Back from the Dead – Rejuvenate Your Ride!
As we finish one year and start a new one, it’s easy to look back. Did you finally find that fitness you wanted? Did you claim your first podium? Did you manage that epic mountain ride you had always wanted to do. If not, then 2015 is the perfect year to get it done. As the snow starts to melt and the days get longer, the trails call us. – Our bikes, however, are hiding in damp garages and sheds, neglected and forgotten. What the hell? Who swapped my sweet machine for this creaking rusty pile of junk – my bike is dead? If your bike is clanking down the trail then it’s time to bring it back from the dead and get it dialled for the coming season. We check out a real world bike that has been left for the winter and run it through a preseason tune up.
“This is my Transition Covert. There are many like it but this one is mine. It used to ride amazingly, but now it sounds just terrible. The brake levers pull to the bar and there is vibration everywhere. The seat post wanders around like it is possessed and shifting is more of a lottery than command. I mostly use this bike on steeper, more technical trails and I have been meaning to fit some wider bars for the season (currently 710mm), so it would be great to go a little wider to see how that works.”
“There is certainly an awesome bike hiding under this creaky mess. It’s easy to see that this Transition Covert has been neglected over the winter, it sounds like a bag of hammers. It’s clear that the chain is rusty and worn, the bottom-bracket bearings and bushings are all shot and the headset is dry as a bone. The brakes and seatpost remote all feel spongy and need a bleed, and the brakes are mismatched with the rotors, which is not ideal. Cat wants to save some weight, and I can see the wheels are still setup with tubes, so we need to get some tubeless kits in there. The bike just needs a good clean, lube and some essential maintenance to get it rocking again.”</p.
Shock Pressure Check
Did you drink a lot of beers and eat a lot of pies during the Christmas vacation? Do you know how much pressure is in your shocks? Good suspension setup can make an average bike feel great, but bad setup can make a great bike feel terrible. If you have not checked your pressures in a while, it is time to get them sorted. Take some time to check the sag on your air springs (ensure that you are wearing full riding gear, including your hydration pack and tools if you ride with them). Make sure that you set the front and rear sag while standing up in the attack position. If you do not know your specific settings, consult your bike’s owners manual or speak to a suspension expert. We recommend starting from a setting of 20-percent sag in the fork and 25-percent sag in the rear. This will give you a good base setting to work from. More aggressive riders may want to decrease the sag a few percent, while those looking for a plusher ride may want to increase the sag 5 percent. If suspension setup is like witchcraft to you, please ask your local bike shop for more advice.
Tire Pressure check
When did you last check your tire pressures? Have a look now, as they are likely to be all over the place. Tire pressures are a very personal thing, but if they are wrong, they will make your bike feel truly terrible, robbing you of grip and control. If you do not have specific pressures you like, try 26 psi in the front and 28 in the in the rear as a starter, and work from there. Less pressure equals more grip, but less sidewall stability. Take a pump out riding and experiment to find your sweet spot, and once you have them write those magic numbers down.
Get that ride clean
The first thing needed is to give the bike a proper clean — not just a ‘knock the lumps off’ kind of clean. Get in there with the brushes and return your bike to its former glory. Not only will it get your stoke back when your bike shines like new, but it will also help to reveal any problems that need sorting.
Muc-Off 8 in 1 Cleaning Kit, Cost: £40, More Information: muc-off.com
New cable Inners and outers
If your shifters are crunching up and down the cassette or not functioning smoothly, this inexpensive investment will transform your ride. Replacing both the inner cables and outers will return your drivetrain to machine-gun precision. However, prepare to have your patience tested if you have internal cable routing.
Standard Shimano Shift Cable and Outer, Cost: £15, More Information : Any good bikeshop
It is important to check your chain length regularly. If it has stretched too far, you are simply wearing away your drivetrain. If this goes on too long you will need to replace your chain, chainring and cassette, an expensive mistake. To avoid this big repair bill, check your chain length frequently and replace your chain as soon as it shows signs of wear. This will prolong the life of your expensive cassettes and chainrings.
SRAM PC1051 (10 Speed), Cost: £24, More Information: sram.com
When was the last time you serviced your suspension? Do your shocks wheeze and fart their way down the hill? Is your fork full of mud and grime? Modern bike suspension is sophisticated kit and needs some tender loving care. If you are mechanically minded, we recommend regular fluid services for both your fork and shock. If your workshop kung fu is weak, then it is time to call in the experts and get your shock sent off for a service. Not only will you prolong the life of your suspension, but your bike will also feel amazing.
Does your bike vibrate and clatter down the trail? If so, your shock bushings may have worn out. To find out, hold your rear wheel on the ground and rock the frame up and down from the seat collar. If you feel a knocking movement, your shock bushing may need replacing. These sacrificial metal bushings need replacing often, and are very inexpensive. When they wear out, your bike will feel truly terrible to ride.
Standard shock bushings, Cost: Around £5, More Information : Any good bike shop
Before your first ride of the season, check to ensure everything is tight with a thorough bolt check. Move systematically from the front to the rear of the bike, and check that everything is properly torqued to the manufacturer’s recommendation. Pay special attention to frame pivot bolts and the derailleur mounts, as these are notorious for working loose.
Seatpost bleed or new cable
If you have a dropper seatpost that has developed a mind of its own, popping up and down like a demented yo-yo, it is time for some maintenance. If you have a hydraulic post, a simple bleed is often enough to get it working again. If you have a cable-operated post, it’s time for a new cable inner and outer.
Bleed or new cable, Cost: Around £10 – 15, More Information : Any good bike shop
Just like putting on a brand new pair of socks, there is no better feeling than grabbing a hold of fresh new grips. If your old grips are tattered and worn, a new set will give you a lot more grip if conditions get wet and rowdy. This five-minute fix will also make your bike look really pimp and make you want to ride faster.
Hope Lock – On Grips, Cost: £25, More Information: hopetech.com
If you are not already enjoying the benefits of tubeless tires, you are really missing out. Fewer punctures, lighter weight and more grip are just some of the many benefits. Often considered witchcraft by the tubed brigade, tubeless is relatively easy to setup, though you should expect to be covered in sealant the first time. With practice it soon becomes very easy. The Stans No Tubes Kit is the easiest way to lose the tubes and comes with everything you need for two tires.
Stans No Tubes Standard Tubeless Kit 2015, Cost: £55, More Information: notubes.com
If your bar is shorter than 720 millimeters, then the upgrade to a wider bar will transform your enjoyment in technical terrain. If you want to save weight, fitting a carbon bar is relatively cost-effective, and most offer a more comfortable ride. We really like the badass looks and the sweep and feel of the 800-millimeter Joystick Analog Carbon Bar. It has been race and Rampage tested, which is good enough for our recommendation.
Joystick Analog Carbon Bar, Cost: £129.99, Weight: 223g, More Information: ridejoystick.com
New bottom bracket
Another common cause of vibration is a worn bottom bracket. To find out if yours needs attention, grab your crank arms and wiggle them laterally. If there is any play, your bottom bracket is worn and is likely to make your bike feel like a bag of spanners on the descents.
Bleed brakes and new pads and rotors
Before you go and get crazy on the trails, it is important to check your brakes. First remove the pads from the calipers and check for wear. If they are getting thin or look glazed, it’s time for new pads. Also check the rotors for bends and excessive thinning. If your levers pull to the bars, it’s time to get bleed them. If you do not have a bleed kit, your local shop should be able to help.
“Wow, the bike feels great now. All the vibration is gone and the bike feels really smooth. Switching to tubeless means I can run 2 – 4 psi less in my tires, improving grip without the worry of a pinch flat. I also like the wider bars, but will be cutting them down to 750 millimeters. It’s amazing what a difference the overhaul makes — my bike now feels good as new, and I am looking forward to getting out on the trails.”
Words & Pictures: Trevor Worsey