15 Essential MTB Tech Tips

October 28th, 2016

By Andrew Dodd in Features,Tech

15 Essential MTB Tech Tips for every mountain biker

Some of you will be tech-savvy mountain bikers that will know some of these tips, and some of you might be fairly new to off road cycling so will find a lot of these helpful.

Whatever your ability, there is sure to be a few top tech tips in here – if not for yourself; for your riding buddies.

Share these 15 MTB Tech Tips with your riding mates, and you could become the local fountain of knowledge. Enjoy some trail karma in return!

#1 | Why do chain tools have two sets of tabs?

15 Essential MTB Tech Tips

15 Essential MTB Tech Tips – chain tools have 2 sets of jaws for splitting/joining and removing stiff links.

The best chain tools out there have two sets of jaws.

The first set – nearest the outside of the tool – are for splitting the chain, and driving a chain pin back in again (left image below).

The second set of jaws (right image above) are designed to remove a stiff link. This is achieved by the outer links of the chain being pushed apart fractionally when you tighten the driver against the chain pin.

#2 | Use an old spoke as a third hand

Joining a split chain can be tricky – so cut an old spoke to approx 75mm long and bend the ends down.

Now you have a perfect third hand for holding the chain and joining it – worth keeping one in the toolbox and another in the riding bag.

#3 | Winter proof your riding gloves

15 Essential MTB Tech Tips

15 Essential MTB Tech Tips – Keep some nitrile gloves in your riding pack – not just useful for repairs. They’ve saved us many a time on winter rides.

Keep some nitrile rubber gloves in your riding pack. If you get drenched or have cold hands you can wear them under your gloves as an easy solution.

You’d be surprised how many people do this and don’t think to tell their friends!

#4 | Stop mud sticking to your down tube

If you spray furniture polish on your down tube and give it a good buff, it really helps mud and slop to slide off.

But make sure you don’t get polish anywhere near braking surfaces or you will have the shock of your life!

#5 | Stop cable rattle with zip ties

15 Essential MTB Tech Tips

15 Essential MTB Tech Tips – using a cable tie to tie a cable – who would have thought it?

Brake and gear outer cables can rattle annoyingly – so use zip ties to stop flailing cables. 

Make sure you take in to account cable stretch and movement as the bars are fully turned in each direction.

#6 | Which way do my pedals undo?

15 Essential MTB Tech Tips

15 Essential MTB Tech Tips – removing pedals is the same on all bikes. Loosen to the rear – tighten to the front.

This might sound funny to some – but we know plenty of experienced cyclists who still don’t actually know this fact.

All bicycle pedals tighten towards the front of the bike; and loosen to the rear. The left hand pedal undoes clockwise, and the right anti-clockwise – this is a preventative measure so the pedals can’t unscrew themselves as you pedal.

The best way to remove pedals is standing over the crank, with the Allen key or pedal spanner facing towards the back of the bike. Grip the opposite pedal as you push the Allen Key/Spanner down to release the thread.

#7 | Silence chain slap

No one likes the noise of a chain slapping on the chain stay of a bike – and it takes the paint off too.  There are various solutions for this including neoprene protectors – but our favourite is a strip of 3M Rubber Mastic tape.

It’s not cheap (get it here), but a roll will do around eight chain stays plus the inside of the seat stay.

#8 | Rejoining Chains the safe way

SRAM chains can be split and rejoined using a chain tool; but Shimano chains need a dedicated joining pin as the original pins have a slight bulge to keep them in place. If you rejoin them using the old pin the chain will break at that point – you might be able to nurse it home, but it will always snap at a bad moment…

Keep a few spares to avoid issues – or keep a SRAM master link for an easy trail side fix. Just make sure it’s the same speed as your chain.

#9 | Make removing your rear wheel easier

Making sure your chain is not under tension is the key to easy wheel removal – start by shifting to the smallest sprocket.

Clutch mechs do a great job of keeping your chain on – but don’t forget to dis-engage them for easier wheel removal. On Shimano mechs (above) it’s a case of sliding the switch away from the on position. Left image – clutch on; and right image – clutch off.

For SRAM push the lock button and move the cage forwards until the lock button can be released in to the jockey cage- slackening off the chain. Note the push button on the left image, the hole for the lock to locate in the middle image and the slackened chain on the right (pinch to zoom on devices).


#10 | Thread lock is an MTB essential

Mountain biking rattles bolts loose – use a quality thread lock compound to prevent this. Pay particular attention to things like disc rotor bolts and chain ring bolts.

Be aware that if you use too much threadlock, it can make undoing the bolt very tough – on bolts with smaller heads you should only apply compound to the last few threads that contact the opposite thread. It makes removal a lot easier.

#11 | Use the correct chain lube

15 Essential MTB Tech Tips

15 Essential MTB Tech Tips – use the right lube for the right conditions and your drive train will last longer.

Chain lubes are all the same, right? Wrong.

Although there are various different styles, there are essentially two types – wet and dry. Dry lubes are thinner and attract less dust and dirt to the chain – but wash off a lot easier. Only use these in dry conditions.

Wet lubes are thick and sticky – designed to hold fast. But in dry conditions they arract fine grit and dust that will gunk up rapidly – so only use in wet and muddy conditions.

#12 | Keep your Camelbak in the fridge

15 Essential MTB Tech Tips

15 Essential MTB Tech Tips – keeping your hydration bladder in the fridge keeps it tasting fresh

Fed up of stale tasting water and hairy bits floating in your hydration bladder?

After you have cleaned it properly, roll it up and store in the fridge. Nothing will grow in it, and water always tastes much better.

#13 | Stop Creaky Handlebars

Handlebars can be prone to creaking due to minute movement in the stem – over tightening only makes this worse. Use a carbon or anti-creak compound on the clamp surface to eliminate creaks – there are tiny particles that help the bars grip.

The same applies to seat posts in the seat tube.

#14 | Tubeless riders – get a valve core remover

If you use a tubeless set up, get hold of a valve core remover. At some point your valve cores will gunk up and make inflating your tyres harder – with the core removed you can easily get a rush of air in to the tyre for seating. And you can get also inject fresh sealant in via the open valve.

#15 | Keep your brake pad spacers

It’s likely your bike (or new brakes) came with some plastic spacers like these. Keep them as they are used to keep brake pistons from pushing together if the brake lever is pulled when the wheel is not in the bike.

They’re perfect for packing your bike in a bike box, or even just loading in the boot of the car.


Got any top tech tips you want to share? 

We’d love to hear them – leave a comment below!




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