Mountain Bike Maintenance Tips to Keep your Bike in Top Condition

Have you just bought a new mountain bike and don't know much about mountain bike maintenance?

  • Do you want to know how to clean and lubricate your mountain bike so it performs at its best?

  • Do you want some quick tips on how to do a preride inspection to know if your bike is functioning properly and ready to hit the trail?


If the answer to either of the above questions is yes, then read on for some great bicycle maintenance tips for keeping your mountain bike in top condition.

A Clean Bike is a Happy Bike

Two of the most important mountain bike maintenance tips I have learned have been keeping my bike clean and keeping my bike lubricated. Cleaning and lubricating my mountain bike not only makes my bike ride better, but it also prevents the need for costly mountain bike repair down the road.

A dirty bike often means I have had a really fun ride, but dirt, mud, and other debris cause problems with gears, bearings, and other bike components.

Not only is it important to clean your mountain bike, but it is important to clean it properly. Don't do what I did and spray the dirt off with a high pressure car wash hose. This may be a quick way to get off all the gunk, but I learned later that the high pressure forces water into the bearings, pivots, and frame tube, which causes major damage to the bike.

For more information on cleaning your mountain bike, please visit our page on Bicycle Cleaning.

The mountain bike chain requires special attention because cleaning it also involves degreasing it. Because of this, we have dedicated a special section that goes into more detail on cleaning the bike chain on our Bicycle Chain Cleaning page.

After cleaning your bicycle, it is very important to lubricate the chain and other moving parts. If this is mountain bike maintenance technique is done correctly and often enough, it reduces the need for heavy duty solvent cleaning.

Preride Inspection

It's a good idea to do a preride inspection before each ride to prevent injuries or bike malfunctions. The following are some quick mountain bike maintenance tips to make sure your mountain bike is ready for the trail.

Check your brake pads for excessive or uneven wear. Also, make sure the pads go flat against the rims (for V-brakes) or rotors (for disk brakes) when the brake lever is squeezed. Make sure you can't squeeze the levers all the way to the handlebar.

Spin the wheels and make sure there is no wobbling or rattling. If there is, the tire may not be on all the way or the wheel may need to be trued. A member of Mountain Bike Buzz, Ron from Australia, also relayed a great tip in this area, which is to check to make sure the bead of the tire is all the way in the rim. If the bead is not in all the way, it can also cause wobbling and other problems. The bead of the tire is the part that attaches to the lip of the rim. If you are having difficulties seating your bead on the rim, it can be helpful to inflate the tire to a higher pressure, making sure not to exceed the specified inflation range on the tire. This will often help to pop the bead into the rim and it will actually make a popping noise. Thanks to our viewer Ron for this great tip!

Make sure the tires have adequate air pressure (usually around 30 to 40 psi, depending on your weight and riding preferences) and check to see if they have cracks, cuts, or are unevenly worn.

Do a quick shift through the gears to make sure the bike is shifting smoothly.

Hold down the front brake and push the bike forward and back. The headset should be tight and not move or make noise.

Flat Tires


There have been times I have gotten a flat tire when I have been out on the trail. This is why I always have a spare tube with me and the tools for changing a flat.

It's a good idea to practice removing the wheels, putting the wheels back on the bike, changing a tube, and patching a tube (in case the new tube you put on also goes flat, which trust me it happens) before actually being out on the trail so this goes as smoothly as possible if you get a flat.

Problems with Shifting

Sometimes my bike doesn't shift smoothly. It will either skip gears or there will be a delay before it goes into gear. When this happens, I first make sure the derailleur pivots are lubricated so they can move freely.

If the problem continues, it is usually effective if I make a minor adjustment to the front or rear derailleur by turning the barrel adjuster. Most of the time, shifting problems occur with the rear derailleur and can be fixed by turning the barrel adjuster located on the derailleur itself or on the shifting cable on the handlebars.

If these simple mountain bike maintenance techniques do not solve your shifting problem, you may need to replace the bicycle cables and housing.

I have a really good book on mountain bike maintenance that walked me through this process step by step, called Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance icon. This is a great book for all kinds of mountain bike maintenance because it walks you through the process in a way that is easily understood and has lots of pictures.

Return to Mountain Bike Buzz home page

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