Don't make the Devil makes work for your idle hands
Some mountain bikers hate having to do any work on their bikes. We feel their pain. Here’s a kick up the backside to sort out your bike’s niggles.
Bleed your brakes (properly)
This must be the single biggest job avoided by mountain bikers. And the single biggest improvement to your bike riding that could be had. Stop putting up with levers that require a few squeezes before they work properly. Stop thinking that spongey braking is okay. The two biggest brands in braking are Shimano and SRAM, so check out the links to the respective bleeding how-to guides.
Setting up your sag
Even if you think you’ve already done this, we see so many riders on ill-sagging bikes that it’s well worth double checking yours. Read our quick guide on how to set your sag. In my experience, the single biggest mistake that people (understandably) make is not cycling the suspension during pumping up the fork/shock to pressure. If you don’t refequently pause inflation to compress the suspension half a dozen times (each time you put in 50psi or so) you will end up with suspension that is far too soft.
Lower leg service
There are fair amount of mountain bikers who are terrified of suspension servicing. They think that any DIY tweaking is beyond them and will result in something getting ruined and a hefty repair bill ensuing. This is not true. Suspension forks are kinda like Russian Dolls in their level of complexity. It’s extremely easy and safe to remove the first Russian Doll (and do a lower leg oil refresh). Anything genuinely complicated and risky requires the further opening of Russian Dolls. You’re not doing that. A lower leg service is about as difficult as regreasing a headset.
Clean your disgraceful chain
Don’t even bother to try and clean the chain whilst it’s on the bike. It’s past that point now. Remove the chain from the bike. Then either leave it degreaser for a few hours or find something like an old water bottle, put some degreaser in the bottle, dump the chain in, put the bottle top on and shake it like Tom Cruise in Cocktail (jeez, what a godawful film that was). Rinse the chain off with water and thoroughly dry out before reinstalling and re-lubing.
And your clagged-up jockey wheels while you’re there
The top jockey wheel can often be the main culprit of a rough feeling and/or performing drivetrain. The main issue being that its often hidden from view by the rear mech body. So it just sits there slowing filling with excess lube build-up as well as general soil. With the chain off, get an old toothbrush and mini screwdriver and clean your jockeys off all the cling-ons.
Your B-tension is wrong and you know it
As much as we all sing the praises of wide range cassettes, they do place a high level of dependency on the rear mech B-tension adjustment. There is no way of setting your B-tension by guesswork or by eye. Or with the chain in place. Take your chain off. Find a small ruler. Measure the gap between the top jockey wheel and largest cassette sprocket (have the mech shifted into that gear!) You’ll need to Google for your particular drivetrain but for an idea, SRAM Eagle jockey-cassette distance is 15mm, Shimano is 6mm.
Clean your rotors and pads
If your brakes feel firm enough at the lever then they probably don’t need a bleed. But if you’re still underwhelmed by the power on offer (even whilst running large enough rotors, 180mm+) then you may just have some contimination at the pad/rotor. All is not lost just yet. Don’t go splashing out on brand new rotors or replacement pads. With rotors you will need disc brake cleaner and a fresh rag or paper towel (you will need a lot, probably). With pads, take them out of the caliper and file/sand down the top surface layer of pad material. Make sure everything is clean and bne-dry before re-assembling.
Sort your tools out
We don’t mind how nerdy you go with this. By all means go full-on scalpel-cut foam-lined damped-closing drawer OTT. Or just stop having them as a big pile of tools getting in the way and wrecking each other. However you want to proceed, just make your tools more organised than they were when you started.