The School Sport South Australia Mountain Bike Championships are getting closer and we have five more things that you can check on your bike to ensure that it is good to go. These are all really simple checks that you can do to identify potential issues that can and do cause riders real issues if left undone.

If you didn’t see our post covering the first 3 things, you can catch up here. Otherwise, read on and enjoy!

Wobbles (not the speed ones!)

Bikes have many moving parts and are prone to develop wobbles. Sometimes these are caused by wear and other times they are caused by parts becoming loose over time. Here are some things you can check and potentially solve for yourself:

Axels / Hub Bearings: Gently wobble each wheel from side to side in the frame. If you can hear or feel any clicks or movement, your axel may be loose. If you check the axel and it is indeed tight, your wheel bearings may need to be adjusted or simply replaced by a mechanic.

Head Stem: Stand next to your bike, holding the handlebars as you would if you were riding and apply the front brake. Now gently wobble the bike back and forth. If you feel or hear any clicking or movement, you may have a loose headset. Try to identify if the movement is coming from the front suspension (where the upper post inserts into the lower post). This movement can be normal in some forks, however it may indicate that the fork’s internal components are worn. If the movement seems to be where the handle bars pivot through the frame, your headset likely needs to be tightened.

Pivots: If you have a dual suspension bike, check the pivots by standing next to your bike and very gently lifting up on the seat. Lift just enough so that the rear wheel nearly (but not quite) comes off the ground. If you can feel or hear any clicks or movement during this process, you may have some loose bolts so you should go through and check them. Be sure not to over tighten them, you don’t need to apply all of your strength, just ensure that they are not loose. If they are all tight and the movement still exists, you may have some parts that need replacing. Usually, this is a normal and simple process that a mechanic can help you out with.

Chain

Your chain does a lot of the heavy lifting when you are riding and you should treat them well! They are prone to rust and gather mud and gunk if not looked after and that just makes pedalling harder than it needs to be. Further, they can be damaged through poor gear shifting technique or when hit on trail obstacles.

Firstly, make sure you lubricate your chain with a quality bike chain lube. I recommend a wax-based lube that you can get from a bike shop. These don’t attract too much dust in summer and work well in wet conditions too. They can require a bit of preparation for first time use (wax won’t stick or work on top of other lubricant types so the chain generally needs to be thoroughly cleaned before the initial wax application) so visit a mechanic to help you out if you haven’t used a wax based lubricant before and want to. A well lubricated chain prevents excessive wear of the drivetrain, saving you money, and ensures efficient power transfer to the rear wheel, saving you energy!

Secondly, check to see if your chain is damaged. Take a minute or two to look at every single chain link (this can be tedious but worth it!). The plates that form every link should be perfectly parallel with each other and the pins that hold each link together should protrude slightly outside of the link. If you can see a link that is not parallel or is popping off the pin, you must get it fixed or replaced. The chain will be snapping very soon and you don’t want to be standing up powering when it does!

Suspension

Looking after your suspension is simple. After every ride, use a rag to clean the dust from the narrower tube that inserts into the fatter tube (front and rear suspension). Make sure to clean the rubber seal well too. Dirt acts like sandpaper (surprise!) and will erode your suspension away with every bump. Keep your suspension clean and it will not only keep your bike feeling and working great, but save you money too!

If your suspension is leaking oil or making funny sounds, it really should be looked at by a mechanic. If the shock absorber is damaged, it may operate more like a pogo stick which can put the rider at significant risk when all that absorbed energy is released at once.

Tyre Pressure

I will go deeper into setting correct tyre pressure when we talk about bike setup, but for now I recommend checking that your tyres are at least holding air before you leave for a ride. Pump them up the night before and make sure that they have not lost any significant amount of pressure in the morning. If you are not organised and simply pump them up when you leave for your ride, you may find yourself with a several kilometre walk later in the day.

Tubeless Sealant

If you have got tubeless tyres set up on your bike (you will probably know if you do) it is well worth topping up your sealant if you haven’t done so in the last three months. Sealant won’t last forever and it will dry up inside your tyre after a little while. If this is the case, you have very little protection against punctures which are all too common when you are pushing yourself in a race.

That’s It!

Initilly, it might take you 30 minutes to cover all the points we have covered, but with practice you will likely be able to accomplish it all in just a minute or so. You can also get to the stage where you are so in tune with your bike, you will simply feel, observe or hear that something needs attention and you will not need to explicitly check everything. I know that most bikes I come across need some TLC simply by picking them up to load them onto a trailer! You can easily feel and hear the movement in the components. Over time, you can also learn to fix all of these issues in your own backyard with a twist of a dial or by spinning an allen key a few times.

For now, I wish you the best with your preparation and look forward to seeing you at the SSSA Mountain Bike Championships!