too low of pressure can even cause the tire to come off the rim in a hard corner. These can lead to costly repairs or even injury. Considering the rough terrain for a Sedona mountain bike, we generally recommend air pressure between 24 - 28 psi, paired with a Maxxis “EXO” casing or similar level tubeless tire. This is a nice balance between traction and preventing flats or rim damage. Since tubeless tires can never be 100% air tight, a little bit of air will slowly escape over time. If you don’t check your tire pressure often, you’ll end up riding with too low of pressure which can cause rim damage or a trail side flat tire. Simply checking the air pressure before every ride ensures you’ll avoid this issue. A floor pump with a gauge is the quickest way to check.

Another air pressure item to check is your suspension. Just like mountain bike tires, these can slowly leak air over time. If your front and rear shocks are not checked very often, you could be riding with not enough air in your shocks. This leads to your shocks bottoming out too frequently, which can damage the bike frame or parts, while giving your bike an unstable feel. Checking and adding air to your shocks requires a specific shock pump and unfortunately you cannot use your tire pump. It’s well worth the small investment for a shock pump to get the most out of your mountain bike! Air pressure in your suspension depends on your overall body weight with riding gear on, so check with your suspension manufacturer website for a chart to get the general air pressure for your weight.

Check your brakes before you ride.

Always check your brakes before you ride. Now that most mountain bikes have hydraulic disc brakes, it’s a good idea to do a simple brake check. Simply grab both brakes and roll your bike forward. Your brakes should fully engage and keep your wheel from moving. If a brake lever pulls all the way back to the handlebar without engaging the brake, this could mean that there is contamination in your brake line, or that your brake pads are fully worn out. It’s also a good idea to pick up the front end of your bike and spin the wheel, and check if the disc is rubbing against your brake pads. If it doesn’t spin at all, then your brake caliper may need to be aligned with the rotor. If it’s only a minor rub in one spot, you could leave this alone to potentially re-align itself while riding, or carefully push the rotor in the opposite direction of the rubbing spot. To align your brake caliper, simply loosen the caliper bolts with your handy Multi-Tool, spin the wheel, press the brake lever - and while keeping the brake lever compressed - tighten the caliper bolts. Now spin the wheel again to ensure it's free to roll. 

Keep your chain clean and lubricated.

Keep your bike chain clean and lubricated. This is an easy one, and goes a long way in getting the most out of your drivetrain. It will shift smoother and last longer! With your mountain bike propped upright, turn the cranks backwards to move the bike chain, and apply bike chain lube while the bike chain is moving. When you get close to the full length of your bike chain being lubed, grab a rag and continue moving the bike chain through the rag. This wipes off the excess lube, preventing any extra dirt or dust that could cling to the bike chain. For extra credit, run the rag over the pulleys in your rear derailleur, as these pulley’s can often build up with gunk over time. We’ve seen it so bad that a screwdriver was needed to knock off all the gunk in these rear derailleur pulleys. As mentioned before, use the appropriate bike chain lube for the conditions you ride in. Using a wet lube in the desert will lead to a very dirty drivetrain, and vice versa. For a couple of all around awesome bike chain lubes, we highly recommend SSC Slick, Dumonde Tech Lite, T9 Boeshield, and Rock N’ Roll Extreme bike chain lubes.

Check your bolts.

Last but not least, check your bolts! Using your Multi Tool, do a quick check on all the bolts. These can rattle loose while mountain biking, and just a little bit of play can lead to major damage. These mountain bike bolts do not need to be overly tight, as they can easily strip, just snug. Many bolts are recommended to be tightened around 4-5nm only. The main bolts to check: front and rear wheel axles, derailleur mount, suspension linkage, stem, handlebar, and crank.

Thunder Mountain Bikes Tune-Ups

thunder mountain bikes shop tune ups

In the mountain biking industry, it’s generally recommended to have your mountain bike go through a general tune-up once a year. While you are visiting Sedona, a quick Google search of “bike repair near me” or “bicycle repair shop near me” is likely to pull up several options for you. At Thunder Mountain Bikes we have all the tools and the practice to thoroughly check over your bike. Items like suspension service, brake bleeds, tubeless tire sealants, cassette and bike chain wear, derailleur hanger, stripped bolts, creaks or cracking noises, brake pads, shift cables and housing - can all be looked over by one of our pro bike mechanics. At Thunder Mountain Bikes, our repair rates are very reasonable. Starting at $50 for a basic tune-up, all the way up to $200 for a complete overhaul. Check out our Service Details HERE. If you’re here just visiting Sedona, we understand you want a quick tuneup so you can hit the trails as soon as possible!  At Thunder Mountain Bikes we take pride in ultra quick turnarounds to help you get the most of your trip. And if it’s a repair that is just not possible, we can get you set up on a bike rental to finish out your Sedona mountain bike riding adventures!

Conclusion

We hope our mountain bike repair basics guide helps you with your mountain bike maintenance and leads to more enjoyment on the trails. With your mountain bike ready to ride, we also hope you’ll be ready to hit the top trails in Sedona! If you have any questions, feel free to email us at Sedona@thundermountainbikes.com