7 Basic mountain bike maintenance Projects You Can Do At Home

Learn how to do basic mountain bike maintenance with this detailed guide including essential mountain bike maintenance tools and more

Muddy legs of mountain biker sitting on ground with equally muddy mountain bike in front of her

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Riding bikes is fun, but it’s important to also take care of your bikes so you can continue to ride and rip without the risk of getting hurt, or worse, damaging your bike. Just like a car, mountain bikes need regular love and maintenance to keep them working smoothly and nicely. We all know how much of a bummer it is to do the walk of shame back to the car because our chain (shockingly) snapped after a gazillion miles of use.

Mountain bike maintenance can sound scary, especially if you’re new to it. But once you actually commit and take the plunge you’ll begin to see how everything works and wrenching on your bike will get easier. It’s a bit like sending your first drop – scary at first, but then no problemo.

With the help of this blog post, some YouTube videos (by professionals), owner manual guides, and a little patience, you can easily do these basic mountain bike maintenance projects at home.

Let’s get started!

Building your mountain bike maintenance toolbox

Before we get our hands greasy, you’ll need some basic tools to start working on your bike.

You don’t need to invest in a full bike mechanics tool kit, but you will need some basic items.

Head over to my post on Mountain Bike Tool Kits & Essential Supplies for your Home Bike Shop for a complete list.

Here are the basic tools you will need to get started:

Drawer full of tools for mountain bike maintenance

Mountain bike maintenance schedule

To help prevent big and expensive problems, it’s important to keep up with regular mountain bike maintenance.

The tips below are a good starting point, but you may need to adjust your maintenance schedule based on how often you ride and the conditions you ride in.

Before every ride

  • Tires: Check your tire pressure before every ride and add air if they feel soft
  • Brakes: Give the brakes a quick squeeze to make sure they’re working properly and they don’t feel ‘soft’.
  • Derailleur: Shift through all the gears to make sure they’re working properly.
  • Chain: Inspect the chain for damage and wipe off any excess grease or dirt. Lube it if it looks or sounds dry.
  • Noises: Make sure your bike isn’t making any weird noises like knocking or creaking.

Every 2-6 months

  • Suspension: Check your sag and add air to your front fork and rear shock accordingly.
  • Brake pads: Check brake pad wear and replace them when needed.
  • Brakes: Bleed your brakes to remove air bubbles and contaminated fluid.
  • Chain: Check chain wear and replace it when it’s about 75% worn (or roughly 2,000 miles of riding).
  • Tires: Check tire wear and replace them when the tread is worn or the cornering knobs are starting to tear off.
  • Tire sealant: Add 1-2 ounces of fresh tire sealant every few months.
  • Front fork suspension: The general rule of thumb is to have your lower fork leg serviced after every 50 hours of riding.
  • Pivots & bearings: Clean and grease your pivots to remove dust and dirt.
  • Cables: Check to make sure your shifting cables and dropper post cables are not kinked or damaged. Replace them if they are or if your shifting is off.


  • Rear shock suspension: depending on how hard and often you ride, it’s a good rule of thumb to get your rear air shock serviced about every 125 hours of riding or annually.
  • Dropper post: Dropper posts should be serviced every year.

Mountain bike maintenance Projects

Now that I’ve covered the essential mountain bike maintenance tools you’ll need and a general overview of a mountain bike maintenance schedule, here are some mountain bike maintenance projects to get you started:

1. Clean, grease & lube your bike

One of the best ways you can keep your bike in tip-top shape and running smoothly is to keep all the moving parts nice and clean, greased, and lubricated. This includes your chain, drivetrain, dropper post, front and rear suspension, hubs, etc…

Here are a few quick and easy ways to keep your bike clean, greased, and lubed:

  • Use a degreaser to remove dirt and grease from your drivetrain (rear cassette, chain, front chainring, and derailleur). Be careful about applying the degreaser so you don’t contaminate your brake pads!
  • Once your drivetrain is clean, apply chain lube and wipe off the excess with a rag.
  • Use Maxima SC1 on your front and rear suspension stanchions and your dropper post to keep them lubricated and protected.
  • Clean and grease your pivots and bearings.

What you’ll need

Videos & tutorials

Upclose shot of dirt covered mountain bike drivetrain

2. Replace the chain

Bike chains wear out over time and will eventually need to be replaced. A good rule of thumb is to replace your chain when it’s about 75% worn.

If you feel like your gears are slipping or you’re hearing a lot of chain slap as you bound down the trail it might be time to load a new chain onto your drivetrain.

You can check the wear by using a chain wear indicator or if you track your rides (like on Strava), a new chain is needed around every 2,000 miles.

What you’ll need

Videos & tutorials

3. Add tire sealant

If you’re running tubeless tires (which most mountain bikers are these days), you’ll need to add 1-2 ounces of fresh sealant every few months depending on how much you ride, where you ride, and what the temps are.

As a general rule of thumb, the more you ride, the harsher the trails (think thorns and rocks), and the less humid the temps, the more often you’ll need to add sealant.

What you’ll need

Videos & tutorials

Mountain biker kneeling on ground with arms raised to the sky next to mountain bike with flat tire
Avoid being this guy by checking your tire sealant every few months

4. Replace tires

How long has it been since you’ve replaced those nubby tires on your bike? If they’re looking a little worn then it’s probably time to swap them out for new rubber.

A couple of quick things to look for when deciding if you need a new tire:

  • Are the side knobs cracked and wobbly when pressed? These are your cornering knobs and if they don’t stand up straight when you wiggle them back and forth you might find yourself face down in the dirt…
  • How worn are the center treads? If they are smooth and almost flat to the tire then it’s definitely time to replace them
  • Is the rubber cracked and dry? If you haven’t taken your bike for a spin all winter be sure to check the condition of the rubber

What you’ll need

Videos & tutorials

Worn down mountain bike tire that needs to be replaced
This tire is definitely due to be replaced

5. Bleed Your brakes

If you’ve noticed that your brakes are feeling ‘soft’ or ‘squishy’ even though there’s plenty of life left in the brake pads then it’s probably a sign that they need to be bled. What does that even mean?

Bleeding brakes involves removing air bubbles from the brake lines by pumping new brake fluid into and through the lines. These bubbles form after normal use and they need to be ‘bled out’ so that the brakes feel firm again and aren’t contaminated with air.

Bleeding brakes is not as hard as it sounds and after watching a video a few times guaranteed you’ll be able to do it yourself!

What you’ll need

Videos & tutorials

Mountain bike handlebar with brake bleed kit inserted into brake lever
Bleeding brakes involves pushing fluid through the brake lines to remove contaminated oil and air bubbles

6. Lower fork leg suspension service

Like brakes, the front fork shock needs to be serviced every now and then to keep it working smoothly and efficiently. Dirt and grime can get through the seals and the oil that keeps the shock lubricated eventually seeps out or dries up.

Every front fork shock has a suggested service maintenance schedule which is around every 50 hours of riding, but check your shock service manual for actual recommendations.

Servicing the lower fork leg isn’t as complicated or scary as it sounds. You will need to take the fork partly apart, but the process of servicing it is actually pretty easy and straightforward. It involves replacing the seals and adding more suspension oil.

TIP: The process of serving a lower leg is the same for most forks, but the oil that you need varies for different brands. Make sure the oil you have matches the brand of fork you’re working on.

What you’ll need

Videos & tutorials

7. Rear shock suspension service

If you do a lower fork leg service you might as well do a rear shock service as well, right? Right 🙂 This is a little more tricky than a fork service, but definitely still doable if you have the right tools and watch a few videos.

Why service the rear shock? For the same reason you want to service the front fork: regular maintenance keeps the shocks feeling smooth and efficient and ensures that your ride feels as fluid as possible.

Note: This is just for air shocks – I’m sure you can self-service coil shocks as well, but I’ve never done it…

What you’ll need

Videos & tutorials

Final thoughts

I hope this post inspires you to get your hands dirty and do a few basic (or advanced!) home bike maintenance projects.

Working on your bike isn’t as scary or perplexing as it may first seem. Just take it slow, make sure you have all the tools, and watch some good YouTube videos 🙂


New to mountain bike maintenance? Check out these related blog posts:

Do you do your own mountain bike maintenance at home? What does your maintenance schedule look like and how did you learn those skills? Leave a comment below!

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