Setting Your Tire Pressure
Riding your mountain bike with the appropriate amount of tire pressure can make a huge difference in how much control you have over your bike.
Setting your tire pressure too high will make for poor contact with the ground and also make your bike less controllable. Setting your tire pressure too low will make your tires unpredictable and also make them susceptible to pinch flats.
The appropriate amount of tire pressure in a mountain bike will vary between rider to rider and tire setup to tire setup. The conditions of your trail and the type of terrain your riding will also greatly impact what tire pressure you should be using in your tires.
The trick here is to find out exactly what mountain bike tire pressure works for you and your setup during normal conditions. After doing this, you can learn to adjust your pressure for different trails and types of terrain as needed.
You should start by finding a reliable pressure gauge or a pump with a pressure gauge. Then, use this same gauge or pump anytime you are making adjustments. A gauge can be very inaccurate, so if you switch around it you can make things much more difficult.
You should start with a higher pressure of around 40 – 50 psi. If you have a tubeless system, you should start lower, 30 – 40 psi. The more you weigh, the higher pressure you should start with. Try this pressure for a while and get a feel for how the tires take corners and loose dirt.
Drop the pressure by 5 psi in each tire and get a feel for how this new setup rides and how it compares to your previous setting. You should notice some improvement
in stability, and if you don’t, drop the pressure by another 5 psi.
You want to find the lowest pressure you can ride with without sacrificing pinch flat resistance. A pinch flat occurs when your tire rolls over an object then compresses
to the point where the tire and the tube get pinched between the object and the rim on the wheel.
With tubeless tire systems, you can run much lower air pressure, as you don’t have to worry about getting pinch flats. If you start to dent your rims, burp air out along the bead, or feel the tire roll under the rim during hard cornering, you’ve taken the pressure much too low.
Once you’ve found a comfortable setting for your tire pressure, learn what your tire feels like when you squeeze it with your hands. Once you know what your tires feel like you can always get the right air pressure – with any pump.
Spring Tune Up Tips
If you don’t ride in the winter, you’ve probably spent the winter months on the couch eating chips and watching television. Before you know it, spring will be here and a new season of mountain biking will begin. Even though your body may not be in shape, these tips will ensure that your bike is.
Before you take your bike out, check the wear and tear on your components and adjust them if its necessary. Start off with your chain. If you haven’t replaced it in a year or more, it’s time to do so. Over time, the individual parts in the chain will get worn out, increasing its effective length.
As this happens, the chain is no longer able to conform to the cog and the teeth of the chain ring, so it wears those teeth out to fit the profile of the chain. If you can replace the chain before it stretches too much you’ll save yourself from having to replace high priced cogs and chain rings.
Now, check the bearing surfaces. These include your bottom bracket, hubs, and the headset. Each of these should turn without a problem with no play in the system. Before checking the bottom bracket, make sure each cranking arm is snugged tight. Next, hold on to the crank arm (not the pedal) and wobble it back and forth. If you hear any clicking or if the crank arm binds, the bottom bracket needs to be adjusted.
Do the exact same thing with your hubs. Take the wheels off the bike, spin the hub axles, then feel for any free play or binding. If you feel play or binding, you need to make an adjustment. To check the headset, start off by putting the newly adjusted wheels back on the bike.
Now, grab the front brake and pull and push the handle bars back and forth. There shouldn’t be any play. If you lift the front end off the ground, the fork should turn very smoothly. If it feels rough, it needs to be either adjusted or replaced.
While your looking, check the condition of your cables and housing. The cables should be rust free and the housing shouldn’t be cracked or kinked. If you see any of this you should replace the offending device, as if you don’t your shifting and braking will be sluggish.
Last, you should inspect your brake pads. Most pads will have ridges or indicator marks that will let you know when they need to be replaced. Brake pads that are worn out will compromise both safety and braking efficiency.
Wheel truing is actually something that is very easy to do. Even if you have no experience with mountain biking or truing a wheel, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to accomplish it.
The first thing to do is make sure that none of your spokes are loose. To check, grab each spoke in turn and try to shake it back and forth. If the spoke wobbles, or makes pinging and grating noises, it’s loose. If it’s loose, add tension to the spoke by turning the spoke anti-clockwise with your finger and thumb pressure.
Keep turning and shaking until the noise is gone and the spoke doesn’t wobble or move. Move on to the next spoke until you’ve gone all the way around the wheel and checked them all.
Now, it’s time to see just how true the wheel actually is. Turn your bike upside down then spin the wheel to see where it comes closest to rubbing on the brake.
You may need to rotate the wheel backwards then forwards to locate the middle of the bulge on the wheel. Tighten the spokes which run on to the other side of the rim. If those spokes are already tight, you’ll need to loosen a few of the spokes which run to the bulge side of the hub.
Truing a wheel is easier than you may think, although it can be a little tough with some wheels. If you need to loosen spokes, be very careful that you don’t break them. They can be very tough to loosen on older mountain bikes.
Once you’ve got the tune ups out of the way, it’s time to go for a ride. With your mountain bike running better than ever, all you have to do now is have fun!