We pretty much do not think about mountain bike maintenance until this happens.

You are on the trail and your chain breaks, or more often than not you get a flat. Or your riding and your derailleur breaks. Or how about your brakes stop working. All of these things happened to us at Primal Quest Badlands.

How could we prevent this?

Well a little maintenance would have helped us.

Mountain bike maintenance is particularly important for the good all round performance of your bike, with cleaning probably being one of the most important aspects.

Not only will it help keep your bike looking good, it will also make you aware of any cracks and scratches that appear that could weaken the structure or functioning of the bike.

One of the benefits of cleaning and maintaining your bike is it enables you to become more familiar with you own bike and any strengths and weaknesses it may have.

To get yourself ready for a trouble free trip try these things.


Basically, after every ride, mountain bike maintenance and cleaning should be carried out.

Although you probably won't be in a place where you can give your bike a proper wash immediately you should keep a rag in your kit so that you can at least knock the worst of the mud off your bike off at a creek or stream until you are able to get back home.

Do not submerge your bike!

In a sleep deprived state we did this. It was not pretty for the bike later. It is not made to be put under water.

Once you are home you need to thoroughly clean your bike using a bucket of warm soapy water, a bike brush and rag.


Here is more extensive mountain bike maintenance list that you should make sure to carry out at least every 3 to 5 rides:

• First place the bike on its stand and wash it off, using warm soapy water; wash it from top to bottom, using cloths and a medium stiff brush.

• Dry the bike with a cloth and you can even use a hair dryer or leaf blower to dry it properly, this can prevent rusting.

• Remove both wheels and give the bike a good rinse with a hose, taking care not to place direct aim on the bottom bracket and headset (ball bearings for those of you that are new to biking).

• Take the wheels and straighten them in a truing stand or use the bike as a stand in the upside down position.

• Check hubs to ensure that they are well lubed and feel smooth

• Remove the derailleur cable from the frame guides and apply a light lubricant, this applies to both front and rear. • Check that brake pads are not worn and replace if necessary, don’t let them wear down to the point that they scratch the rims.

• Tighten the bottom bracket and headset if they are loose and check every bolt on the bike, even the bolts on the water bottle cage.

• You should pump the tires and lubricate the chain after every ride, get some rags and wipe the chain before and after you lubricate, this will remove excess dirt and lube.

Keeping the right tire pressure at all times will mean that your bike is always ready to go, it also prolongs tire life and protects the tires from flats.

Depending upon rider and terrain and tire the correct psi is around 35 to 70. 35 is for rough terrain and up to 70 would be for jeep roads.


Make sure your frame is not cracked. Be sure to check near the welded areas. Do not ride a cracked frame. One team we know had their bike break in half!

Clean your frame with warm soapy water. There is no need for harsh chemicals on it, you do not want to break it down.

You should clean your frame after every ride. Just a simple water hose and soapy rag will work!


Riding without brakes was quite interesting for Chris my teammate. He would scream downhill and use his feet and body to stop. Talk about scary! You want your brakes to work.

Clean the rims by wiping them down. Water and soap is perfect. Be sure no oil is on the rims.

Then make sure the pads are clean and that you have plenty of pad left. If not get them replaced. You do not want to lose your brakes screaming down a hill, such as Robyn Benicassa did in one race. She finished the race but had a horrible crash.

Also make sure the pads are lined up correctly. You do not want them touching the rims and you want them even. The tension is your preference.

If you've had your brake cables a couple of years it is time to change. It is a very cheap fix, $10 or less, and really helps the brakes.


It is very important to buy the right lube. At Primal Quest we were desperate for lube as our chains were so hard to turn and screaming at us. We used some lube that was for cars and not bikes.

While in the short term it helped, our bikes were a mess. It took many washes and a product called White Lightning to get it off! I would recommend keeping White Lightening in your box on a multi-day race. It breaks down the dirt and grease and you just wipe the bike clean.


Turn your bike upside down and generously lube the chain. Rotate the pedals backwards to apply the lube. Be sure and wipe off any excess.


Lube the pivot points on the derailleurs.


If you have clipless you can lube the release mechanism. This will keep you from getting stuck, which I have done before!

Brake Mechanism, Shifters and all Metal Pieces

Everywhere there is a joint or screw you want to place some oil. Using a needle (that they use for shots) is a great way to apply this. Any screws, spoke connections or joints needs oil.

Do not lube you cables.

Be sure to wipe excess oil off the bike. Do not lube your disc brakes.


The next time you do mountain bike maintenance check your supplies for the next ride.

You want to carry 1-2 tubes (even if you ride tubeless), a tire wrench, a multi-tool, co2 or tire pump, duct tape (for emergency fixes), and a chain tool and link.

Your bike should be equipped with a bike mounted tool kit that should be equipped with:

• Tire lever set

• Replacement inner tubes x 2

• Puncture kit

• Chain splitter

• Spare chain links

At home you want to have

• Folding Allen tools and screwdriver set

• Spoke adjuster

• Shock pump

• Spray lubricant

You can check on-line for good prices on bike maintenance kits or check out your local store. You'll likely get a better price on-line however, but you do miss that help you get in the store.

Which ever you choose mountain bike maintenance we'll keep your bike rolling. Take care of your bike and it will take care of you.

To learn even more maintenance in great detail try the book

The Complete Guide to Bike Servicing.

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