How Often Should you do a Little Mountain Bike Maintenance?

A bike mechanic working on one of those 'skinny' no-mountain bikes...

A local mechanic working on one of those skinny bikes. Image via Wikipedia

So, apparently mountain bikes require maintenance. Yep, “Outrageous,” I hear you cry, that’s what I thought too. I buy this expensive, good quality piece of kit and it wont run for ever without a spot of good ‘ol TLC? What a rip – the big biking industry conspiracy, that’s what I say.

Yes, despite having more than a passing aquaintance with a set of hex keys and a pedal spanner, and having built the current bike from scratch, I’ve let the Specialised S-works Enduro fall into disrepair. I started to notice the back end becoming a little loose about 6 months ago and put it down to the wheel hub needing a new set of bearings. But last month, following our 24 hour bike race adventures, it became apparent that the entire rear suspension is needing a proper service. Irritation and annoyance ensues, until the thought popped into my head, “I built this bike in 2008. That’s 3 years ago. And I’ve used this bike a LOT.” And how much maintenance have I done on it really? The square root of sod all. That’s what. I’m surprised it hasn’t exploded entirely in a cloud of rust and aluminium debris…

I’ve always thought that the standard chat of ‘replace your bottom bracket every year’ and ‘chain and casette need replaced regularly’ was pretty over the top, touted by highly profiting bike shops and work-hungry bike mechanics, and, to a degree that’s right. I’ve ridden the Enduro for 3 good years now on the same bottom bracket, the same chainset and the same gear system (including cables!) and only now are things beginning to get a little shaky. And, to be honest, most of that stuff feels fine, it’s the suspension bushes and bearings that are really starting to go with the bottom bracket following closely behind.

So, off to the bike shop I go. I could probably figure out how to service the bushes and the suspension myself, but time’s against me at the moment, and the Bicycle Works just round the corner are absolutely brilliant and brilliantly cheap. I’ll replace the bottom bracket myself I’d say, new set of cranks perhaps and certainly a full chainset and gear cable overhaul. So, plenty of maintenance guides coming up for the site, hopefully with some nice shiny pictures taken on my nice shiny bike motivated iPhone 4S (that’s another story for the future!).

Mountain bikes need maintenance, eh? Perhaps every 3 or 4 years… A brisk hose and a token swipe of the cleaning brush will do me in the meantime.

Please, leave me a comment: How often do you do bike maintenance? What do you do? Do you do it yourself or put it into a local shop?

Title Image Credit: Jornake Flickr


Colin started mountain biking in the early 2000s and has haphazardly, and with barely increasing skill, dragged his bike around the majority of Scotland's trail centres since then. Colin has oodles of hard earned experience in how NOT to do things - listen, be warned and don't repeat his mistakes...   More about Colin... Google+ Colin

8 Responses

  1. SteveL says:

    -If you replace your BB every year, get a Hope one with replaceable bearings.
    -hydraulic fluids need replacing every couple of years due to water ingress
    -forks are a troublespot. Who knows?
    -hope publish some maintenance guides for their rear cassettes. They do come apart, and you are meant to service them every few months. As long as you don’t lose rachets it is fairly easy.

  2. David Hood says:

    let’s be honest here, if you are replacing all that stuff, you may as well get yourself a nice wee bargain of a 2011 bike and forget the s-works existed and put it to the back of the shed and rinse and repeat in 3 years time.

    You know it makes sense….

  3. Colin says:

    David, you’re a bad man… that’s exactly what my heart wants to hear, but my wallet has screaming nightmares about! Still, you might be right…

    Steve, thanks very much for the extra tips – hadn’t looked at Hope bottom brackets at all, they’ll be next on the research list. You’re right about the forks – that’s the main bit that’s off to the bike shop. Since my chain has now rusted to my cassette following 2 weeks in a warm cupboard following the 24 hour race, perhaps I’ll just get them to replace the chainset too…

    Cheers guys,

  4. Steve says:

    At last the voice of reason! Couldn’t agree more. Why do we pay thousands of pounds for a piece of sporting equipment that needs to be drip fed oil and kept in a desiccated environment for fear of it exploding when we use it in the environment it was design for.

    I’ve had my Stumpjumper for two and half years. Here is a list of the things I haven’t replaced; tyres, gear cables, brake fluid, any part of the drivetrain, none of the bearings or any of the rest of the bike for that matter. Having said that my forks only have 100mm of remaining travel, the gears have started jumping a bit and the BB and headset grind, so I have embarked on a similar maintenance mission as yourself, Colin.

    I’ve started at the front with a fork service and new headset and intend to move backwards finishing with the rear mech. Looking forward to reading your updates.

  5. If you’ve had a bike two and a half years and are still using the same tyres and drivetrain, you’re not riding it enough!

  6. Colin says:

    Absolutely and unequivocally agree David, I wish I coul get out on that bike more 🙂

    I think it comes down to how perfectionist you are about your bike though. I’d say I’ve ridden that bike about once a week on average over those 2.5 years, sometimes 1hour pentlands loops, sometime 3 or 4 hour Glentress red and black missions. I often get a bit of gear skippage, so I do a bit of tinkering and ride on. I don’t get wound up about using a chain wear measurer to make sure my chain hasn’t stretched more than 7.35% or whatever (incidentally, I have changed my chain a couple of times in that 2.5 years, but NOT the cassette, gasp! 😉 )

    I have to admit though, perfectionist or not, it’s needing a major overhaul now though. There’s only so many chain skips you can take in 5 minutes…


  7. Bike maintenance for me is a near monthly exercise during the summer, mostly just double checking for wear and tear and tightening any fixing that maybe coming loose (I’m sometimes over curious!) then replacing any items which maybe wearing.

    During the winter I complete this after every 2-3 rides, good job I don’t get out all that much when its damp and cold!

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