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How Often Should You Service a Mountain Bike?

Taking good care of your mountain bike will save you a lot of money and problems. Maintaining your MTB doesn’t take a lot of time but you should service your MTB at regular intervals.

How often should you service a mountain bike?

  • Check tire pressure, wipe your chain and remove excess dirt after every ride depending on the weather
  • Check your brake pads, chain wear, bolt tension, shock, and air fork pressure every 4 to 5 rides.
  • Have your bike fully serviced at least every six months at your local bike shop.
  • If you’re a casual rider you can have your bike serviced once a year assuming you take care of your bike.

That’s about it in a nutshell but there’s more to it. Here’s what you should do to keep your MTB in mint condition.

a BMC mountain bike in maintenance

Small Service Every Ride Makes a big Difference

Depending on the weather and terrain make sure to at least check your tire pressure before you go. It’s not a huge deal but you want to ride as efficiently as possible. Inspect the sidewalls if you’re planning for a long ride.

Once you get back, check your hub integrity and check your wheels. Grab a tire and move it side to side to check for play. If the move a little it means you should tighten your thru-axle.

Once you tightened your thru-axle, check again to make sure the hub integrity isn’t compromised. I actually had a wheel coming off once because I never checked them properly, I got lucky and was able to get off in one piece.

Before you get to clean your chain, wipe off dirt and mud. Don’t use a power washer, low pressure will get the dirt and mud off fine. You can use a towel or water to remove the dirt. If you just went for a short road trip, there isn’t really any need for it.

Many advise against it but it’s ok to use water to clean your bike. Just make sure you remove the water by using a dry towel before you store your mountain bike. Consider using bike-friendly soap and make sure to remove the dirt and mud off your drivetrain.

Wipe your chain and add some lube if it got wet or full of dirt. You don’t have to lube your chain every time though, just make sure not to use oil as it will attract sand and dust.

Maintenance Tips for Every 10 to 20 Hours of Mountain biking

Check your brakes every 3 to 5 rides, even more often when you downhill a lot. Neglecting to check your brakes can lead to severe accidents and comes when you least expect it.

Check the discs for rust and deformations, a bit of rust isn’t bad but be sure to remove it.

Air shocks lose pressure, make sure to check your fork and or shock pressure.

In order to keep your cassette in good condition make sure to inspect the chain. If it shows signs of wear or stretch it will wear on your cassette, cogs and front chainring. Replacing a chain is a lot cheaper than replacing a cassette.

Bolts will come off so make sure to inspect all the bolts. If your MTB makes noises check the source and fix it.

Serious Servicing After 3-6 Months

Again, this depends on how often and hard your ride but after 6 months it’s time to do some serious servicing. If you don’t know how to do this, take your MTB to your local bike shop. Better to leave it to a professional mechanic to avoid mistakes.

Time to take on the drivetrain. Clean the chain, cassette, derailleurs, and chainrings and add some lube (not too much).

Check the knobs on your tires and inspect for wear, check the tire tread and sidewall as well. If you ride tubeless, check for cuts and wear which can cause the fluid to leak. You might also want to add more sealing.

Bleed your hydraulic brakes if necessary. If the fluid looks darker than it used to be it’s time to bell the brakes. Check how to bleed brakes here (link)

Lastly, service the fork lowers. You might have to replace the oil and change the seals. This might prove to be a challenge to check some Youtube video’s on how to do this properly.

Yearly Major Overhaul

After a year it’s time for a major overhaul. This is where you check all the parts and take apart your bike. This will take some time and I personally leave this to the experts. My LBS has it ready in a day and it’s cheap over here.

If you do it yourself you need to start with all the previous maintenance tips that I talked about but there’s more. It’s time to serve your frame. Make sure you have enough room so you can place the disassembled parts somewhere in sight, so you can find them again.

Servicing your frame means to disassemble and clean all the linkages. Disassemble the bottom bracket and headset. Check the bearings and don’t forget to grease all surfaces which encounter friction when you reassemble your frame.

If you have a full suspension don’t forget to check your rear shocks. If they make weird noises it gets a bit more complicated, consult an expert or check the manufacturers manual.

Servicing Suspension

How often you should service your suspension fork depends on the manufacturer. Some manufacturers advise to service it every 50 hours (Rockshox) of riding and others 75 to 100 hours. The hours are based on normal trail riding, if you shred hard, you probably have to check more often.

Your fork has a huge impact on how your mountain bike rides and performs, you want to keep it in good condition. If you’re starting to notice stiction (static friction) you need to check it out. Even more so if you have one of those expensive high-end forks.

How to go about it also depends on the manufacturer, if you’re looking to do it yourself make sure to check the online manual. It won’t take you longer than 30 minutes in most cases if you decide to do it yourself.

Keeping your suspension in good condition will increase its lifespan. You don’t have to rush to your local bike shop every 50 hours it won’t immediately fall apart, just make sure to have it checked once every while.

Chain Stretch and Tight Links

You need to check your chain quite often so here’s what to look for and what to prevent.
Chains become longer when they get used (stretch). They don’t actually stretch but the chains lengthen because of what between the rollers and link pins.

If your chain skips it could mean your chain is stretched. The free play also affects your rear cogs’ teeth and chainrings so replace the chain if you notice anything. Chains are a lot cheaper than cogs. You can check for stretching by using a wear-indicator.

Tight links mean your links no longer bend, they seem to be sticking together. It’s often caused by dirt, rust or corrosion between the link plates. Check for tight links by slowly pedaling backward and check if each link smoothly passed through your rear derailleur.

If you spot tight links, clean them and use lube while flexing them a little, they should come loose. Tight links can damage your drivetrain, fix them as soon as you spot them.

I came across Zach Reed’s MTB blog while researching this topic and he has a ton of information about mountain bike maintenance. Make sure to check out his toolkit article here.

How Often to Maintain Your MTB Depends

You don’t have to follow these instructions to the letter, it’s just general advice and depending on the circumstances you have to service your mountain bike less or more often.

If your MTB is covered in mud after a ride you have to service it more often than when it’s clean. Check the parts regularly to get the most out of your bike, replacing parts can be expensive.

If you only ride the road or flat trails, you don’t need to serve your bike as often. Cleaning and lubing your chain, inspecting tires and bolts will get you a long way.

Weather and Frequency Makes a Huge Difference

So I was talking to my local bike engineer and we talked a bit about how much impact weather has on your MTB. The bike in the picture is from a guy that’s a fanatic and he needs to replace every part each year. he has two huge overhauls a year and that adds up.

If you are a hardcore rider, service your bike after every ride. You’d think rain and mud are bad, but dry and hot weather is another factor. The specks of dust get everywhere and will wear down all moving parts. Nobody told mountain biking is cheap but regular maintenance will make it a less expensive hobby.

Related Questions

How often should you clean your mountain bike chain? If it’s full of mud or sand clean it as soon as possible. Make sure to get all the dirt out before you relate. If there’s dirt left it will stick to the lube and cause wear to your drivetrain and chain. Check your chain after every ride and clean it if needed.

How often should you wash your mountain bike? If you just came back from a trail, clean it every time. It only takes 10 minutes to get rid of the dirt. If you just ride on the road clean it once you see dirt on your chain. Don’t forget to lube!