On-Trail Maintenance You Ought to Know

On-Trail Maintenance You Ought to Know

When it comes to mountain bike maintenance, it’s a question if when, and not “if.” No matter how nice your bike is or how smoothly you can glide down the trail, something is going to go awry eventually. Even if you’ve got the Dirt mudguard, and your hands comfortably draped in your Dirt gloves, things on your bike can go wrong. You can’t prevent mechanical issues, but you can absolutely prepare for them. In this case, just having a bit of basic mechanical knowledge is going to go a long, long way. It could be the difference between finishing your ride, and hauling your mountain bike miles down a trail. With all of that in mind, we’re going to assemble a list of tools and common mechanical fixes that should definitely be part of your arsenal.


There are a few tools that every responsible mountain biker should have at his or her disposal. We suggest a fanny pack or a slim, lightweight backpack so you can carry these with you at all times. Trust us -- you’ll be mad at yourself for not having them when the time does come (again: when, not if).

  • Zip Ties
  • A spare derailleur hanger
  • Plug Kit
  • Tire Levers
  • A pump
  • Spare bike tube(s)
  • Quick Link
  • Multitool with an Allen Key set, a t25 key, and chain breaker

Issue #1: Flat Tires

Flat tires suck. Fortunately, they’re also relatively easy to fix. If your tires are tubeless, fixing a flat is simple. Pump up your tire until your tire sealant (you’re using tire sealant, right!?) bubbles out of the puncture. From there, use a ‘side of bacon’ to temporarily plug the hole.

In some cases, a puncture may be too large to fix this way. Or, if you aren’t tubeless, you’ll need to install a new tube. First, remove your wheel and take the tire off of the rim. To do this, use your handy tire levers to gently remove one side of the tire. This can be difficult sometimes, so don’t try to force the issue. Once the tire is removed, installing a new tube is about as simple as it gets.

Issue #2: Slipped Chain

A slipped chain is a nuisance, and often comes from your chain being a little too long in the first place. Sometimes, though, slipped chains seem to strike at random. Luckily, it’s an easy fix that doesn’t even require tools.

Typically, chains will fall out of the rear cogset or front chainring. If this is the case (it probably is), place the chain in the bottom groove of the rear cog. When the chain is attached to that cog, drape it over the teeth a the very top of the frontmost chainring. Finally, turn your pedals forward, which will easily and smoothly pull the chain around your entire chainring and back onto the cogset where it belongs.

Issue #3: Broken Chain

This one’s super common, and super frustrating. It’s important to know how to fix a broken chain, as this is almost guaranteed to happen at some point in your mountain biking career.

First, re-route your chain through your derailleur. If you’re riding with a friend, compare with their setup to make sure you’re doing this properly. From there, put half of the quick link into each side of the train, and push them together. Then, lock your rear brakes and push your pedals to ensure the new link is correctly locked into its place. Easy as that!

Issue #4: Adjusting Cable Tension

If your bike seems hesitant to shift gears, you may have some issues with cable tension. Again -- another easy fix. Should your chain have issues shifting into higher gears, increase the cable tension by turning your barrel adjuster counterclockwise. If your bike is skipping over gears, turns your adjuster clockwise to decrease the tension.

Issue #5: Rubbing Brakes

First off: if you’re hearing a god-awful, screeching metal-on-metal noise… it’s not the time for maintenance, it’s the time for new brake pads. But, if your brake pads are rubbing slightly as you ride, that’s a simple and quick fix with your brake caliper. You’ll find two bolts that are holding the caliper to your fork (or frame). Loosen those until your caliper can basically move freely. To re-align your caliper, have a friend hold your front wheel in the air. Give it a good spin, and hit your brakes. Do this several times. Then, while you tighten the caliper bolts, be sure to hold down your brake lever. All of this is going to re-center your caliper and re-align your brakes, eliminating that pesky rubbing sensation.