How to Maintain a Mountain Bike

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit
Here is some advice to help you keep your mountain bike in peak condition - it is a good idea to try to follow these steps after every ride. The article covers the whole bike from saddle to brakes, to help you methodically follow through the checks. The whole process should take about 35 - 40 minutes, once you are familiar with it.


  1. Remove accessories on the top of the handlebar. This includes the lights, bell, etc. If your bike has V brakes, release the brake [cables]. [Starting with the front brake], push the two brake calipers into the rim of the wheel to release the tension from the cable. Then lift the brake cable up out of the retaining clip and repeat with the rear brake cable.
  2. Turn the bike upside-down. To protect your grips and saddle, lay out an old towel or something similar on the ground (or fork out the hundred bucks or so for a repair stand). Standing beside your bike, lean over it and grip the frame with your hands - one hand on the down tube at the front and the other hand on the seat post at the rear of the frame. Then lift up the bike and turn it over.
    • Alternate method: Hang the bike from the saddle. To protect the underside of your saddle, pad the tree branch, rafter, etc. Hanging the bike right-side-up is a better method as the chain sits in a specific location due to gravity pulling it down.
    • Another Alternate Method: String it up. Hang the bike from a balcony by stringing rope around the handle bars, up to the balcony, and down around the seat stay.
  3. Remove the wheels. Open the quick release lever on the front wheel axle and lift the wheel out. Remove the rear wheel - open the quick release and, as you lift up the wheel, ease the rear cassette housing out of the dérailleur mechanism (the part with the two cogs).
  4. Clean the drive system. Using the brush and some soapy water, start by cleaning the rear derailleur, working the brush into all the moving parts.
    • Turn the pedals to move the chain round and, holding a wet soapy rag around the chain on the rear derailleur, give it a good wash down.
    • Use the brush with plenty of water to clean the chain ring (the front cog where the pedals attach). Then give it a wipe down with a dry cloth.
    • Taking a wet rag, wash the pedals and then wash the cranks (the bars that hold the pedals on).
    • Finally, clean the front gear mechanism, working the rag into all the moving parts to clean them thoroughly.
  5. Wash the underside. Start by washing the front forks with a rag and soapy water, wiping them dry with a cloth as you go. In the same way, clean the centre and rear of the frame.
    • Wash the handlebars with a soapy rag, paying particular attention to the brake lever and gear assembly.
    • Using a damp rag, wash the top tube or crossbar, making sure to clean under the brake and gear cables that run down its length.
    • Finally, clean the underside of the saddle.
  6. Wash and remount the wheels. Take a wet rag and start by cleaning the rims of the front wheel. Give the spokes a wash-down and clean the axle. If you have a disk brake system, use a degreaser, such as muck off or white lightning to clean the discs.
    • Drop the front wheel back into the forks and tighten the quick release - not too tight, not too loose. When you have tightened the lever to the correct pressure, the quick release will leave a mark on your palm for a few seconds. If you need to adjust the tension of the quick release, turn the nut on the far side of the axle clockwise to tighten it, or anticlockwise for less tension.
    • Take the rear wheel and clean the rims, spokes, axle and rear disk rotor if you have one, as you did with the front wheel.
    • Clean the gear cassette on the rear wheel carefully. Use the lever end of the bike brush to remove any stones between the teeth, then work the brush into the cogs, using plenty of soapy water. This will remove any build-up of lubricant or dirt.
    • Drop the rear wheel back into the frame, easing the gear cassette back into the derailleur assembly. Tighten the quick release.
  7. Check the wheels. Spin each wheel, making sure it turns freely and that you can see that its straight (true). As the wheel rotates, hold your fingers against the rims, to feel if there are any dents or knocks on either side.
    • If you have disc brakes, also check both sides of the rotors on each wheel for true. Make sure it looks smooth and straight. Do not touch the rotor.
    • If you have V brakes, watch the wheel while its spinning, to make sure that the brake blocks do not make contact with the rims.
    • Check the spokes by turning the front wheel slowly and letting your hand fall over each spoke as the wheel rotates. Every spoke should feel taut but if one feels sloppy, it will need tightening.
    • While the bike is still upside down, check the tire pressure and that both tires are in good condition. If you find any major damage, replace the tire before your next ride.
  8. Check the drive system. Check both pedals by spinning them, making sure that they turn freely and that there is no noise or grinding from worn bearings. If there is, youll need to replace the bottom bracket.
    • Turn a pedal to rotate the crank and listen out for any noise or signs of wear from the bottom bracket (the assembly that holds the cranks and chain ring in place). If you find any, it will need further maintenance.
    • Check the front gear mechanism. Turn the pedal and move the chain up and down the gears using the gear lever. Youre looking and listening for signs of snagging, which happen when the mechanism is misaligned and needs adjusting. Do a similar check with the rear derailleur and gear cogs.
  9. Wash the topside of bike. Stand by your bike and grab the frame with both hands as you did before to turn your bike back up the right way. Then lean the bike against a wall.
    • Using a clean rag and soapy water, wash the handlebars and the headset (the part where the handlebars meet the frame). Take care to clean well around the brake and gear levers. Wash the tops of the forks on the front wheel and, if you have front shocks, give the seals a good wipe down.
    • Moving to the centre of the bike, clean the down tube and the top tube or crossbar.
    • Open the quick release to remove the saddle. Wash the saddle tube and the seat post on the frame, then remount the saddle, tighten the quick release and give the saddle a wipe over.
    • Finally, clean the seat stays (the two tubes that join the seat post to the rear axle) and wash around the bottom bracket.
  10. Check the brakes. Test your brakes by standing in front of your bike, holding the handlebars. Apply the front brake and pull the bike towards you. The front wheel should not move at all and if you continue to pull, the rear wheel should lift up off the ground; otherwise, the brake will need adjusting.
    • Do the same test with the back brake. When the brake is applied, the rear wheel shouldnt turn round and if you keep pulling, it should skid. If not, the rear brake will need adjusting.
    • Also, look at the brake levers - the brakes should start to grip at about 1/3 pull. The levers should not touch the handlebars. If they do, your brakes need adjusting.
    • If you have disc brakes, check that they are in good condition by standing in front of the bike and looking down inside the disk brake caliper (the bit that fits around the brake rotor). Apply the front brake and you should see both brake pads move across equally to clamp the rotor. If they dont, this indicates a problem. Repeat the above test with the rear disk brake, standing where you can see down into the rear caliper.
    • If you have V brakes, check the brake blocks for signs of wear. They should be free of graphite build-up, and the grooves in the pad should be deep; otherwise, theyll need replacing.
    • With V brakes, also check both brake cables for signs of wear or fraying. Start at the brake levers on the handlebars. Follow the cables along the top tube, then check the other end of both cables where they meet the brake calipers. If you find any signs of wear or fraying in your brake cables, they will need replacing.
  11. Check the headset. Stand beside your bike, and holding the headset with your left hand, apply the front brake with your right hand and rock the bike back and forth. Make sure you cannot feel any slack or hear any knocking in the headset. If you can, your headset will need adjusting.
  12. Lubricate the drive system. Place some rags over the rear wheel rims underneath the derailleur, to catch any oil drips.
    • Rotate the pedal anticlockwise to move the chain around. Holding the spray lubricant vertically, spray the chain for a few seconds as it passes over the rear gear cogs.
    • Moving the chain with the pedal, spray the teeth on the inside of the chain ring near the cranks. Rotate the pedal again and finally, lube the outside of the chain ring in the same way.
  13. Check the lights. Now reattach the lights and any other accessories you took off. Turn the front light on, making sure the light is bright, then do the same check with the back light.


  • Attach a bike tool kit on your bike for every time you ride - it could save you a whole lot of time and frustration. Items should include: A bike specific multi-tool, an extra tube (store in an old sock to use the sock to work on your bike to keep your hands clean), tire levers, and a CO2 inflater if you dont have a pump.
  • To fix any problems with your wheels, you need specialist equipment, so visit your local bike shop for professional maintenance.
  • Try using a leaf blower on low setting (if available) in conjunction with a dry cloth to remove excess water after cleaning your bike, making sure your bike is secure before attempting this method.


  • If you ride your bike with a misaligned gear mechanism or derailleur, the chain can easily jump off the cogs.
  • Never let your brake pads wear down to the point where they scrape the rims.
  • Dont ride with dim lights - replace the batteries if necessary.
  • Using water on many of the parts listed above is likely to cause rust.

Things You Will Need

  • 1 bike-mounted tool bag
  • 1 tyre (tire) lever set
  • 2 replacement inner tubes
  • 1 puncture kit
  • 1 chain splitter
  • few spare chain links
  • 1 folding Allen wrench and screwdriver set
  • 1 spoke adjuster
  • 1 shock pump
  • 1 spray bike lubricant
  • 1 bucket of warm soapy water
  • 1 combination bike brush
  • 1 wet rag
  • 1 dry cloth

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations

  • VideoJug A video detailing mountain bike maintenance. Source of some information on this page. Shared with permission.

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Maintain a Mountain Bike. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

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