Sadly, our bikes are much like the human body as in the older they get, the more extra attention and care they need.
We often hear many people commenting on the negativities of servicing your bike and the wasted costs it is fabled to attract. Some of these costs are true and often more a requirement of the "neat freaks" And some of these are not. Servicing shouldn't always be a budget oriented dull point. Some of the benefits to maintenance can be added efficiency, confidence and longevity and if done correctly, it will keep your budget in check.
1. Chains and Drive Trains
Chains are often the forgotten piece of the puzzle and one of the heaviest wearing items. Have you ever stopped to think how many revolutions your chain has made on your last epic? Guarantee it's made more then your wheel bearings...
The rule of thumb for chain replacement is no XYZ distance or magical recipe. The number will come down to good old fashioned stretch and wear and the handy use of a chain-wear tool.
The wear on a chain can be amplified in muddy conditions and equally in dry and dusty conditions both in a unique way. This can also be dictated by the correct lubrication methods. Not too little, not too much, just enough of the right lube for the conditions you're riding in.
One important thing that is often missed about changing chains more frequently is the longevity of your cassettes and chain rings as prolonged use on a worn chain often elongates your sprocket teeth resulting in more slip and an unhealthy service cost.
Tip: Be sure to wash your drive line regularly after rides. An old toothbrush works perfectly for chain cleaning when on a budget.
2. Gear Cables
Although you may think you have no issues with shifting currently, your derailleur may not be shifting as smoothly and quickly as it should be. A stiffer thumb shifter can not only be a distraction, it can also be a little tedious. Laughable you may think but every ounce of energy wasted is an ounce you won't get back easily.
Cable stretch and corrosion is something that sneaks into our cables like the neighbours cat into the garage without you noticing. Although you don't see it right away, it's there.... lurking in the shadows.
You can either keep a little cable lube handy or for as little as $25, you can either DIY or get this done at your LBS (Local Bike Shop) for a little more as the derailleurs will need adjustment as a result.
3. Wheels, Tyres and Brakes
By keeping an eye on one of your bikes most valuable assets, you can keep yourself rolling the trails with efficiency, speed and confidence.
Tyre pressures, tread, buckled and out of true wheels and Hubs are all important items in ensuring this.
If you frequent muddy and abrasive trails then all of these components could wear a lot quicker then you may realise. For example, a set of brake pads can vanish within the space of three, long muddy rides but last a year in dry conditions.
As part of most shop services, they will check most of the above as included in their higher tier service offerings and advise you if their findings will be beyond the service you've paid for. Hubs and Brakes are generally on a per request basis but regular checks can can catch damage before it's too late. Things to check here are noisy or rumbly bearings, excessive play or stiff and sluggish wheels.
Tip: Unsure on the correct tyre pressures? Vittoria make a great App (iTire Pressure) for phone users which determines the best pressure to be running based around a few handy filters.
4. Forks and Shocks
Most manufacturers state that riders should be servicing their forks and shocks every 300 hours of riding. Like the above category, this can be determined a little more accurately with what riding you have been doing and what conditions you have been in.
Keep an eye out for leaky, over dusty and clogged seals and the general condition and feel of your forks. If your forks are starting to feel or look worn then it's best to get onto any repairs as soon as you can. Forks are not cheap to replace.
Tip: For the air fork riders out there, A high pressure shock pump is an essential tool to purchase and keep in your tool box. The chances are slim but a simple pressure check with a shock pump can be needed on some models every few months to keep them at your optimum pressure.
5. Wash your bike
Pretty simple really. Wash your bike, keep it clean and well lubricated as this will help to keep it functioning. A bike is only ever going to be as good as YOU let it be so with regular abuse in the worlds harshest environments, it's only fair to give it a little love and care with a soapy bubble bath regularly.
There are many fantastic products around from Muc-Off, Finish line and others but we have found the good old fashioned, sunlight washing up liquid works as good as all of them with a bucket and a long bristled car wash brush.
Avoid close range, high pressure washing in and around any bearings or sealed surfaces as this can lead to unwanted water ingestion and premature failings of some crucial items.
Tip: Go easy on the de-greaser and keep this for the car. The destructive nature for dirt and grime works well but so to does it's inability to keep the essential grease packed in hubs, pedals and bearings.
If your not too DIY inclined and prefer to have a professional look after the above then most shops have a basic service starting around $50 which, to a novice is an affordable investment every 6 months to keep that stead ticking along and letting you enjoy the trails more.