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Top Mountain Bike Hacks: Part 1

Adventures

Step up your bike maintenance game with these 10 hacks to improve the quality of your next ride.

No matter what sort of cyclist you are, at some stage, you will have wondered if there was a way to make the ride easier. While for most, bike riding is simply about enjoying the journey, we can always benefit from making a ride easier. After all, a ride that is easier will usually be more enjoyable, and that’s what it’s all about.

Here’s 10 ways to make your bike lighter, smoother and faster. Follow these simple bike hacks to enjoy a better ride.

1. MAKE A DIY MUDGUARD

Making a DIY mudguard is a breeze!

Who likes having mud (or worse) flicked up into your face while riding? Not me! You may have seen many people using simple plastic, fork-mounted mudguards. These are great and do the job fine. But why pay $20-$30 for something you can easily DIY for only a few bucks?

All you need is a piece of thin flexible plastic, about A4 size. My favourites are the plastic covers from display books. Print out a template (just Google mountain bike mudguard template), stick it on the piece of plastic and cut around it. Use a hole punch to punch holes in the plastic so you can use zip-ties to attach it. Then mount it to your fork, under the arch. Simple!

2. RUN A FULL-LENGTH GEAR CABLE OUTER

Full-length outer gear cables provide the inner cable with protection from mud and water.

Bikes which shift gears smoothly are quieter, faster and nicer to ride. Most bikes are designed to use three pieces of outer cable which the gear inner cable runs through. This means there are six places where dirt, dust, mud and water can get into the cables. A full-length outer cable will result in only two spots. While it will cause a slight increase in friction on the gear inner cable, this is negligible compared with the added friction created from water, mud and dirt.

If your bike doesn’t easily accommodate the simple installation of full-length gear cable, it may be necessary to drill out the cable guides on your frame. While it’s highly unlikely to have any effect on the structural integrity of your bike, it will probably affect your warranty and it’s best to check with your bike manufacturer before you take this route.

3. CHECK THE TYRE PRESSURE

Be sure to regularly check your tyre pressures and change according to terrain.

All too often, we see people running tyre pressures either too low or too high for their bike. A high pressure results in reduced traction, because less of the tyre is in contact with the ground. High pressure also gives a bumpier ride, as the tyre loses its shock-absorbing capabilities. At the other end of the spectrum, low tyre pressure increases ground friction and the chance of pinch flats.

So, correct tyre pressure is essential. But what is correct tyre pressure? Well, that’s a tough one. Many factors will affect your choice of tyre pressure. Is it wet? What sort of dirt is on the trail? How rocky is it? Will you be riding aggressively? How much do you weigh? What sort of tyres do you have? How smooth are the trails you will be on? What wheel size do you have and how wide are the tyres?

The key with tyre pressure is to check and change often. With more experience and a better understanding of how they affect your ride, you’ll learn to set the correct pressure. As a starting point, run 30 PSI in the front and 35 PSI in the rear, and experiment with small changes on a variety of different trail conditions.

4. GO TUBELESS

Sealant, tubeless valve and rim tape weighs just 112g (even less with packaging removed).

Having just read the above guide to tyre pressure, you wouldn’t be wrong to think that there must be better way! Well, there is, especially for mountain biking. Generally, as a mountain bike rider, you are in a constant battle between running enough tyre pressure to avoid a pinch flat while keeping it as low as possible to maximise your traction.

A tubeless tyre setup helps to alleviate this issue. In the tubeless market, there are two types of setups – UST tubeless and a sealant-based system. UST tubeless requires a specific type of tyre and rim, where the two lock together to create an airtight seal. If you don’t have UST rims and tyres, you’ll need a sealant-based system. With a sealant-based system, you can run almost any standard tyre and rim combination. The inside of the rim needs to be taped to stop air leaking out through the spoke nipple holes in the rim. Then you need a special valve, which has a removable core to allow sealant to be poured in. Finally, you need a sealant, which will help to seal any small holes in the tyre. The sealant will also help fill any small holes which might appear in the tyre during a ride – think blackberry thorns, tacks, etc.

Commercial systems are available which include all the parts you need to convert a standard tyre and rim to a tubeless system. But there are also some home remedies. When going tubeless, consider:

- Using a ‘tubeless ready’ tyre. They tend to offer a better seal on the rim, have fewer holes on the rubber and work better with sealant.
- Gorilla Tape works just as well as any commercial rim tape available from the big brands.
- Replace the sealant regularly – at least every six months. Old sealant tends to dry up and disappear.
- Clean the rim carefully before applying rim tape. Metho and a rag works a treat.

5. SILENCE THE DRIVE TRAIN

Chain stay protector made from self-adhesive foam.

There is nothing enjoyable about hardly being able to hear yourself think because your chain is slapping about so much. Wrap an old tube around the chainstay of your bike or better still, buy some self-adhesive foam and stick it on the top of the chainstay. It won’t last as long as a wrapped tube, but it will look far more pro and allow you to show off the graphics and brand names plastered all over your chainstay.

More Outdoor Adventures

- For the ultimate mountain biking adventure, try New Zealand's infamous Old Ghost Road.

- Or why not try another overseas riding challenge, and mountain bike through Bhutan?

- If you'd rather stick closer to home, these six Victorian adventure spots include some cracking mountain bike trails.

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