Awhile ago, I posted 6 Horrible Things People Do to Mountain Bikes. Let’s flip it the the positive side – here are some awesome things people do to and for their bikes. This list is for new folks … most longtime riders probably know this stuff. But if they’ve forgotten and it refreshes their memory, so much the better.
Add your thoughts in the comments, including your experience with these tips or what I missed. I plan to do a future post … “XXX More Awesome Things People do to Their Bikes.” If I include your tip, I’ll credit you and link to your blog or the site of your choice.
Pay Attention to the Chain
A bike’s chain needs attention. It needs to stay clean and lubed. I usually clean mine with a combination of old t-shirts, toothbrushes, a Park GSC-1 gear brush and Simple Green. That lineup also lets me care for the derailleur pulley wheels and the gaps between rear cogs (I know, I’ve just gone beyond the chain … but while you’ve got the tools out, might as well hit it all). From there, I use a decent lube. I dab a drop on each link and spin the gears while shifting for a few moments. I’ll let it all sit awhile, then come back with one of those old t-shirts to wipe the chain of excess lube.
And change the chain completely every so often. Bike shops have a tool that can tell you when the chain is starting to stretch too much. My rule of thumb: A new chain every 6 months is good for enthusiastic riders. If you’re diving in whole-hog, think about a chain every four months. It’s relatively cheap insurance – ride around with a stretched-out chain, and you just might have to change your cogs and chainrings, too. That’s ‘cause the stretched chain will cause oddball wear on those surfaces, and a new chain won’t mesh quite right with the remaining metal.
Dial in the Fit
Your bike might be better than you realize – you just might have to set up all wrong for your body. Manufacturers try to make bikes fit a broad range of people. But hey, we’re all individuals. Get some help from a knowledgeable shop. A fit expert might see ways to make the bike fit you, rather than make you fit the bike. That can mean a different stem or changing the length of your crankarms … or something cheap and simple as changing your saddle height or angle by a few millimeters.
A good fit can be pricey – I’ve seen some as high as $200, without the parts. But it could make you like your bike that much better. And you’ll have some knowledge for your next bike purchase … you might get a better deal swapping the stock parts out for different lengths/sizes at the time of purchase.
Take Care of Your Ass
Newer riders always, always, always complain about their asses being raw. It’s part of the deal. But you can make it a bit better. First, get yourself some good bike shorts. Don’t skimp – there’s a world of difference between $40 bike shorts and an $80 bike shorts. More expensive models have more panels to fit formly to your undercarriage. The padded part – aka chamois – is also nicer in the more expensive shorts. Disclosure – I’m talking about form-fitting shorts here. I know nothing about baggy shorts. I don’t roll that way.
OK, now let’s talk saddles. This is a tough proposition. There are dozens of companies making dozens of legit saddles. Each will be just right for someone, but not for everyone. Borrow your buddy’s saddle, if possible. Or see if your local shop has a loaner program.