The Gear I Grab: Six Easy Steps To Tune Up Your Bike After Winter

As the days start to get longer the snow begins to melt and the temperature starts to rise. This is the universal signal that it’s time to put your skis away and pull your mountain bike out for the beginning of the season. I know you wanna jump on your bike right away and go tear it up on some of these fresh trails but there’s a few things you should do before riding your bike. It’s important to check over your bike at the beginning of the season and make sure that you’re starting off with a dialed in bike. This will help prevent mid session breakdowns and hopefully you won’t get stranded half way through your first ride. Below you will find the six steps you should take before your first ride this season.

Every item I used for todays tune up

1: The first thing I like to do is wash my bike. After four months of sitting in my garage it’s usually covered in dust and begging for a wash. When you wash your bike it prevents damage to seals and mating surfaces. It also helps you identify any problems that the dirt may be hiding. I like to say a bike that is put away clean is a happy bike. If you’ve never washed your bike before you’d like some easy tips check out this video from Seth’s Bike Hacks.

2: The next thing I usually do is top off my sealant and check my tire pressure. Tubeless tires on mountain road bikes require sealant to help plug small air leaks and punctures. This sealant only lasts approximately 6 to 8 months. I like to pull the valve core out of my valve stem and check the sealant level using a small piece of wire. Like I predicted the wire showed almost no sealant in my tire after the winter months. I added a couple ounces of Stan’s NoTubes Sealant to both tires and pump the pressure up to about 30 psi. I like to put the pressure higher than what I ride with when I put a new ceiling in to really help push that sealant through any parts of the tire that are leaking. Here’s a link to Stan’s NoTubes sealant so you can top off your sealant levels.

Checking the sealant level with a piece of wire

3: After I take care of the tires I move on to the chain and chain ring. Any grime that’s left over from the bike wash is wiped away with a paper towel. I wipe down all sides of the chain with the paper towel and then make sure the derailleur wheels are clean. I usually use a wax based chain lubricant but today all I had was T9. I use chain lube sparingly but frequently. This prevents a messy chain while still helping extend the life of your drivetrain components. You can buy my favorite chain lube here.

Adding T9 lube to the chain

4: If your bike has air suspension I can almost guarantee some air leaked out over the winter. At the beginning of each season I like to check the pressure in both my front and rear shocks and I use the specifications I have written down to reset the pressure. This makes sure that I have a consistent ride quality. You can use an online chart to find out what pressure your specific shock or fork should be set to or you can get a bike fit from a reputable bike fitter. I always recommend getting a bike fit. A bike fit can make all the difference in the world when it comes to rider comfort.

Pumping up the fork pressure

5: The next thing I check is my bike’s shifting. I take a short ride and see how it runs through the gears. If I have any issues I use the barrel adjuster on the shifter to adjust the cable length. If you’re having small shifting issues I usually recommend turning the barrel adjuster out half a turn and see if this helps. Cables are known to stretch overtime and this is usually the culprit of poor shifting. If derailleur adjustments don’t help, you probably had a bent derailleur hanger and need to replace it. Check out this video from park tool to learn all about derailleur adjustment.

6: After I get the bike shifting good I check on my brakes. My bike has hydraulic disc brakes. I make sure that I have good brake pressure and if I didn’t bleed the brakes at the end of the previous season I usually take that step now. If you’re interested in learning how to bleed your brakes check out this video from park tool. I also take this as an opportunity to check my pad life. As you can see there’s lots of break material left on the pads so replacement is not warranted at this time.

Bonus item: After I’m done all of the above steps I like to go through every nut and bolt on my bike and make sure that it’s still tight. I also like to feel any pivot points and inspect them for excess play or wear. This is a great time to service your suspension pivots, bottom bracket, or headset bearing.

Checking the tightness on the last bolt

And there you have it! You just got your bike ready for a great season of riding and with continued preventative maintenance you help your bike survive for many seasons to come. If you’re uncomfortable with any of these steps I’m sure your local bike shop will be happy to help you out. Do you do something different when tuning up your bike at the beginning of the season? Let me know in the comments below or reach out to me on any of my social media accounts.

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