Happy Trails: 8 Tips to Meet a Girl Who Mountain Bikes

January 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Tips

brooke and jordan mccormick 300x225 Happy Trails:  8 Tips to Meet a Girl Who Mountain BikesThere was a fabulous article published on this site a few months back about how to get your girl to ride without dumping you. This is a great article, however there are a good number of guys out there wishing they had a girl to use the tips in this article. I was once that guy who had nobody nagging him about what time he was going to be home from his trail tromp. Since then I have gained some credentials on how to meet a girl who rides. For those biking bachelors this may give you some helpful information, instead of getting your girl into riding just meet one who already rides, and your life will seem like Moab with no flat tires for the rest of your life…sort of. This article has been inspired by and dedicated to my lovely wife Brooke who I love more than life itself.

Since I mentioned that I had credentials in meeting girls that bike let me state them. I met my wife on a mountain biking trip in Moab. We had some mutual friends that invited us both on a biking trip, the sparks flew and the emotions ran high and she actually said yes when I asked her to marry me. Since then we take biking trips all summer long, she understands when my buddies and I want to go on a quick ride after work, and get this, she is actually sympathetic when I get home late because of a flat or mechanical failure of the bike. To make the story even better I actually met my wife while I was on a date with a different girl who also mountain bikes. So I do have experience meeting and courting ladies that pedal. So let me outline some simple ways to meet girls who bike, the rest is up to you. For the record many of these tips are best if you are riding alone, that way your buddy doesn’t tax your game or get butt hurt that you bailed on him for a hot piece of tail on the trail.

1. The Chairlift Approach

One of the easiest ways to meet girls who bike is to ride popular trails. I found this works best at resort areas especially ones with a chairlift. For example our local resort is about a 20 minute chair ride up to the top and that is plenty of time to meet and get to know a lady. What you do is you hang out at the bottom and when you see a girl get in the lift line get in line behind her. Then you must do your best to make small talk and tell her you are alone and hate riding up the long chair ride by yourself and ask if you can ride up with her. I have made some great friends on the lift that I met this very way. A smart tip is to have your cell phone or the very least a pen and paper to get her number to “go ride sometime.”  Read more

Determining Correct Tire Pressure

December 28, 2008 by  
Filed under Tips

tire pressure rock on ledge Determining Correct Tire PressureTire pressure is the single best thing that a biker can do to improve the performance of their bicycle without having to spend any money.  Identifying the proper tire pressure for your bike will enable you to have more control when riding.  A tire with too low of pressure will make it harder to pedal/ride as well as increase your chances of getting a flat.  Tire pressure that is too high can make for a very rough and bumpy ride and will make it hard to navigate and have control over the terrain.

There is no standard for tire pressure as many factors must be taken in consideration when determining the proper tire pressure for a ride.  These factors include; weight and personal preference of the rider and the condition and terrain of the trail.

Most tire manufacturers will indicate a recommended tire pressure somewhere on the wall of the tire.  We suggest starting with the recommended tire pressure and then altering tire pressure based on the factors discussed above.

topeak smarthead digital air tire pressure guage 300x300 Determining Correct Tire PressureStart with the recommended tire pressure and take the bike for a ride to test your tire pressure setting.  A good indication of too high of tire pressure is if you notice that the bike does not grip well on turns or you find that the bike tends to bounce off of obstacles on the trail.  If you notice this happening drop tire pressure in increments of 5 psi in both tires.  Continue to do so until you find a tire pressure that is ideal.

Low tire pressure means more effort is needed and a higher tire pressure requires less effort.  This is called rolling resistance.  A tire with little rolling resistance will roll fast, but depending on conditions it could mean a loss in control and poor traction.

While determining the proper tire pressure it is important to be consistent with the tire pump and gauge used as psi readings may vary from one pump or gauge to another.

Everyone has their own opinion on tire pressure. It is important to keep in mind that proper tire pressure depends on several factors and therefore what one rider might recommend to another doesn’t mean it is the optimal tire pressure for that rider. Test your tires at various pressures and in different riding conditions and trail terrain to help get a feel for what tire pressure to use at various times.

Derailleur Hanger Alignment

December 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Tips

In the early days of index shifting when the first systems were 6,7, and 8 speeds, derailleur hanger alignment was important, but not crucial to shifting. Due to the wider spacing between cogs, the derailleur hanger could be bent slightly, and the derailleur might still shift reasonably well. However, with the new 9 speed mountain bike cassettes (10 and now 11 speed for road), proper derailleur hanger alignment is absolutely imperative. Even a slight deviation of the hanger can cause incorrect shifting, and also cause the derailleur to shift into the spokes of the wheel, or jam the chain between the cassette and frame.

Whenever I build a new bicycle, I always check the derailleur hanger for alignment. Without fail, they are slightly bent (or worse) every single time. This cannot be avoided due to the initial fabrication of most frames, transportation, etc. A common mistake made by riders is to think, “I just bought a new hanger, so I will bolt it on and it will be straight.” The logic seems correct, but this does not take into account the fact that surface of the frame where the new hanger attaches is not necessarily aligned (usually it isn’t).

derailleur hanger alignment 300x300 Derailleur Hanger AlignmentThe replaceable derailleur hanger is a relatively new item, but it has saved many frames from the junkyard. In a crash, if the derailleur is near the smallest cogs, the derailleur will become bent severely – causing the hanger to become bent in the process. The replaceable hanger is designed to bend easily or break off in the event of a crash. Steel frames without a replaceable hanger can usually be bent back, unless the threaded hole has become elongated from an extreme bend. Aluminum will fatigue and fail after only a few cycles of bending. In the event that a non-replaceable derailleur hanger on an aluminum frame is bent, extreme care is required when it is aligned. There is a high likelihood that it will snap. Regardless, the hanger will be weakened, and will be more likely to bend in the future.

To achieve proper hanger alignment, a derailleur hanger alignment gauge is used. Using the rear wheel of the bicycle as a reference, the gauge is used to bend the hanger so that the hanger is in the same plane as the wheel. This is not rocket science, but it does take practice to prevent breaking the hanger. Due to the cost of the tool, it is probably best to have the alignment checked by a qualified shop when there is an issue with shifting, or after a crash.

Passing on Hills

November 12, 2008 by  
Filed under Tips

I have a great ride twice a week, usually weekends, at Cherry Creek State Park in South Denver. There is a loop that goes around the outside of the park. You can ride on the inside of the loop, but when you get to the backside, there is a reservoir earthen wall that forces you to ride around on the outside of it. Here’s a map of the ride.

It is about a 15-mile loop, more or less, and I usually manage to make it around the loop in 75 minutes. There are about 2 miles of trail and about 13 miles of pavement or cement sidewalk. The ride has 2 big hills: The first is about an 8% grade for about a mile and the second is about a 6% grade dropping to a 4% grade for about 2.5 miles. This second hill, averaging 10 MPH, takes about 15 minutes for me to get up it on my 35 pound mountain bike.

This second hill is really the focus of this week’s story. If you look back at the Map, listed above, this hill is on the outside of the earthen dam, along route 225. It starts at the North, and about the halfway point, going to the West, you hit the nadir and then you have your long uphill climb. It’s a great hill for interval training and I’ve seen some real rock stars take that hill at 20 mph all the way to the western part of the earthen dam. They were on road bikes; mountain biker stars can take that hill at around 14-15 mph.

This past Saturday, as I hit the nadir, I steeled myself for the long ride up. I was passed at the start by a couple on new mountain bikes. The woman, a young blond, in her early twenties, weighing 120 pounds, with a helmet threaded blond pony tail, waving in the wind, passed me with about 6 inches to spare. It always amazes me that people would pass that close to me with a 6 foot wide concrete walkway to ride on and never say a thing: The male, a little bit older, did say: “on your left” and then gave me about a foot clear passage. That was appreciated.

Within the first half mile, this couple had a 50-yard lead on me. I was thinking there was no way I was going to catch them as we moved up the hill. They were too aggressive, too strong, and they were half my age. Then I noticed a few things: 1. They were peddling at a high gear. Their feet were moving at roughly half the RPM’s than I usually cycle at. 2. They were wearing sneakers, not bike shoes. 3. Their bike’s seats were lower than they should have been; resulting in a lunging pedaling motion.

mountain biker climbing 295x300 Passing on HillsI remembered the story of the Tortoise and the Hare and thought to myself, that if I stayed in form, I could catch them by the top of the hill. I knew a few things about climbing: 1. Keeping your RPM’s up (around 60) gives you a smoother ride and doesn’t burn out your muscles; adjust gearing to the slope of the hill. 2. Wearing bike shoes, which are hard soled, is a more direct transfer of energy to the pedals, verses sneakers that lose energy when they flex on every down pedal. Proper seat height, custom fitted for your height and bike results in a much more efficient pedaling motion. Bike shoes can give you a direct energy efficiency estimated at 3-5%.

Over the next mile, it was all I could do to stay close to the jackrabbitting couple. I stayed at 60 RPM’s and I resisted the urge to just go all out. On the second mile, I started to creep closer and closer. I saw the blond glance back at me and she redoubled her efforts; but she was laboring, still in a high gear and she finally stood up to get her leverage working for her.

At the end of the second mile, I was still feeling strong and I passed the gentleman and had the blond in my sights. I stayed in form; kept adjusting my gearing for the magical 60 RPM, in a comfortable cadence. With two hundred yards to go, I quite easily passed her and politely said: “On your left” and blew past her. I could hear her grunting and then, when I got to the light at the top of the hill, glanced back and she was stopped; bent over, exhausted.

My buddy Jeff, an avid mountain biker, who races in Winterpark, told me that you win races on the hills, where you break their spirit. There is a reason Lance Armstrong won 7 tours in a row; he won them in the mountains.

See you on the trails.

Trip Hints for the Weekend Warrior

November 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Tips

Every weekend warrior loves the chance to plan a trip to a unique location and break out of their riding routine. Last weekend, I had the chance to take a group of eight guys out of Atlanta up to Currahee Mountain to bike the Frady Branch trail system for 20+ miles of riding, deep in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Leading a mountain biking outing is a ton of fun, but also entails a lot of responsibility. Whether you’re meeting a few friends at a new hot spot or taking a big group to a destination, there are some helpful guidelines that will make things go more smoothly.

Take some initiative and do some planning:
Nothing sucks more than driving multiple hours to a place only to be turned around because you didn’t check to make sure the location was open for business. The following are all reasons that I have been turned away from entering a wilderness or recreational area that I otherwise would have been able to enjoy:

  • Trail work: the place was shutdown for the week due to maintenance.
  • Fire: Forest fires were in the area and they had not been letting people in for some time
  • Hunting season: The trail shared a section with a National Wildlife Area and was closed for hunting season
  • Bear Kill: A bear had made a kill (not human) in the vicinity and the ranger’s policy was to quarantine the area for one month until they moved on.

Any one of these situations could have been averted if I had simply picked up the phone and called the National Forest service, local ranger, or area bike shop. And I wouldn’t have wasted a weekend or a tank of gas for nothing.

In this case, I learned from my past mistakes and called up the local ranger who explained that, while it was hunting season, the area would be open. However, he did suggest that we not venture off the main section of trails. He also jokingly suggested we wear construction neon orange. After convincing myself he was kidding, I concurred it was an acceptable risk.

currahee mountain bike trail damaged rear rim 300x225 Trip Hints for the Weekend Warrior

Sometimes bad stuff happens on the trail. Plan for what you can control and try not to sweat the rest. Even when your rear rim looks like this...

Be prepared for the worst
The card -carrying, neckerchief-wearing Boy Scout would tell you to always be prepared. A more pessimistic attitude is that Murphy’s Law will be in effect. I just always make the assumption that most people will ignore the former and get slammed by the latter. That’s why it never hurts to be a little over prepared. Sunny forecast? Pack the rain gear anyway. Toss a couple Cliff bars, a first aid kit and more than the typical maintenance supplies in the car, just in case. Inevitably, someone forgets a helmet or water and it’s nice to have a spare.

On this trip, I expected the morning to be much colder than the forecast had predicted on account of being in the mountains. I brought along an extra set of gloves and hat that I very much appreciated having while we tried to warm up after we arrived.

currahee mountain bike trail making a game plan 300x225 Trip Hints for the Weekend Warrior

Making a game plan and make sure everyone knows what it is. The bigger the group, the higher probability for error.

Make a game plan before you get on the trail
Are there people of different skill levels in the group? Is there a way to divide up and meet back up? What is the rendezvous time? Where will you wait for people to meet/catch up? All these things should be discussed before you clip in and start twisting down the trail. A five minute discussion before you start can save hours of frustration later. Our group had a spectrum of skill levels and rather than take a homogenized path we decided we stay together for awhile and then break into smaller groups. I printed out maps for everyone beforehand and passed them out that morning. We agreed to break at every major intersection to keep everyone together until we split up.

Have fun and don’t sweat the things you can’t control
Even with the maps and directions, part of our group still got turned around in the maze of trails and got stuck going the wrong way up a mountain until a nice man with a machete pointed them back in the right direction. We also had one guy blow out a tire and rim, single-handedly converting his bike to a unicycle. We just laughed it off and dealt with it. There was really no other option. We took lots of pictures and spent a lot of time agreeing that we’d rather be doing this than pushing our lawn mowers.

For weekend warriors, like myself, the occasional trips are beacons on our calendars and are anticipated like Christmas to a 10 year-old. Sprinkling in a bit of preparation and smart principles go a long way to insuring that the waiting and salivating was all worth it.

Solving Bicycle Noise Issues

November 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Tips

Bicycle noises can be one of the most aggravating problems for cyclists. Although most do not cause any damage to the bicycle, they can make a ride completely miserable. I have seen cracked frames on rare occasions, but the culprit of a noise is normally something simple. There is not one root cause for squeaks or creaks, but they can usually (key word) be found quickly if investigated in a thorough and logical manner. I will not mention torque specifications since the average rider most likely does not own one, and these numbers can vary.

weldtite lithium grease 300x207 Solving Bicycle Noise IssuesWhenever two metals come in contact with each other (especially dissimilar metals), there is a chance for a noise issue to occur. Application of grease not only allows the threads, spline, etc., to become tighter, but it also acts as a noise insulator in case there is any gap between the metals. Lithium bicycle grease is the most popular.

When trying to eliminate a squeak or a noise, perform one adjustment at a time, then test ride the bicycle. Although the disappearance of the noise is the end goal, nothing is gained by eliminating it without discovering the root cause. Do not wash the bicycle before the problem has been solved – water acts as a lubricant, and will cause the noise to disappear until the water evaporates.

The most common noise is a clicking while pedaling the bike. This is a drivetrain issue. The first thing to investigate is whether the pedal threads have been greased and/or that the pedals are tight. Although greasing threads seems counterintuitive, adding grease to (most) threads on a bicycle can eliminate almost all creaking Remove the pedals, lubricate the threads, and reinstall. Make sure that the pedal is tight, but do not over tighten.

grease pedal threads Solving Bicycle Noise IssuesWhen a creaking noise originates from the crank, it is most likely the left pedal or crank. Why would this be, since we apply the same pressure to both the left and right pedals? The left pedal receives the torque in a binary (on/off) manner — when the crank is pressed down at the top of the stroke. This is then transferred to the bottom bracket in the same position, time after time. The right pedal (drive side) receives torque in a much more distributed manner, since it is being divided over four or five arms on the spider from the chainrings. Of course, with the introduction of two-piece cranks, the loosening of the crank at the bottom bracket spindle is no longer a factor. However, 99% of the time, the left pedal is still the pedal which is creaking.

The next thing to check are the chainring bolts. If I am checking them, I normally remove them and apply grease to threads before tightening. Again, use uniform torque without stripping the threads.

Working backwards from the bike, check anything that the drivetrain might affect — grease the dropout and frame interface as well as the bolts/screws, check the tightness of the quick release skewer (even grease the face of the frame where the skewer attaches), etc.

Creaking seats can be a major problem as well.Often the noise is associated with the drivetrain, but it is actually caused by the rider changing position on the saddle, causing the rails and/or clamp to creak. Try wrenching the saddle back and forth to see if the seat is the problem. If so, remove the bolts and grease the threads, grease the rails, etc. Sometimes the point of attachment at the nose or in the back — spray a teflon lubricant in these areas if greasing the clamp/bolts did not eliminate the problem.

Due to the in-depth nature of suspenion problems, I will discuss this at length in a future article.

Mountain Bike Cable Tension

October 24, 2008 by  
Filed under Tips

rear derailleur closeup 300x225 Mountain Bike Cable TensionMany of us have the experience when we are on the trail and are transitioning into the big climb. Your fingers are poised over the shifters ready to rapid fire into the appropriate gear to ascend to the top of the climb. As your momentum starts to decrease your finger fires off a few clicks on the shifter you begin to pedal so the derailleur will shift your chain to your desired cog or gear and BAM! Your chest is thrown into your bars just before your front tire folds over and you are thinking “I hope I can get out of my clipless pedals before my bike hits the ground.” Your derailleur did it again, it missed your desired gear, didn’t shift, your chain came off, or…something else similar. The bottom line is your derailleur let you down. For years I rode under the assumption that if my derailleur was on the fritz then this is a task for a licensed professional and I either toughed it out with a bike shifting poorly or I did the hike a bike out. For all I knew a derailleur is not something that you can fix on the trail like a flat tire. However I was wrong.

When you encounter a shifting problem on the trail a lot of time it has to do with cable tension, which can be a very simple problem to remedy enough to get you back in the saddle to finish the ride. The cable in question is the one that runs from the shifter to the derailleur. On most mountain bikes there is a knob where this cable meets the shifter. This knob is one of the ways that you can fine tune cable tension on your bike. So if you are on the trail and you are having problems with your bike shifting properly simply identify which derailleur is having the problem. Then locate the cable for the corresponding derailleur and turn the knob no more than about 45 degrees. If problem still persists then go another 45 degrees in the same direction. Continue with this until you are able to shift your bike well enough that you can comfortably finish your ride. If the problem gets worse return the knob the original position. Once you are back at the original position turn the knob opposite of the way you originally turned it. I have found this to be a quick fix about 85% of my on the trail shifting problems. This is just a band-aid and if it works, I do strongly encourage you to seek out a professional to tune your bike. This is just some advice that I learned to pick up along the way to share with you to help you out when you are on the trail. Most of us do not ride with our bike mechanic to fix all our problems when they happen.

If this does not work for you another antidote that I have used more than once on the trail is to use an Allen wrench to manually adjust the cable tension at the derailleur. Sometimes I was able to adjust it so it would shift just fine. Most of the time, at least when it was a problem with just my front derailleur, I had to either adjust the tension so I could only use my bottom two sprockets. Occasionally when my cable tension was so bad (because I was too cheap to take it to a shop, I know this is my bad) that my chain was constantly falling off I had to adjust the cable tension at the front derailleur so it would not shift on the front derailleur at all. I was still able to use the rear, but my front derailleur was so out of tune that nothing else could have been done on the trail other than rigging it to stay in the smallest sprocket just to get back to the trailhead. This makes for a frustrating day of riding, do not let your bike get as out of tune as I did, but if you do, which I know some of you will, you will know what to do WHEN not if disaster strikes.

mountain biker in valley 204x300 Mountain Bike Cable TensionCable tension is a regular problem with mountain bikes, and you are not alone in the problems with shifting world. It is a problem that plagues both full suspension and hardtails alike. However I have found full suspensions to be more problematic with cable tension than the hardtails. Some of the things that cause cable tension problems are:

  1. Riding: mountain bikes take impact and abuse and this causes movable parts to move.
  2. Shifting: when you shift your cable moves and pulls your derailleur in one direction or another.
  3. Transport: we are all guilty of being too over zealous and throwing our steed into the back of a truck to hurry and get to the trail head as soon as possible and this can push your derailleur into a position that stretches your cable beyond where it is properly functioning.
  4. Storage: improperly storing your bike can make components shift and move and cause cable tension to be thrown off.

So take care of your bike and have it serviced by a professional regularly so you can minimize on the trail catastrophes. Because problems don’t occur in the parking lot or just after your ride is over. They happen when you are too committed to return the way you came or right before you get to the good part of the trail.

Get More Power Go Faster: Some Quick Tips

October 19, 2008 by  
Filed under Tips

mountain bike chain1 300x114 Get More Power Go Faster: Some Quick Tips New Chain
A lighter chain doesn’t always mean you’ll go faster. Lighter chains, especially those with hollow pin designs can introduce a lot of flex into your drive train. Chains like the Wipperman Connex are made of stainless steel and a bit heavier but offer excellent power transfer which equals more speed. In the big picture heavier doesn’t always mean slower.

Weight Distribution
When climbing weight distribution is especially important. If your rear tire slips try shifting your weight back a little bit. This will increase your traction and get you up that hill quicker. For sand almost everybody knows to keep your cadence up, but you should also shift your weight back, so your front wheel barely glides along the top of the sand. Practice this and you’ll be able to conquer massive 8” deep sand drifts with ease!

Using the Trail

Learn to flow with the trail. It takes practice but stay dynamic on your bike. Move up and down, loading and unloading your tires and suspension as the trail changes. Lean into corners more and try to turn your handlebars less. One of the biggest aids is to use your brakes less. Every time you brake you are wasting your energy. Now of course there are times you have to brake, but get comfortable riding and handling terrain at faster speeds, and be mindful of your braking habits.

Don’t shift while you are climbing or descending. Don’t shift while your riding through mud or a rock garden. Prepare yourself, shift to a proper gear before, and get ready. Shifting under load, on a hill or in the middle of a sand pit, means less speed and lost momentum.

mountain biker downhill mountain 300x225 Get More Power Go Faster: Some Quick Tips Suspension
Stiffer suspension will mean less of your energy will be wasted in the travel of your suspension. Stiffer suspension can also mean more skipping around on rough terrain, which translates to less power transfer. The key is to find a balance. You may even want to use different suspension settings depending on trail conditions. Just experiment and have fun with it.

Tires are like suspension, find a good balance. Small size and numerous knobs means a faster tire on hardpack but slow on anything loose. Large knobs spaced widely grip good in the loose stuff but are slow on hardpack. Tire compounds can also make a difference. Go to your local bike shop or post a message on the MTOBikes.com forum to find the right tire for you. Tubeless will give you a light wheel and a little bit better traction. Higher tire pressures mean faster riding on hardpack, but slower progress and less control on the rough stuff.


It is a simple equation, shave weight and go faster. Anything that spins on your bike will provide the greatest benefit if you replace it with something lighter. That’s why one of the first upgrades on a bike is the wheels. But don’t just think about bike weight… A new XTR drive train might shave you a pound or two over your old XT, but you may be able to shave quite a bit more off of yourself, and save a lot of money in the process!


Cadence is the speed at which your pedals rotate. Most mountain bikers gear themselves down using more of their leg strength than their rotation speed. Get comfortable with using easier gears but spinning your cranks faster and you will notice a significant increase in your speed. You won’t get worn out as quickly this way.

Make sure you are refueling your body as you use energy. If you suddenly run out of energy it is likely because you are not replenishing your carbs quick enough. Check out the MTOBikes.com articles on Nutrition, and look at hydration too while your at it;)


Cross training, weight training, body weight exercise; it can all help improve your power and speed. Work on your cardio and build strength. Because of the dynamic nature of mountain biking vary your training. Circuit training can be an excellent way to boost your stamina on a bike. Plus it is never a bad idea to stay fit!

Used Mountain Bike Buyer’s Checklist

October 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Tips

We’ve put together the below buyer’s checklist for you to use to help with the process of buying a used mountain bike.

Talk to owner about the history
Check for signs of maintenance (dry rot, rust, frayed cables, dirt/grease)

No loose, broken or missing spokes
Wheels bearings have no play and rotate smoothly
Wheels are true

No major bends, cracks, huge dents, rust through frame
No dings or gouges through the resin on Carbon frame
Push against the cranks to check frame integrity
Check the dropouts on Carbon frames

No major dents or breaks
Compression and rebound is smooth
Seals are good (holds are pressure, no oil leakage during compression or rebound)
All the controls function properly

Drive Train
No major damage, bent front der. cage, or damaged shifters
No broken, or otherwise damaged teeth on the chainrings or cassette
Shifts through all gears smoothly
Rear derailleur tension springs work fine

Brake levers have no major damage
No damage to cable housing or hydraulic lines
Disc rotors have minimal to no warp
Brakes actuate and return properly and without hesitation

Other Parts
Quick releases function properly
No tears in the seat and seat rails are straight
Handlebars and stem have no damage and pass stress test
Pedal bearings are good and no major damage
Headset bearings are smooth
No play in the headset

Model and Price:



Buyer’s Guide to Used Mountain Bikes

October 13, 2008 by  
Filed under Tips

cove stiffee fr hardtail mountain bike 300x198 Buyer’s Guide to Used Mountain BikesSo you are looking for your next mountain bike. It is a big purchase, and a smart buy on the used market can save you a lot of money or give you a lot of headaches in the future. Many people abuse and improperly maintain their mountain bikes, and this may lead to problems easily noticeable as well as problems you will not be able to easily determine. This is where I hope to help. This guide combines the standard checklist for used bikes with a few extras to help you really get a good feel for how well taken care of the bike was.

Easy Tells
This is one step a lot of people don’t think about when buying anything used. Inspecting the bike for wear and damage will only tell you so much, but a few questions and indicators can tell you if the owner took good care of the bike or if it was abused and improperly maintained. The first thing to do is talk to the owner if you can. Don’t turn it into an inquisition, be casual. If you ask someone straight away how often did you maintain the bike most people will exaggerate the truth a bit. Start the conversation by mentioning that it looks like a great bike, or some other compliment, that’ll usually get them talking. Find out if they have other bikes or ride often, basically get a feel for their biking experience. Now is the time to find out how often they rode it and why they are selling it. Keep in mind that miles or ride time on a mountain bike mean absolutely nothing. I have seen bikes taken through washes and thousands of miles across country that were methodically maintained and remain immaculate. On the flipside I’ve seen bikes that were out ten miles and came back with broken chainrings and bent rear shocks. All you want to do is find out if this person knows bikes well, kept it maintained, had any accidents, just a little bit of the history.

After you had your little conversation, or even during, it is time to check some indicator spots to see if it was regularly maintained. A rusty chain, dry rotted tires, sun damaged reflectors, mud/dirt, and decaying seat mean this thing was stored outside and not cared for whatsoever. If it passes that test look for frayed cables, damaged cable housing, a bent derailleur hanger, and dirt and grease build up around and in the derailleurs. These mean that the owner probably put in some basic maintenance but not much beyond that. It doesn’t mean the bike is a bad choice, but there may be some hidden damage to watch out for. If it passes both of these tests with consideration (if it looks fine other than a frayed cable or something else very minor that’s not much to worry about) then you have the makings of a great bike, as the owner probably put in the time and effort to fully maintain it, and ensure the proper functioning of every part. You still are far away from a decision, but this will give you some background info to help make a final decision. Time for the rest of the tests.

Check for loose, broken and missing spokes (spokes typically break at the nipple on the rim or the hub) by wiggling each one individually and carefully inspecting. Check the rim for any major damage and then wiggle the rim side to side to see if there is any play in the bearings. Spin the wheels checking wheel true (side to side movement in the rim) and listening for any strange noise from the bearings. Take time to inspect the wheels thoroughly.

First check the frame for cracks, dents or bends. If there is rust (only on steel frames) tap it to see if it flakes off or it is just on the surface. Aluminum, steel and titanium frames can take dents, gouges and dings without compromising the structural integrity, for the most part. Cracks, bends and huge dents mean the frame needs to be replaced. Face the bike like you are about to get on. Hold one of the handlebar grips in one hand and let the bike tilt away from you a little bit. Use your feet to rotate the cranks to their lowest point, and push on the side of the crank. As you do this make sure the frame flexes forward and back without any give or abnormal creaking noises. Most frames will creak when you do this, but you want to listen for any cracks being stressed, which will sound a bit different.

For carbon fiber frames you need to be a more cautious. Dings and scratches that do not fully penetrate through the resin clearcoat are nothing to worry about. Obviously cracks in any frame are a sure sign of failure, but smaller gouges through the resin coat may or may not prove to be a structural problem. Test the integrity of the frame by applying force. In other words you need to push against the frame, especially at joints to stress possible problem areas. If you hear carbon cracking (you’ll know it when you hear it) or see a crack in that spot opening, stop. This means the frame needs to be repaired or replaced. As a side note let the owner know what you are doing before you try this in case you open a crack: The owner may try to blame you for breaking their frame. On carbon fiber frames, sometimes the dropouts are carbon as well, so pull the wheels off and take a look just to be sure that there is no excess wear or damage.

schwinn full suspension mountain bike 300x225 Buyer’s Guide to Used Mountain BikesSuspension
First visually inspect the suspension for any major dents or breaks. If it looks good compress it and let it rebound a few times. Focus on how it feels when you compress the suspension. It should be smooth and even in the travel. Watch for any oil leaking while you compress it. If the bike has air suspension and it is currently empty make sure you pressure test it to ensure the seals are good. Check to make sure all of the adjustments like rebound, compression and travel adjust function, if the bike has them.

Inspect the levers and make sure they function with no issues. Check the cables and housing/hydraulic lines for any damage. For rim brakes make sure the calipers rebound promptly after you release the brake lever and they are not bent. For disc brakes spin the wheel watching the brake rotor for any bending or warping. Minor warping is common and that can be fixed if you know how, or want to pay for it. You can also run disc with slight warping, they will change due to the frictional heat.  Read more

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