Learn How to Tune Up a Mountain Bike

How to Tune Up a Mountain Bike

Bike tune up is an essential bike maintenance procedure that ensures your bike is operating optimally. Some bike dealers offer free tune up in the first year or a free first tune up. In most cases you will have to pay for tune up services.

This post will guide you how to tune up a mountain bike. It will serve as a guide if you decide to do-it yourself. Otherwise, you will know what to expect from your local shop for tune up services.

Below is a step-to-step guide on how to tune up your mountain bike

1. Clean the Mountain Bike

Using water and soap clean the bike to remove mud and debris.This enables for a thorough inspection of the bike.

2. Clean and Lubricate The Drive Train

Use water and a medium sized hard bristled brush to clean the derailleur, cassette, chain, and chain ring and leave it to dry. Once dry, inspect the drive train for any defects.

The defects to look out for include rusty chain links, bent hangers, frayed cables, broken teeth. Carefully inspect the bolts on the drivetrain to ensure that they are intact, not loose or over tightened.

If you find any defects, repair them or replace the faulty parts.Run the pedal front and then backwards to ensure that it is operating well. Finally, apply lube on the chains and cassette and wipe off the excess grease.

3. Inspect and Center The Brakes

Engage the brakes and look out for any noise.Inspect the brake lever to ensure that it does not reach to the handlebar before the bike stops. If it does, it is a sign that your pads and /or cables are overstretched and need to be replaced.

To center the brakes, loosen the bolt that secures the brake caliper on the frame so that the brake pads are placed roughly equal distance on either side of the rim.

Now re-tighten the bolt.Use a wrench to screw and finely adjust the break pad position until they are centered on either side of the rim.

4. Wheels-inspection and Truing

Inspect the wheels to ensure they are inflated to the appropriate pressure. If deflated, use a tire pump to achieve optimal pressure. The recommended pressure range is 40-80psi with the front wheel having 5-10psi less than the back wheels.

If you DIY your tune up invest in either a nozzle gauge or a pressure gauge to be able to keep track of the pressure of your mountain bike. Inspect the wheels for any tear and wear or punctures, replace if punctured.

Another common wheel problem is lateral and sideways bending. Truing aims to realign the wheels. Before aligning ensure that the wheels are sufficiently inflated.

Hang the bike and turn the wheels until you find the areas that are bent. With a pencil indicate the direction of the bend on the wheel. To adjust the bend, select up to 5 spokes near the bend. Experiment with shortening some and lengthening others until you find alignment.

It is worthy noting that aligning bent wheels takes a lot of skill. If you do not feel confident to do it yourself visit you local shop and let the mechanic handle it for you instead of escalating the defect.Also, look out for broken spokes and replace them.

5. Adjustment of Shifting

Check to ensure that your chain does not jump around and skip gears. In most cases, if the shifting is not smooth, it is because the cable tension is loose. To test the shift, make one-half turn on the barrel adjuster of the rear derailleur then rotate the pedal. If the chain jumps two cogs per shift the cable tension is too loose. You will need to replace the cables.

6. Adjust the Headset

Ensure the headset is properly cleaned. To confirm, drop the fork and remove any contaminants that may be remaining. Grease and preload the bearings to achieve the smooth steering. If the bearings are directly worn-out or the entire headset is faulty consider replacing.

7. Suspension Maintenance

Look into the manufacturer’s guidelines on suspension maintenance and troubleshooting. Measure you front and rear suspension sag and keep track of it as you do pressure.

8. Troubleshoot for Right Tightness in Bolts and Nuts

Use a wrench on each bolt to ensure it is fastened firmly. Check accessories such as luggage carrier, lighting set, kickstand and the generator to ensure they are secure and without defects. Once you are done with a tune up, test drive your bike to ensure everything is in place and working well.


The main goal of a tune up is to troubleshoot problems and either replay or replace any defects. Some aspects of tuning up are easy but when you feel unsure about how to tune up a mountain bike let a professional mechanic do it for you.

Casey Ames

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