There are many questions that deal with routine/ preventative maintenance (including this one which is probably the most comprehensive Optimal Maintenance Schedule) but none deal with issues related specifically to mountain bikes.

Not all of us have access to a team of mechanics who rebuild our bikes for each weekend/ race but still want to get the optimal performance out of the components on our bikes.

Performance degradation is a continual process, I'm not going to notice a marginal decrease in performance over the sort term, but over a couple of months my brakes won't feel as good, my gear changes won't be as crisp and my suspension won't ride the same. I check over my bike after each ride and lubricate, tighten and clean as required to keep it running well and safe (I will rebleed the brakes if required) but know there's stuff I can't afford/ be bothered to do each week or month.

What I would like to know is when I should be anticipate carrying out more intensive servicing such as:

  • Suspension - oil and seal replacement (I have been told anecdotally that it should be every 35 - 50 hours)
  • Brakes - rebuild
  • Pivots - bearing/ bushing replacement
  • Rear derailler - rebuild, replace bearings/ bushings
  • Wheels - bearing replacement

Working on a premise of waiting until there was a definite failure or significant loss of performance would mean that I wasn't getting the most out of my bike overall and may in fact lead to my bike being out of service when I want to ride it!!

  • A quick advice - check your (threaded) BB yearly, and properly grease the threads when re-assebling. Damn things tend to get fused to the alluminum frame.
    – Vorac
    Nov 20, 2013 at 9:37
  • @Vorac - all my bikes run threadless headsets. Try anti-seize paste to avoid fusing.
    – DWGKNZ
    Nov 20, 2013 at 10:11

2 Answers 2


I think the maintenance periods for MTB are the hardest to predict, because conditions vary greatly. If you ride in wet, muddy conditions you'll have to replace your drivetrain and brake components far more frequently than if you ride mostly in dry conditions.

You seem to be mostly concerned about bearing systems so I'm guessing you're riding in the slop a lot.. I'd plan on rebuilding the suspension after every season (or 6 months of solid riding), replace the disc brake pads and probably drivetrain components on the same schedule, but test this assumption - use a chain wear indicator and calipers to measure chain and brake pad wear respectively. I wouldn't worry so much about wheel bearings, derailleur and frame pivots - they'll let you know when they're shot..

  • 1
    I'm not concerned with part's that are more consumerable replaced due to condition such as drive train components (cassette and chain and to a lesser extent chain rings) and disc brakes, these are easy to source and no time to fit. I also get a fair amount of warning that they require replacement. Waiting for failure isn't an option really either, when I get time off I want to be able to ride. I want to better schedule my maintenance around quieter periods such as mid-winter when I only expect one ride a week.
    – DWGKNZ
    Nov 19, 2013 at 23:55
  • I live in NZ so ride all conditions apart from snow. This week have ridden in heavy rain with sodden clay and also fast hard pack. Generally for the next 6 months I expect dry dusty conditions with the odd wet day.
    – DWGKNZ
    Nov 19, 2013 at 23:59

You should definitely check the gear shifting regularly. I'd say monthly, or whenever you notice that it's not as easy or definite as you'd like. That means popping the outers off the frame, sliding them along the cables and making sure there's no grit or fraying. Then lube them. Doing that will kill the fine adjustment of the gears, so you need to get the cables back to their neutral position - go for a quick ride and shift a lot. 5 minutes, not half an hour. Then adjust your gears properly. You may be able to do that on the bike, or you may need a workstand. But do it after a quick ride, not immediately after the cables have been worked on.

Same thing with the brakes. I'm going to assume disk brakes. With cable brakes, check the pad wear every 20-ish hours of riding and the brake lever travel whenever you get on the bike. Adjust the brakes so the travel is right if it's not. If the pads are worn, even "oh, there's enough there", fit your new pads and order a replacement set. Always have a spare set of pads at home, because that way you know you always have them. When that model is discontinued you want to know before your bike becomes unrideable (ie, when you just fitted your last pair of pads, not when that pair wears out).

Ditto wheels. When you're adjusting something and the wheel is spinning, make sure the wheel is round and rotates easily. That way you'll catch broken spokes and worn wheel bearings early on. New wheel bearings are cheap, new races can mean replacing the hub. Your call :)

Whenever you service anything, look at how worn it is. Wiggle it. If you've adjusted it recently, think about why it's not staying adjusted - either you're doing it wrong or something else has happened. Have bearings worn and now have play? Is there a crack in the frame opening up that's "shortening" your brake or gear cables? Has a washer or bolt fallen out? Has the derailleur or hanger been bent so many times it's about to break? Until you know, don't just assume you mis-adjusted something last time.

The previous advice of paying a bike mechanic just because they are a second set of eyes and don't have the "I'm lazy, I can leave that for later" issue is sound.

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