Considering that some of us are spending thousands of dollars on our bikes, we want them last as long as possible. There’s no consensus as to the standard frame life for bikes of any material, and most are built and tested to last longer than us if they don't sustain unusual or major impacts. A good bike will keep going for quite a long time if you keep the frame and components maintained. Here are some of our favorite secrets to double the lifespan of your mountain bike.
We know, it’s hard to resist stopping at the car wash and blasting the hell out of your bike after a muddy ride so it’ll look new again. However, resist the temptation to wash it regularly. When you do wash it, go easy on areas like the pivot points of the frame and the seals on your suspension where the uppers meet the lowers. Water can be forced into the bearings and displace or deteriorate grease. This can lead to a much quicker replacement of suspension and drivetrain parts.
The cables that help us stop and go will also need some care over the life of your bike. Gear cables stretch and tear naturally. This is usually a quick and cheap fix at the bike shop to swap a derailleur cable. However, remember to swap your gear cable housing every now and then as well. As it wears, your gear cable can increase friction against the derailleur cable, leading back to more stretching. This is also the case for those using cable brakes on their bike. Even if you don't, dirt and air can contaminate your brake lines leading to poor performance. If your brakes require either mineral oil or DOT brake fluid, you’ll want to give them a bleed at least once or twice a year and get some clean fluid in those lines.
Crashing is never a good thing, but it will inevitably happen. Check your body and limbs. Then look over your bike in a few areas. Make sure that your derailleur isn’t bent and that the lower cage isn’t pointed toward the spokes in your rear wheel. Squeeze your brake levers a few times to make sure you haven’t lost any pressure in the lines. Are your handlebars, brake levers, and saddle still in line and where they're supposed to be? If not, loosen them with an Allen key, line them up, and tighten back up again. Spin both wheels and check to make sure they’re still straight. Make sure that the brake rotors are straight as well.
This is one of the easiest tips to implement, and torque wrenches don’t cost a ton of money. Do a bolt check on your bike every few rides to look for anything that has come loose. You can find the torque specs in your owner’s manual. Jot them down for all the bolts on your bike on a small piece of paper to have for reference.Be careful not to over-tighten your bolts. Over-tightening bolts on your frame can strip some threads. Re-threading it at a shop may work, but there’s a chance it won’t, so stay on the safe side.
Your suspension is one of the most important parts of your bike, and it is the most expensive to replace if not cared for. Mud and dirt can gather around your wiper seals on the rear shock and the fork. Again, be careful with the pressure washer so you don't force water into the suspension. You're better off just brushing the dirt off the seals.
Another easy tip is to flip your bike upside down for 20 minutes before your ride so that the lubricant in your fork moves down toward the stanchions, where it's needed. Check the service interval from your suspension manufacturer and don’t neglect it. The last thing you want is your suspension running dry without lubricant. Generally, you’ll want to service the suspension once or twice a year.
Lubing your bike chain is another easy tip to follow. Just listen to your bike. If it sounds a little squeaky when you pedal away from your car and toward the trailhead, take another two minutes to turn around and lube it up real quick. Don’t over-lubricate, and wipe off any excess with a rag. Too much lubricant can invite more dirt and grime to your chain.
It’s also important to check your chain for stretch every few months. A chain wear indicator costs as little as $5-$10 and will let you know it’s time for a new chain. When the links and the teeth on your cassette don’t line up, you’ll lose the ability to shift gears properly, which can wear your cassette down even faster.
Another way that a bike will last you a bit longer is to spend a little more up front. Go with a model that comes with a better component line. Yes, it's more expensive, but in the end, when you're breaking fewer parts, you'll be glad you spent the extra money. Plus, a premium bike won’t hold your skills or confidence back. More confidence in your suspension and wheelset means you won't think twice when you want to try that big drop or rock garden. A well-maintained mountain bike can last you a lifetime. Treat your bike well and it will do the same for you.
Pat Stewart is a content marketer for MTBV.com - a site that specializes in writing detailed guides to help you make the most of your mountain bike vacations. Outside of work, Pat can usually be found riding the best trails that Colorado has to offer. For more, you can follow them on Facebook and Instagram. Getting ready for your next trip? Come explore our guide to mountain biking in Whistler to see why this should be your next mountain bike vacation.