Mountain bikes are designed to take a heavier beating in the trails than the average urban cycle. However given enough usage and time, the wear and tear does take its toll. It is not hard to learn how to fix and maintain a bike with only a few tools. The internet has built up a vast library of mountain bike repair info and of course bicycle maintenance books are available and very useful.
The most common type of mountain bike maintenance is changing tires, chain, cassette and cables. Learning how to check and replace these four components will go a long way in providing your bike a long and healthy life.
For anyone new to bicycle repair and interested in knowing which tools to use, I have listed some of the basic tools that are useful to have:
Bicycle Repair Stand
A good stand will hold your bike rock solid while you work on it, elevate it to any level, and rotate it 360 degrees so you can even work on your bike upside down or sideways without putting pressure on your bike's components. Park Tool is known to be one of the better brands and I did a comprehensive review of their PCS-10 bike stand for my own website recently. They really build quality and functional stands.
Hand Pump, Floor Pump or CO2 Cartridge
These are used to pump air into your tire when you have a flat and need to replace the tire tube. Sooner or later we all need one of these. A hand pump is the bare minimum, and works fine though it takes more effort to put the last bit of air in the tires.
A floor pump or a CO2 cartridge (that uses compressed air) makes things a lot easier, although the CO2 cartridge will eventually exhaust itself. Some people like to carry a small hand pump or CO2 cartridge with them in a pack while they ride in case they get a flat and need to pump in enough air to get back home.
Tire levers are used when you have a flat and need to remove the tire. You insert them between the tire and the rim of the wheel to break the seal, and pull it along the rim. Some people prefer to use two at once to achieve this and some don't use them at all, but I would recommend using them. They are not expensive and are easy to carry with you in your tire replacement kit.
If you also carry with you a new tire tube and C02 cartridge or hand pump, you will be all ready to replace a tire on the road should you get a flat. A tire patch kit (patches, sandpaper, and glue or self adhesive patches) will allow you to fix small punctures in your tire tube at home without replacing the whole tube.
For anyone doing mountain bike maintenance, these will be your best friend. They allow you to tighten and loosen your:
- gearing and breaking stem
- pump mounts
- other bicycle accessories you may have such as bottle holder, etc.
A chain tool is a handy device that some clever person invented which allows you to remove faulty links and replace your broken chain. Changing your chain before it gets completely worn out might save you from having to replace your drivetrain too, because a worn out chain tends to cause damage to parts of the drivetrain. You can learn to check your chain with a chain checker, but a ruler will also work.
This allows you to easily change your brake and gear cables. Make sure you use a proper one, as using any other device to cut will likely squash your cables and make fitting a problem. Taking the cables off is easy, replacing them can be tricky, so it is important to learn this technique properly before you try it.
To remove a cassette (which in turn allows you to clean, change or replace it), you also need a couple of specialty tools. A cassette lock ring tool goes into the top of the cassette, and a chain whip is a necessary tool that holds the cassette in place while you remove it. Use an adjustable wrench to grasp the lock ring and work the wrench against the chain whip to remove the cassette.
Other useful tools that are good to have are your basic flat and Philips screwdrivers, pliers and long nose pliers.
You may want to look into getting a bicycle maintenance/repair book if you are serious about learning. Park Tool also puts out a great book called the Park Tool Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair which has a lot of good information, diagrams and tips for just about all bicycle repairs.
There are of course other handy tools but hopefully this list is a good help to anyone looking into a beginner set. Maintaining and repairing your own bike can be a rewarding, useful and even money saving experience in the long run.
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