10 Ways to freshen up your old bike to make it feel new!

No this isn’t some buzzfeed click-bait article, but let me tell you about these 10 bike maintenance tips that will blow you out of the water! This post was written for the people who missed out on buying a new bike this year due to the world wide shortage, those of you who bought a used bike that wasn’t as “dialled“ as advertised, or those of you who just want to make their current ride feel mint. 

1: Refresh those contact points.

Ratty grips can easily be replaced with new ones. Worn out grips can come in many forms from ripped or torn, sticky, loose, spinning, or worn to plastic. New grips are fairly inexpensive usually ranging from $20 – $40 for lock on grips. 

Worn pedal bearings can cause your pedals to feel loose on their axles. You may notice that when  your bike shakes your pedals may make annoying rattling noise or you may hear clicking noises with each pedal strok — this is an indicator your pedal bearings need to be replaced.

For flat pedals if your spikes are broken or worn out, worn out pedal spikes can cause your feet to slip off the pedals, resulting in bloody shins. These spikes can be easily replaced, making your feet stick to the pedals even through the gnarliest terrain. 

For clipless pedals the springs wear out which can cause your feet to pop out. Adjust tension if you can. If you can’t adjust the tension, you will need to replace the pedals.  

2: Brake Maintenance

Stopping is rather important for any type of bicycle. Replacing worn out brake pads with fresh brake pads can improve your stopping power and get rid of some awful sounds.

For Hydraulic brakes, a bleed can give you a more consistent lever feel as well as more brake power. If your brakes are requiring frequent bleeds they may need further maintenance, as this may be caused by a cracked brake line or worn out piston seals in your lever / caliper. For the most part these parts are replaceable, however if your brakes have multiple problems, it may just be a better option to do a full replacement.

For cable brakes, fresh cable and brake housing can reduce the amount of effort required to stop as well as give you a snappier brake feel. 

Bent or broken levers for both hydraulic and cable brakes can often be replaced for less than you expect!

3: Shifting Maintenance 

While slightly less important than brakes, shifting allows you to efficiently change gears in order to pedal at the correct speed for the terrain and slope.

If it requires a lot of force to press your shift lever, you may need to replace your cable and shift housing. This is a relatively inexpensive job but makes a world of difference, improving the precision of your shifting system.

If your drivetrain is making alot of noises, sounding like it can’t quite get into the correct gear, or is skipping around, your derailleur hanger may be bent. Unless it’s extremely bent your hanger can be straightened. However, if it is bent past a certain point it may snap while trying to straighten it meaning you need a new one.

Finally, small adjustments like making sure your front derailleur is straight or tensioning your rear derailleur clutch are easy tasks that can make shifting and riding the bike a lot smoother.

4: New tires

Tires are your contact point with the ground. Missing knobs or worn out tread may make the bike ride scarier. Fresh tires can solve this.

Leaking tires can be rather annoying. If you are running tubes, new tubes can solve this, but make sure you search for what caused the leak by rubbing the inside of your tire with a rag and looking for bubbles.

If you are running tubeless your sealant may have dried up and needs to be replaced, or you may have holes in your tires. Small holes can be patched or plugged, larger holes may require you to buy a new tire. To find holes, spray your tire with soapy water and look for bubbles. 

When buying a new tire keep in mind what terrain you will be using this tire on. If you are after a lot of traction you should buy a tire with more tread, a larger casing size or even a softer tire compound. If you want something faster rolling look at the opposite.

5: Suspension

Crusty or blown suspension can lead to more fatigue, loss of control while riding, or even lead to a costly bike repair.

Recommended service intervals aren’t just a conspiracy to make you spend more money. Roughly every 60 hours of riding (every 30-40 rides) you should have the oil in your fork changed and the grease in your rear shock changed. This causes less friction in your suspension and will result in less premature wear of expensive parts. If you do it often enough you can usually just replace the oil and leave the seals, saving you money in the long run. 

 Every 200 hours (1-2 seasons) you should rebuild the dampers of your suspension. After time air seeps through the seals of your suspension dampers and mixes with the oil. This causes reduced damping performance, which feels like you are riding a pogo stick rather than a bike. This causes more fatigue and a loss of control. Shred shed can rebuild most of the common forks and rear shocks on the market and our prices are set to be on the lower side of the competition, in order to encourage people to service their suspension more often. 

6: Frame bearings. 

This includes the bearings in your headset, suspension pivots, bottom bracket (cranks), and wheels.

Loose, sloppy bearings can rattle and create a general feeling of looseness in your bike. Sometimes the bearings just need a tension / axle tightened, but every once in a while they need to be replaced. 

If your bike is noisy (makes creaking noises when you pedal) cleaning and greasing your suspension pivot bearing/axles, and your headset can often quiet this down. The bottom bracket is often blamed for this but in my 11 years of fixing bikes I have only seen a creak come from the bottom bracket very few times. While the rear end is apart it’s a good time to replace any bearings that either have play or don’t spin. This is probably the best upgrade you can make to any dual suspension bike!

If your steering is crunchy or you just can’t get the movement out of your headset, replacing the headset bearing is a quick and easy fix for this.

If your cranks feel wobbly while riding and they are tight, or your cranks don’t spin well, replacing your bottom bracket can solve this.

If your wheels wobble from side to side, either tensioning your hub cones, or replacing your wheel bearings is an easy fix for this, and makes your bike track better in a straight line.

7:  Wheels

Bent wheels can usually be straightened, if your wheel is missing any spokes it’s always a good idea to replace them. The majority of the strength in your wheel comes from the spokes, so it’s best to replace any broken ones immediately. Proper spoke tension will make your wheel stronger, less likely to bend / break a spoke, and make your wheel less floppy. A simple true and tension of your wheel is an inexpensive way to greatly improve the ride of your bike.

As posted in the last tip, if your wheels wobble from side to side, adjusting your hub or replacing the bearings is an easy way to fix this.

8: Drive train

While this one may be the hardest to source in 2021, it is still worth mentioning. Bent or worn out chainrings can cause your chain to fall off, or extra drivetrain noise. Worn out chains can be noisy, and shift poorly, and a worn out cassette can cause the chain to ski around.

Be careful when changing out a chain, as your new chain may not mesh well with worn out chainring / cassette, it will either skip or cause extra noise. 

9: Damaged or broken parts

This one sounds like a given, but can be less trivial than you think. Some parts have shelf lives, Handlebars take a lot of force if your bar is scratched or dented, definitely replace it.

For most bike parts, if it’s been ridden hard for numerous seasons, it’s probably not the worst idea to replace it, as it likely has experienced metal fatigue or micro fractures.

Always check for frame cracks before you ride your bike, common stress points are near welds, head tubes, seat tube –  top tube junction, and chainstays. Cracks will usually show up in the paint before they are noticeable with metal.

10: Upgrading your riding skills

A lot can be learned in a parking lot or a basic skills park. The most important skill to have for mountain biking is being able to bunny hop. The ability to lift your front wheel over obstacles is important when riding anything technical, and the bunny hop motion is the same one you use to pop off of a jump. 

A flat grass field / gravel parking lot can be a great place to dial in your cornering technique and confidence.