How to Tune Up a Mountain Bike in 10 Easy Ways

Planning to take your mountain bike for a ride? You’d hate it if you ended up with a broken chain or a flat tire at the top, right?

Imagine after all those hours of riding to the top only to end up having grease all over your face and clothes because the chain broke.

Or having to put in more effort in pumping a tire just so you can ride back down. Or worse, what if the only thing you could do is carry your bike all the way? (oh, the horror).

Here’s how to tune up your mountain bike for a safe and smooth ride each time.

How to Tune Up a Mountain Bike

Tires

If you do not want your tire to give you a comfortable and smooth ride and stop quickly every time you brake or during emergencies, the first thing to check is the treading on the tire.

Is it peeling off? Then you need new tires but if not, or the wear-and-tear is minimal, you are good to go as tires don’t give in unless the treading is completely worn.

A few other things to keep an eye out for are the threading around the casing and the condition of the sidewall.

Another thing you want to avoid is a flat tire and for that make sure you check the tires beforehand for any tears or thorns stuck into them. Have tubeless tires? Great work, just make sure you top them up with a sealant.

My pick for it is the Muc-Off No Puncture Hassle. Not the cheapest but well for the money (punctured tires, not anymore).

Wheels

Turn your bike upside and give the wheels 4-5 spins. In case you notice any side wobbles or vertical hops you either need to replace the hub bearings or readjust them. Hubs should neither be too tight nor too loose. Squeezing the spokes is a great way of knowing quickly if the bearings are loose or not.

A broken/cracked axle could be another reason for the wobble. You also want to make there aren’t any cracks (even a minute one) around the meeting point of the rim and nipple. In case you notice any fault or are having trouble adjusting the wheels, get help from a professional.

Brakes

While turning the wheels did you hear any squeaking? The good news, your brakes have passed the first hurdle. But if you do hear any screeching or squeaking sound, the brake calipers need to be readjusted

Also, check that the brake rotors aren’t bent. If it is, don’t worry, the solution is easy peasy, though you will need a wrench or a rotor alignment tool for it.

Lastly, the brake pads should not be worn out if you want the braking to be effective and quick. In case you notice tears, scratches, etc. replace the brakes pads immediately.

Drivetrain

Want to ride your bike fast? Well, then running this check on your drivetrain is a must (because you ain’t going anywhere with a poor drivetrain).

To check that the drivetrain is functioning optimally, firstly, shift through the gears and don’t move the shift levers. Was there any popping? Did it miss a level? If not, you should have no trouble on the road.

One thing I hate is the chain coming off while riding and I am sure you do too. So make sure you check the chain for any wear and tear. I use a chain checker for the task and you should too (trust me, makes your life way easier for the money it costs).

Oh, and don’t forget to lubricate the chain and degrease the drivetrain for smooth operation.

Suspension

The very next thing to take care of your MTB bike is to check and maintain the suspension system installed in it. For that purpose, analyze the suspension stanchions of your bike and check whether there are any scratches or nicks present on it.

Next, take a clean rag and wipe off any dirt or foreign debris on the suspension forks seal. Check for any cracks of fluid build-up as well.  If you see any cracks or build-up, you’d need to rebuild the fork of your bike.

Another important thing you need to check is to adjust the sag and air pressure of both rear and front shocks according to your preferences.

Once you are done cleaning and checking, cycle both the fork and the rear suspension system multiple times until you find ideal sag adjustment settings.

You could then adjust the air pressure of the suspension accordingly.

Tuning the Cockpit

Talking about the cockpit, i.e., the stem, handlebar, and bike seat post, they do not need daily maintenance.

However, that doesn’t mean you should not tune them at all. Inspecting the bike’s cockpit could keep it away from the damage and increase its lifespan as well.

Starting with the basics, remove the seat post of your MTB bike and re-grease the seat tube. If the frame is made up of carbon, use the carbon paste to avoid any problem.

Similarly, remove the handlebar and check whether it’s over clamping or not. You can also analyze and check for deep gouges as they can cause an inevitable failure down the line.

Last but not least, after tuning the cockpit, keep the stem straight while reinstalling the handlebars. Readjust the seat post and tighten everything with the help of bike tools available at your disposal.

Adjust the position of the brakes afterward and enjoy riding anywhere you want without facing any issue.

Shift and Brake Lines

Checking the housing of the derailleur for any signs of wear and tear will help you with the tuning of your bike.  See where the cables get stuck within the housing and replace the frayed accessories if needed.

For tuning the brakes, you need to analyze the lines and check whether there are any problems with them or not. In case if you see any damage, either repair them or get them replaced according to your budget.

MTB Brake Lines Tuneup

Examining the Frame

After you check your bike’s shift and brake lines, please take a deep breath and start checking its frame.

It’s a no-brainer that in most bikes, the shift housing and the brake lines are allowed to rub against the frame that could cause chewing problems. 

If that’s the case, applying protective tape will keep the housing from excessive rubbing. Other than that, discreetly examine the downtube and the chainstays of the frame and look out for any other damaging signs on the frame.

In case if you ride a full-suspension mountain bike, you should check the suspension pivot and shock bushings of the bike and adjust them according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Getting Frame Fasteners

Although tuning the mountain bike is possible with the help of some essential tools, including a wrench and a screwdriver.

We’d recommend getting a set of frame fasteners dedicated for your bike. The whole set should include all the necessary tools you will need shortly to adjust different parts of your bicycle without any hassle.

We’d also suggest keeping the tools that your bike’s manufacturer recommends so that tightening or adjustments are made without causing any damage.

Prepare Your Gear

Last but not least, after you tune your bike, take a quick check on your other bike gear.

That would include adjusting the cleats on your biking shoes, checking your helmet for any cracks or damage, and cleaning the hydration pack before you jumpstart with your adventure.

Organize everything in your backpack and make sure that you keep some snacks and bars in it to keep yourself energized during the venture.

Final Takeaways:

Keeping your mountain bike tuned and properly maintained will not only save it from damage, but you’ll be able to enjoy a smooth riding experience with it.

Start with analyzing the tires, wheels, frame, and drivetrain, followed by checking and maintaining your bike’s suspension, brake lines, derailleur, and cockpit.

Always keep a gear, including necessary tools and bolts, along with the backpack before you hit rough terrain on the way.  Check your helmet, shoes, and other biking gear as well. It will allow you to enjoy your ride without facing any problems.

Good Luck!!

DIY
Photo of author
Written By Robert Gibbons
From riding to school since the age of 13, attending BMX races and events with his dad to himself conquering 50+ trails across the globe. For Rob, his Giant Stance 29 2 2020 is the friend that makes everything better. He is also a proud member of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

Leave a Comment