Keeping Your MTB Wheels in Top Shape for Beginners!
Inevitably, your MTB bike is going to get dirty - in fact, if it's not getting messy from time to time, you might not be riding in the best places!
However, if you're new to MTB or off-road biking, you won't necessarily know all there is to know about keeping your wheels in tip-top condition.
As a rough guide, you want to clean your bike after every few rides and more often if you've been out getting soggy in the great British weather. BUT there are some dos and don'ts when it comes to cleaning equipment.
Power washers might seem your easiest bet, but you'll want to steer clear as high-powered jets can cause chaos to your frame and damage your bearings beyond repair.
That said, modern MTB rides are built well, so with a few tips from the Get Dirt Box team, there's very little chance you'll break anything, and a little TLC goes a long way to extending the lifespan of your bike!
MTB Bike Maintenance Guidelines
OK, we'll start with the general upkeep bits and pieces. You don't need to be a master mechanic, but it's worth knowing where the components fit back together after a decent clean.
Here are your essentials:
1. Lubricate and clean your drivetrain.
If you don't, you'll get a rattly sound from the chain as the metal rubs against the metal, wearing down any residual lubrication.
Replacing chains and sprockets gets pricey, so cleaning and lubricating the drivetrain is essential to keep it running smoothly.
Pick up a degreaser, quality bike oil, and maybe a rag, toothbrush or screwdriver if you've got some chunks of gunk to deal with. Remove all the dirt from the chain wheels, chain and sprockets, and then turn the cranks slowly, applying drops of oil inside each link.
Do it regularly, and you'll get faster each time!
NB, don't use WD40, no matter how many gallons you have knocking around. It's meant to be a rust dissolver, not an actual lubricant, so invest in a proper bike lubricant instead.
2. Don't let your tyres run flat.
It's pretty obvious, but if your tyre pressure is low, you're going to have to ride hard to get anywhere, and it's not a pleasant experience.
Flats happen, but a deflated tyre will blow out super easily with impact.
It would be best if you had a floor pump WITH a pressure gauge for this maintenance job, as it's not an easy measure to play by ear.
Riders should pump the rear tyre to a higher pressure than the front, and it's worth checking it every couple of weeks.
If you are taking a break (why oh why?), then don't neglect your tyres - if they deflate and are left like that, there's a risk they will crack, and you'll need to invest in a new set.
3. Make sure your bolts are tight enough.
So, you want your nuts and bolts to be secure but not too snug.
Let's explain - a loose nut is a nuisance.
It creates a banging sound and can cause real damage if it flies off. Still, at the same time, you don't want them so tight that you'll need an industrial angle grinder to remove them.
Modern MTB bikes usually have a max torque limit, and you can buy a tool to apply that same pressure which is a great way to ensure you’ve tightened everything properly.
4. Check the brakes.
Brakes are pretty essential, especially if you like to ride as fast as we do! You should always check your brakes are working correctly; test the brake pads and change them when required.
If you pull your brake and nothing happens, or you need to get right up to the handlebar to feel any resistance, you need your brake pads closer to the rim.
That's not a complex task - you can tighten the barrel if you've got one. By tightening the screws, the pad moves closer to the disc or rim.
Your brakes and pads should also be clear of oil and dirt since pads wear out much quicker if they're covered in muck.
5. Know how to fix a flat tube.
Our final essential maintenance chore is fixing a flat tyre.
It will happen.
Yep, you can take your bike to the local shop and ask them to repair the flats, but generally, preparing and patching a hole isn't a big job, and there are tonnes of videos out there showing you how to remount tyres when you're done.
If you're getting repeated flats on the same tyre, it's wise to check the tyres and the inside rim for any sneaky spokes or sharp objects causing the problem.
Essential Cleaning for MTB Novices
Next up, we're going to think about cleaning - all of those maintenance chores get easier and need doing less often if your bike is clean.
Here's a list of all the tools you might need:
- Clean rags
- Scrub brushes
- Washing up liquid
- Hose and spray nozzle
- Bike cleaning solution
Those are the basics, and you can get a lot more advanced for a sparklier clean, but let's keep it simple!
The good news is that basic washing up liquid is fine for a lot of the work, although you want a decent degreaser (and one designed for MTB bikes!) to make sure oil and residue aren't left behind.
We've talked about cleaning the drivetrain and chain, so you're good there and may as well clean the brake pads while you're at it!
You can clean frames and wheels quickly with fresh soapy water - don't be tempted to reuse the same solution, as it'll leave a grimy residue. You can also opt for a more sophisticated bike cleaner for a higher shine or buff out scratches and skims.
It's wise to use a dry cloth to polish everything down when you're done, and opt for fresh air in the sunshine if possible to dry the bike - make sure you've lubricated the chain too before you hop back on board!
Visit the Get Dirt Box advice guides for more details on a thorough clean and which bits of your bike to keep completely water-free, or check out our catalogues for our range of specialist MTB cleaning products to make it all that bit easier.