Repairing Mountain Bikes

It would seem that bikes that can cost upwards of two or three thousand dollars would include more information about mountain bike repair than a few pages in booklet form. Regardless of this lack of information, every rider needs to become familiar with a few of the basic needs of mountain bike repair simply to maintain their bike in good working order. After all, a wheel falling off during a downhill run can have devastating effects on the rider as well as the bike.

One of the first things everyone needs to know about mountain bikes is how to keep them clean. This involves not only the tires and handlebar grips, but also the wheels to prevent erosion and the chain to help detect potential breaks. To minimize the need for mountain bike repair, preventive maintenance can save time and money along the trail, and knowing how to perform a few simple repair procedures can get you back on the trail in a hurry.

Having a chain tool in the toolbox can be helpful if a link needs to be replaced and knowing what lubrication works best under the conditions in which you ride, also helps make chain breaks less frequent. One of the most common mountain bike repair procedures is fixing a flat tire. With mountain bikes, especially those with several gears, adjustments to the chain ring are usually required after the back wheel has removed for tire repair and then replaced.

While few parts on any bike will last forever, especially under the conditions in which most mountain bikes are ridden, simple steps can prevent the need for extensive mountain bike repair procedures. Like oil in a car’s engine can prevent the need for a new engine, keeping a bike’s brake cables lubricated can prevent them from snapping. When the brakes are needed and the cable is rusty and frayed, it can cause them to fail. This can lead to not only needing more repairs on the bike, but can also result in personal injury to the rider.

Listening to the bike, more accurately the noises that may be heard can often offer hints of needed mountain bike repair. A slight rubbing noise may be the result of the tire hitting a brake pad, or a steady sliding noise may indicate problems with the rotor on dick brakes. A simple adjustment may cure these issues before mo extensive mountain bike repair becomes necessary.

Maintain The Chain A Necessary Bike Skill

The chain is the crucial element of a bicycle – if it breaks, you aren’t going anywhere. So proper maintenance is essential.

Of all the components on your bike, the chain is the most important. No chain….no go!

Proper chain maintenance will extend the life of your chain – although any chain should be replaced after you’ve put 1000 miles on it. Don’t use a chain any longer that necessary – if its rusted or stretched, it’s time to get a new chain.

A bike chain is put together from hundreds of precision-machined parts, consisting of pins, plates and rollers. If it gets full of gunk it will negatively impact your biking experience, and not do your cogs much good either.

The easiest way to take care of the chain is simply to keep it lubricated. Of course – too much of anything is a bad thing. You want the chain lubricated, but the lubrication itself does attract grit, so you don’t want to use too much of it.

If you’ve ridden your bike through a trail full of mud, you’ll want to clean it as soon as you return home.

Cleaning a chain

It’s a hassle to take the chain off your bike, but you can certainly do it if you want to. However, in most cases it works just to clean it while its still on the bike. Simply spray degreaser (which you can get at your local bikeshop) onto the chain, the derailleur, the cogs and th echain ring. Let the degreaser do its thing for about 20 minutes – then use a rag or stiff-bristle brush to clean off the gunk. Then, simply hose it down. Then, dry it. Then, lube the chain.


Wipe and lubricate your chain before every ride – it’s that simple. Lubrications are made from various ingredients – there are wax-based lubes and there are wet lubes. It’s a good idea to keep a notebook in which you record which lube you use and how long your chain lasts. In this way you’ll find out which lube works best for your bike and your type of riding.

Chain Suck

Ever experienced this? This happens when the chain doesn’t release from the bottom of the chainring and pulls up instead – rather than running straight to the lower rear derailleur. Don’t blame this on the front derailleur – it’s caused by a worn chain.

Chain wear indicator

The rule of thumb is to replace a chain after you’ve put a thousand miles on it, but if you don’t have an odometer on your bike and don’t keep track of how many miles you ride, what can you do? Simple. Purchase a chain wear indicator, and use it on a week-to-week basis. You want to replace the chain as soon as it “goes out of spec” because if you don’t, it will wear down the cogs on the drive train and you’ll have to replace that as well, as the new chain you eventually do get probably won’t fit.

How To Use A Chain Tool

Once your mountain bike chain becomes damaged, you should immediately replace it with a new one. It is possible however, to repair a broken chain using a chain tool. For this very reason, most mountain bikers travel with a chain tool.

Your chain has three basic components – the metal side plates, the rollers between the side plates, and the rivets, or pins which go through the rollers and help to hold the plates together. These pins allow the rollers to freely turn as the chain moves around the cogs.

If your chain happens to break, you’ll need to remove the broken link and replace it with a spare link. To do this, simply reattach the two ends of the broken chain and ride on a shorter chain until you can get it replaced.

To remove a broken link of chain, place it in the chain tool. Now, turn the tool counter clockwise until the rivet pin of the chain tool touches the chain rivet. Continue to turn the tool until the pin pushes out of the roller. Be very careful, as you want to stop turning when the pin is right at the edge of the roller, before it moves through the outer side plate.

Now, turn the tool in the other direction, and back it out of the roller. Set the tool to the side, then work the chain very gently from side to side and extract the inner side plates and roller.

Now is the time to re-route the chain through the bike. You may want to have a chain retaining tool or some to help you hold the chain in the right spot as you route and repair it.

Now that the broken link has been removed and you’ve re-routed the chain, you’re ready to insert a new link or simply connect the links that were beside the broken one. The process here is the same – align the two ends so that the link with the inner side plates will fit inside the link with the pin and outer side plates. Now, use the chain tool to push the pin inward until it’s positioned evenly between the side plates.

The easiest way to learn how to do this or feel comfortable doing it is to have someone show you, then actually practice with a chain and a chain tool. You’ll have no trouble at all making a temporary repair in a mountain bike chain once you’ve seen it done by a professional and practiced it yourself a few times.

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