As a beginner, it is worth knowing that at some point whilst taking part in your new sport you are going to run into a mechanical issue. These are mainly caused by crashes or just wear and tear on the bike (it is worth noting some parts are designed to break in the event of a crash to save other more expensive parts). With a few pre-ride checks and a little maintenance, it is possible to prolong the life of parts and keep your bike running like new instead of a bag of old spanners.
If a mechanical issue takes place whilst out on the trail you may be able to repair your bike and continue on with your ride or repair the bike enough to get you back to your car. So before you step out into one of the forests highlighted in our previous article or your local forest it is worth having a quick read through and taking note.
These should be quick and straightforward. You have packed your kit made the effort to get to the trails so there should be no surprises here.
There is a good chance you have had to remove one or both of your wheels to get to the trails. It is worth just giving them a quick check to make sure they are secure enough that the wheels don’t come loose or even worse fall off when you are riding.
Make sure your tyres are inflated to a reasonable level. Its impossible to recommend a tyre pressure because it is down to personal preference, weather conditions and tubeless tyres can be ridden at lower pressures than tyres with inner tubes. You tend to find expert riders have a softer tyre in the front than the back. Start with the tyres pressures recommended by the manufacturer, which are found on the side of the tyre. Make small changes to the pressure each time you ride, this will help you find the perfect tyre pressure for your preference.
Air Suspension Pressure
Similar to tyres many types of suspension also contain air. A special air pump will be required for this check and the pressures required are based off rider weight. This can usually be found on the shock (max pressure) or front forks (broken down to increments for riders weight). It is worth a quick pressure check before heading out for your ride as if your suspension has developed a leak your bike is not going to feel weird for your day of fun.
A quick brake check in the car park will ensure your brakes are working well and haven’t been contaminated. Knowing your brakes work properly will ensure you hit the trails with confidence. To do this ride along at a slow speed and pull your brakes. You will quickly establish if they feel normal or not. If they are contaminated they will feel like they lack in power. Please be careful not to throw yourself over the handlebars trying this!
Lube the Chain
Some people do this when they are doing their post-ride checks and maintenance, others do it as part of their pre-ride checks. The reason some people wait until just before they ride is because you can use lube to take into account the weather conditions, whether it is wet or dry would depend upon the lube to use on your bike. To apply this, put the nossle on the chain and spin the cranks backwards. Once you have completely rotated the chain back to where you started, grab a rag and place around the chain and again rotate the cranks backwards. This will ensure you clear up any excess lube. When applying try not to get excess lube on any other areas as this affects the brakes.
Now your pre-ride checks are done and you're heading out on the trail, you may see many people wearing backpacks or bum bags. Yes, bum bags are cool in mountain biking, go figure! If you were to take some time and go through the packs then you will see a lot of the same items all designed to assist the rider. Here we cover the bare essentials;
Water and Snacks
Mountain biking is a physically demanding sport, not surprisingly the most important items a rider carries are high-energy snacks and water. Snacks serve as a much-needed boost of energy if you find yourself fatigued. Alternatively part way through your ride you can choose a nice location to have a rest refuel.
With the amount of bolts holding your bike together and the rough terrain and changing weather conditions it is not unusual for a bolt to two to come loose during your ride. A multi-tool can quickly get the bolt tightened up again and you can continue your ride as if it never happened.
Spare Inner Tube
Whether you are riding tubeless or with inner tubes when out on the trail it is quicker to just change the inner tube than to attempt a repair. Quickly swapped over you will be back riding in no time and repairing the puncture can wait until you are back at home.
Tyre levers enable you to remove the tyre off the rim. Whilst we have seen people with super strong forearms manhandle the tyre from the rim in order to fix a puncture, tyre levers make the task a lot easier.
Fresh from changing your inner tube or alternatively if you have misjudged your tyre pressure and don’t have enough air in it, a small pump comes in really handy.
A Spare Chain Link
Chain issues are one of the most common maintenance areas of mountain biking. A spare link can almost always get a damaged chain back together. Even if it is just a quick fix to get you back to the car.
The next two aren’t specific mountain bike products but with a bit of creativity will help you get going again. Even if it is just to limp back to the car.
Cable Ties & Strong Waterproof Tape
These two items can be used for a whole host of fixes, as a temporary fix to keep the bike in one piece until you get back to your car.
This list is by no means exhaustive, it may be that you want to add a few more items to your essential list once you get into the swing of things but it stands as a great starting point.
In our next article we will discuss the post-ride checks and maintenance. This will not only keep your bike in great working order but also keeping your bike clean and well maintained will help the longevity of parts.